The Physical Mediumship of Indridi Indridason
Despite the marvellous phenomena produced by the physical medium, Indridi Indridason (1883-1912), there is little awareness of this outside Iceland. Indridi's mediumship was unusual because it appears that he was the first person known to have had these abilities in Iceland; secondly, he was found by academic researchers, and his mediumship was developed by them. The source of this work was the Experimental Society that later became the Icelandic Society for Psychical Research.
Born the son a farmer, Indridi received little education as a child, and it was only after his attendance in 1905 at a circle that was involved in table-tilting, that his mediumship became evident. He attempted automatic writing, and following this, his first control then made herself known, and trance became possible. Shortly afterwards, Indridi was able to see next-worldly figures, and able to testify that during OBEs in trance, there were 'two' of him, linked by a cord.
The Experimental Society was anxious not only to assist Indridi to produce phenomena, but develop this in stages. By 1905, they had succeeded in obtaining levitation, the appearance of lights, noises, odours and the de-materializations of part of Indridi's body. Towards the end of 1905, a new control called Konrad Gislason, appeared and identified himself as being related to Indridi; from thereon, he remained the main control. After obtaining noises and the levitation of not only objects, but the medium himself, from November 1905, sitters enjoyed the presence of different-coloured self-illuminating lights moving about. Einar Kvaran, the president of the Society, noted how the noise experienced, particularly that of Indridi plummeting to the floor from the ceiling after levitation, resulted in complaints from neighbours, necessitating moving to other locations for the seances.(1) During these periods, the Revd Haraldur Nielsson, a Professor of Theology, was the person ('watchman') who usually monitored the medium to ensure there could be no fraudulent activity, but also prevent any harm being done to him.
Indridi's mediumship not only included physical phenomena, but clairvoyance. On 24 November 1905, a communicator supplied details of an extensive fire in Copenhagen, and Nielsson reported this to the Bishop of Iceland the following day. It was not until the following month, when a boat arrived from Denmark (there being no other means of gaining such information at the time), that it was possible to check these details. When a Danish newspaper was scrutinized, it was discovered the information was indeed correct. As so often happens with physical mediums, sitters also witnessed partial de-materialization of the medium; on 18 December 1905, the controls advised that an experiment would be conducted at the seance the next day. During this, with Indridi expressing some anxiety at what was being done, he left the cabinet and showed Kvaran his empty sleeve and Kvaran realised that the left arm was no longer there. On looking a second time, it was still missing. This occurred on a number of further occasions; even when sitters used a light and felt Indridi's shoulder, and carried out a search, the arm could not be found.
The desire to develop Indridi's mediumship continued and by 1906, he was able to provide information about those who had died. 'Some of his statements were followed up, and found to be correct', and it was only very few that were not so.(2) In fact, even in the early stages, Nielsson and Kvaran observed that sitters claimed they had received evidence of communicators' identities. During the period, different communicators spoke in their own language, e.g. Danish, French, Swedish. In 1906, the Society began to hold seances for the production of apports; these were successful and it is worth citing one example. In this, preserved bird specimens were apported and the controls stated these originated with a certain doctor. The doctor was immediately told about this, but denied they belonged to him. However, a control insisted this was so, and gave details of from where they had been taken and said what the doctor had been doing at the time. On contacting the doctor again, and on searching, it was discovered that the item was from his home, having been stored in a chest - but now missing.
There was further progress in Indridi's mediumship when materializations joined the seances. The first such instance was that of Jensen (who was the source of the clairvoyance above). Kvaran describes the event: 'Then Jensen became visible in the [self-luminous] light...He was dressed in a white, very fine robe...The light radiated from him and we saw him in various locations in the room...Sometimes he stood on the chair-back behind the medium'.(3) Nielsson also recorded how the light produced by Jensen was sufficient to illuminate the entranced Indridi, and that, 'Many times we saw the medium and this materialised being simultaneously...When he had finished showing himself he tried to touch a few sitters...and he always allowed us to touch his materialised body'.(4) Kvaran testified that sitters spoke 'with the materialised beings, touched them and been embraced and kissed by them'.(5)
Not surprisingly, there was an growing wish for the phenomena to be witnessed by impartial observers; this occurred in 1907 with the Bishop of Iceland, a magistrate and the British Consul present. After the area was examined, Jensen materialized with none of the witnesses being able to find any indication of fraud. In fact, the Bishop requested a seance be conducted at his home and a number were held there on several occasions. The period of Winter 1907, also witnessed forceful poltergeist activity.
By the beginning of 1908, although direct voices had been present, they were hardly audible. However, on 11 January, a communicator spoke and made 'himself distinctly heard as a clear voice some distance from the medium'.(6) At a seance the following month, the cabinet shook, as did the benches on which the sitters were seated, a strong light appeared and the cabinet appeared to be ablaze; there were knockings and a voice, away from the cabinet, asked if he could be seen. The same month it was decided to use a trumpet; Nielsson reported how it moved at 'tremendous speed', and was often accompanied by a musical box, weighing some fifty pounds, levitating to the ceiling while playing. Moreover, communications were not limited to one person or the seance room: Nielsson referred to an occurrence of walking to the Bishop's house, when the controls spoke through Indridi, and others spoke 'as a direct voice in the air around them'.(7)
Indridi became a well-known figure in Iceland during the time of his activity as a medium; Beloff comments on how, from 1905 until Indridi became seriously ill in 1909, 'he was given no peace'.(8) Further investigations were carried out when Dr (later Professor) Hannesson, a much-respected scientist in Iceland, requested that he witness the phenomena. Hannesson was known for his scepticism regarding such matters.
The first seance witnessed by Hannesson was held at the Experimental House that was constructed by the Society for the specific purpose of monitoring and developing Indridi's mediumship. The house was on one level only, had a flat roof and the windows were such that light could be kept out. Hannesson recorded his findings, and when published, he began by saying, 'the phenomena are unquestionable realities'.
In his report, he forcefully expressed his ever-present difficulty in accepting what he saw, while also testifying to the voices that were heard both near to, and some distance from the medium, together with movement of the trumpets. He reported that the voices had 'the characteristics of so many individuals, each one speaking in his own fashion'. He also detailed how he carefully checked the Experimental House and took precautions to prevent fraud, e.g. separating the medium from the sitters by a net from each wall and from ceiling to floor. He also sat with Indridi and the watchman during some seances. In his zeal to find a this- worldly explanation, after a number of seances at the House, he arranged for one in his own home. Here, there were direct voice, noises, levitation and other phenomena.
The majority of seances were held in darkness, although a number were conducted in a lighted environment. In the second seance attended by Hannesson, with the usual type of phenomena being manifested, a match was lit, and the medium could be seen in his place by those who were present. In Hannesson's record, he related the instance of a woman communicator speaking, with whom he had been acquainted but was not known to anyone else present and said of this: 'She spoke for a little while, and the voice so closely resembled her voice when living that she might easily have been believed to be there herself'. Additionally, he recorded that he heard the voices of two communicators simultaneously.
Indridi's mediumship lasted some four years (1905-1909). He passed on in 1912, aged only twenty-nine, after being a victim of both typhoid fever and tuberculosis. Despite the short period, he clearly made a tremendous impact on those who were fortunate enough to witness his mediumship. In view of Hannesson's stance, it is interesting to note his general conclusions. Of Spiritualist teachings, after remarking on how they differed from that of Christianity, he said, 'they are in many ways beautiful, and they are a strong encouragement for one to lead a good life'. Of Spiritualists, he reported how they said, 'we have seen the spirits of the dead, we have conversed with them'; furthermore, 'They met all protests by saying: "Come to us and see it yourselves". Most of those who followed their advice were converted to their views'.(9) And it is this very same call made by the NAS today. 'Come to us and see it yourselves'.
(1)Einar Kvaran, Dularfull Fyrirbridgi (Reykjavik: Isafold., 1906), p.26.
(2)L. R. Gissurarson and E. Haraldsson, 'The Icelandic Physical Medium Indridi Indridason', Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 57 (1989), p.82.
(3)Einar Kvaran, 'Metapsykiske Fanomener paa Island', trans. Gissurarson and Haraldsson, Sandhedssogeren (6), 1920, p.47.
(4)Haraldur Nielsson, Kirken og den Psykiske Forskning (Copenhagen: Levim og Munksgaard, 1922), p.20.
(5)Gissurarson and Haraldsson, Ibid., p.85.
(6)Gissurarson and Haraldsson, Ibid., p.99.
(7)Gissurarson and Haraldsson, Ibid., p.100.
(8)John Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p.100.
(9)Prof. Gudmundur Hannesson, 'Remarkable Phenomena in Iceland', Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, (18) 1924, pp.239-272.
NB. This article appeared in the February 1996 Noah's Ark Society Newsletter,
and is reproduced here by there kind permission