A boo-tique sampling of scary, spook-tacular Norwegian destinations
CYNTHIA ELYCE RUBIN
The Norwegian American
Norway is known for its stunning natural beauty, with a rich history of art and architecture, but did you know that it can also be scary? Across the land, you can find chilling supernatural stories and experiences, from a notorious former prison in Oslo to haunted hotels in spectacular settings.
Akershus Fortress, Oslo
Akershus Fortress is medieval castle built to protect and provide a royal residence for the city. It has been used as a military base, a prison, and is currently the temporary office of the prime minister of Norway. For 700 years, the castle has guarded the capital’s inner harbor, and never in its history has it been breached by a foreign hostile force. This, however, does not mean that blood hasn’t been shed in its dim corridors and beyond its high walls.
The fortress has successfully survived all sieges, including those of the Middle Ages and those led by King Charles XII in 1716. For many years, parts of the castle served as a prison with a section known as The Slavery (Slaveriet) because the prisoners could be rented out for work in the city. It housed many rebels and criminals throughout Norwegian history. Sentences often involved hard labor, and the prison was infamous for using irons, chains, and prisoner isolation as disciplinary techniques.
Following the 1852 Laestadian Sámi revolt in Guovdageaidnu, all men, except the two leaders who were beheaded in Alta in northern Norway, ended up in Akershus Fortress. Many of the rebels died in captivity. Among the survivors was Lars Hætta, imprisoned at 18 years of age. There, he was allowed the time and means to write the first translation of the Bible into the Sámi language.
The immediate proximity of the sea was a key feature of the fortress. Naval power was a vital military force since the majority of Norwegian commerce during that time was by sea. The fortress was strategically important for the capital and, therefore, Norway as well. Whoever controlled Akershus Fortress ruled Norway.
During World War II, the fortress surrendered without fighting to Nazi Germany in 1940, when the Norwegian government evacuated the capital in the face of the unprovoked German assault on Denmark and Norway. During the war, people were executed at Akershus by the German occupiers. After the war, eight Norwegian traitors – including Vidkun Quisling – who had been tried for war crimes and sentenced to death were also executed at the fortress.
Over the years, there have been numerous reports of whispers and scratching along the fortress halls, and many guards have reported weird experiences, like the sensation of being pushed while alone on duty.
The prison was closed in 1950. Good riddance, some say!
Dalen Hotel, Telemark
Among the many Norwegian hotels associated with the strange and supernatural, Dalen Hotel stands out as one of the more infamous.
It is a historic hotel, once a popular locale for European royalty. It is also one of the largest wooden buildings in Norway and one of the best-preserved hotels of its size from the 1800s.
The idea for the hotel came with the expansion of the Telemark Canal, referred to as the “eighth wonder” upon its completion, in 1892.
Designed by architect Haldor Larsen Børve, the hotel was built in the style of a Swiss chalet, with elements of National Romanticism and dragestil, or “Dragon Style.” It is a distinctive blend of architectural styles with complex woodworking, dotted with elaborate eaves, cornices, turrets and spires and traditional Norse motifs, such as dragon heads protruding from its gables.
Guests and staff tell frequent stories of the notorious Room 17, where the ghost known as “The English Lady” spends her restless afterlife. Formerly known as Miss Greenfield of England, The English Lady checked into Dalen Hotel on a spring morning in the late 19th century and spent several months there as a guest.
No one at the hotel knew she was expecting a child, but when staff entered the room after her departure, they found a dead infant. She was arrested and charged with murder but took her own life before the trial could begin. To this day, a table is set for her in the hotel’s restaurant.
The church ruins of Nes, Akershus
Through the years, there have been reports of unusual sights, sounds, and lights among the Nes church ruins in Akershus. At the center of events is Jacob Christian Finckenhagen, a priest who served the church from 1800-1837.
The stories of his life and final fate constitute a controversial subject. Some say his children are entombed in the walls behind the altar; others claim the priest hanged himself from the church rafters. Or perhaps he died of old age?
Regardless, there have been several reports of his restless ghost wandering the church ruins at night. Some visitors claim that their movements became impaired and sluggish, as though they were submerged in water and that electronic devices fail in the vicinity of the ruins. It is a haunting mystery!
Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim
Nidaros Cathedral is located in the compact city center of Trondheim, named after the former name of Trondheim, Nidaros, which served as the capital of Norway during much of the Viking era.
It holds a special place in the history of Norway, beginning its life as a simple wooden chapel built to stand over the tomb of Saint Olav, the Viking king who played a pivotal role in the introduction of Christianity and who would go on to become the patron saint of Norway.
In addition, it is the traditional location for the consecration of new kings of Norway. It was built over a 230-year period, from 1070 to 1300, when it was substantially completed. However, additional work, additions and renovations have continued intermittently since then; the most recent changes were completed in 2001. Nidaros is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.
This is home to Norway’s most famous ghost, “The Monk,” who was first seen in 1924 by Bishop Marie Gleditsch, who claimed the apparition had a bloody gash along its throat. Ever since, there have been frequent reports of inexplicable chanting and organ music in the cathedral late at night.
This most famous ghost is also among the most controversial. Several historians claim that no order of monks was ever connected to the Nidaros Cathedral. Nonetheless, the tale lives on to this day.
Hotel Union Øye, Sunnmøre
In the fjord village of Øye by the Hjørundfjord, described as the most majestic and secluded fjord in all of Norway, you will find one of the most distinct hotels in Europe.
The 27 rooms, all of which are individually furnished with carefully selected antiques, are named after notables who have stayed here: Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, King Oscar of Sweden, Queen Maud of Norway, and Princess Victoria of England; the authors Karen Blixen, Knut Hamsun, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; the composer Edvard Grieg, playwright Henrik Ibsen, and the explorer Roald Amundsen, to mention only a few.
But at this hotel at the end of the 19th century, a tragic love story took place. The waitress Lina fell madly in love with one of Kaiser Wilhelm’s officers, a German duke trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage. The love between the two blossomed, and whenever the duke visited, he and Lina always stayed together in “The Blue Room.”
But when the duke was denied a divorce, he tragically died by suicide. Soon after, his heartbroken lover disappeared into the lake, wearing a wedding dress and a crown of flowers. Ever since, people who are booked into “The Blue Room” swear they hear the ghost of Lina weeping.
The Royal Cobalt Works of Modum, about 47 miles from Oslo, were established in 1773 to mine cobalt. In the 1800s, it became the largest company in Norway, with more than 2,000 employees at its peak. The cobalt was used in the production of blue pigment for the worldwide porcelain and glass industries. The mines’ first customer was Royal Copenhagen, founded in 1775. The company is still in operation and continues to produce the famous Flora Danica pattern.
For years, there were mysterious reports of Blåmannen, “The Blue Man,” a ghost who preempted disasters by turning up with a lantern to warn miners. The sight of Blåmannen wasn’t always welcome, however, as his appearance was often linked to death and disaster. The worst accident occurred in 1854, when six men were killed in the mines. Only one man survived to tell the story of Blåmannen’s apparition.
Today, the complex contains 65 buildings, more than 400 acres of land, multiple art galleries, and lots of activities, including excursions into the mineshafts. A guided tour, complete with hard hat, in the Clara Drift is an experience for all ages. With the new glass floor suspension bridge, the tour takes you through the drifts and literally into the middle of the ore, as you experience the mine from an unusual viewpoint. Let’s hope the Blåmannen is nowhere to be seen!
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.