Norwegian Ghosts

Welcome to our sixth guest blog post – a little look at some of Norway’s most interesting ghosts, as written by Natalja Saint-Germain of #SwampSunday and #ofdarkandmacabre. If you would like to submit an article, please tell us about your proposal using the form on the Contact page or by sending us a message on Twitter, and we will be in touch. Thank you for reading!


Ghosts are not something Norway is famous for, and that seems unfair – the population of spectres in that country is almost as dense as its woods. Spøkelser, gjengangere, drauger, gjenferd – the restless dead have many forms and names in Norwegian folklore, and this article will cover a few classic apparitions – similar to the ones we know and love from Victorian ghost stories. 

THE EVIL DOG

Åkerhus fortress is one of Oslo’s top attractions. Built in the late Middle Ages, it has witnessed enough tragedies to become haunted. People report hearing strange whispers and loud screams during their visits – with some also claiming that they can feel an uncanny physical presence of something or someone otherworldly. In fact, a special ghost tour is offered to those who are keen to see the place at night and get a shiver down their spines. 

But there is one ghost so scary, that the locals have been avoiding encounters with it for centuries: Malcanisen, “The Evil Dog”. According to an old custom, a dog was buried alive at the main entrance to the castle. Originally done to protect it from intruders (including those of supernatural origin), the ritual seems to have gone a bit too well, and the giant demonic canine with flaming red eyes has become an eternal guardian of the Virgin Tower of Åkerhus fortress.

Meeting Malcanisen is considered a bad omen.

Photo of Åkerhus Fortress: a building made of pale bricks, with a large wall and turrets.
Åkerhus Fortress via Shutterstock.

THE SPECTRAL MONK

The Nidaros Cathedral is another haunted attraction. Visited by pilgrims and tourists from all over the globe, it is inhabited by arguably the most famous Norwegian spectre: an apparition of an unknown monk, whose presence at masses was witnessed by several people throughout the 20th century. Those who had a closer look at him, claim to have observed a wound on his neck. 

In the 60s, Jon Medbøe and two of his students heard a church hymn being sung in the cathedral at night. That resulted in a big fuzz – even TV channels got involved, but no one could explain the phenomenon. For now, only one thing is certain: the ghastly monk is harmless and there is no reason to be afraid of him.

Photo of Nidaros Cathedral, a Gothic building flanked by two bell towers.
Nidaros Cathedral, credit to Natalja Saint-Germain.

THE HAUNTED MANOR

Herregården is a manor house in Larvik, the haunting of which could make a great horror show. The most frequently seen apparition there is a classic “Grey Lady”. Allegedly, she is capable of moving objects, walking through walls, touching people and even saving the lives of those she likes. But who is this mysterious shadowy figure? Her origin has several versions. One of them says that the Grey Lady of Herregården is Niels Aall’s aunt: Benedicta Henrikka Løvenskiold. Prince Christian Frederik arrived on the third day of her lying on her deathbed and a big party was arranged that night to honour his visit instead. There are no historical records of how Mrs. Løvenskiold died, but, apparently, she spent her final hours alone and has never forgiven that to her relatives.

Another notable ghost of the manor is “The Girl In The Pond”. One day, the dead body of a young seamstress was found floating in the garden’s pond. People assumed she had fallen in the water whilst feeding fish. For the next couple of centuries, she was assumed guilty of drowning children in this pond and paying occasional visitations to the house – although there have been no reports of her activity for decades. 

Photo of Herregården, a red manor house with a symmetrical aspect.
Herregården via Brænne, Norsk Institutt For Kulturminneforskning.

THE HAUNTED HOTEL ROOM

The mesmerising castle-like building of Dalen Hotel is hidden in the woods of Telemark. For centuries, it has been welcoming international travellers, and Miss Greenfield became one of them in the late 1890s. A classic English lady, she arrived at the resort alone and stayed for the entire season. It’s said she enjoyed spending her days sitting in the garden, and would never let anyone into her temporary abode. When the lady finally left and the staff got a chance to clean after this rather strange guest, their hair rose in horror – as a dead infant was found lying on the bed in Room 17. Miss Greenfield was accused of murder and arrested on board on her way back to England, but the poor thing couldn’t take it any longer and almost instantly committed suicide.

The hotel’s guests often hear a baby crying in Room 17 and get spooked by a grey female silhouette in the corridors. And, as a gesture to Miss Greenfield, a table with her name is set in the dining room every evening.

Photo of Dalen Hotel: a wooden building in a mountain.
Dalen Hotel via Vest-Telemark Museum collection.

THE WICKED PRIEST

The ruins of the old Nes Church are often called “the most haunted location” in Norway. Those who dare visit the place at night report being attacked by some invisible force, seeing odd figures and wandering lights and experiencing problems with electronics. At least some of these phenomena are associated with one ghost: the wicked soul of Jacob Christian Finckenhagen, who served as a priest in that church in the early 19th century. It’s hard to tell how exactly he managed to earn such a terrible reputation, but, according to the information provided by Visit Norway, he (probably) bricked in his own children behind the altar and hanged himself in the chapel. Just a decade later, the church burnt down after a lightning strike.

However, the old priest isn’t the only ghost on the block. Nes has had several large landslide incidents with a significant number of casualties, which have seemingly populated the entire area with numerous restless souls… 

Photo of the ruins of Nes Church, a roofless stone building.
Ruins of Nes Church, via Elgrecogrande.


Natalja Saint-Germain is a PhD student in History of Law and State,
a co-host of #ofdarkandmacabre and the creator of #SwampSunday.
She blogs about the dark side of folklore, culture and history.
You can find more about Natalja on her Twitter page @bjorn_stjerne.