The Search for Thor

Thor Jensen, 36, moves from Oslo to Hammerfest. He is promoted to bank manager, becomes engaged, and takes a one-month hiking trip through occupied Finnmark in 1941. By the end of the year, he is dead, leaving behind a mystery, a diary, and many questions. This column chronicles his great niece’s attempt to solve that mystery.

Photo: Billrockr / Flickr
The hamlet of Lily Dale is self-described as “western New York’s home of mediumship.” Randi-Millman Brown headed there to jump-start her research in her search for her great-uncle Thor—with an interesting outcome.

Ithaca, N.Y.

As of the publication of this issue of The Norwegian American, I have now written two dozen articles about my “Search for Thor.” My first article was published Oct. 3, 2017, describing the beginning of my journey searching for information surrounding how my great-uncle, Thor Einar Jensen, died, on Oct. 6, 1941, under very mysterious circumstances.

Recently, I was asked by a colleague to photograph a collection of artwork from a museum located in a small hamlet in western New York called Lily Dale (about 275 year-round residents). Self-described as “western New York’s home for mediumship,” it was not coincidental that I had thought about seeing a medium (again) soon—as a way to jump-start my writing. This spring has brought about many changes, which have affected my research and writing; the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist residency in Norway, which was subsequently postponed and my recent retirement.

In the 14th article I wrote for The Norwegian American (published Oct. 18, 2018), I wrote about visiting a psychic medium on Oct. 6, 2018, the 77th anniversary of Thor’s death. In that session, she described a few details that would have been very difficult for her to make up. For example, she did not know that Thor was a banker, but described in detail seeing a briefcase and piles of papers that he seemed to be trying to shove into it, papers with numbers, the kind you would see in a bank ledger.

Later, she described seeing him on the ground with his back up against a fence, his arms tied behind his back surrounded by men with long coats with belts, pointing rifles at him. I never mentioned any connection to World War II or Nazi soldiers. She also described, in detail, a possible cause of death: being slowly poisoned (strychnine—a la Agatha Christie). She pictured him lying on the floor of an apartment and failing to appear at work, assumed colleagues found him (his apartment in Hammerfest was actually on the second floor, above the bank where he worked).

I was able to reconnect with the medium this past week, and she not only reinforced many of the revelations from a year and half ago but also said that so many of my dead ends were a way to show me how complicated his story is and that eventually I would figure it out. She also suggested that Thor indicated to her that I need to make contact with German archives, where I would find relevant archival material. Interesting, because the previous week I had sent out an email to a German archive doing just that, inquiring about access to certain World War II records possibly related to Thor. I will relay to you next time exactly what I learned.

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This article originally appeared in the July 31, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Randi Millman-Brown

Randi Millman-Brown is an art historian, photographer, part-time genealogist, and writer living in Ithaca, N.Y. She can be contacted at