Traditionally, Icelanders are superstitious folk, and their history is often laced with legends of the supernatural.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise that stories of hauntings and ghost sightings are not uncommon throughout the country. Reykjavík is no exception. In the spirit of Halloween, here are a few notable examples of haunted places in Reykjavík.
Gamla Bíó – Ingólsstræti 2a, 101 RVK
Gamla Bíó theatre can be found in the downtown area, and it is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in Reykjavík. Crowds of aficionados still pass through its doors into luxurious interiors to attend concerts, plays and films.
The building was constructed in 1926 as a movie theatre by Danish entrepreneur Peter Pedersen. He was so enamoured with his creation that he took up residence in the top floor suite and named it after himself.
Throughout the years the Pederson Suite, now a reception area and bar, has gained notoriety as the locus for strange activity. Many members of staff have reported feeling scared by the presence of a mysterious and not altogether friendly female figure.
As well as sightings of the ghoul, employees recount tales of ghostly conversations. Strange noises have often been heard, including unexplained piano playing from the suite.
Þjóðleikhúsið – The National Theatre, Hverfisgata 19, 101 RVK
The National Theatre in downtown Reykjavík is the oldest theatre building in the country. It was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same architect responsible for Reykjavík’s iconic Hallgrímskirkja church which towers over the capital’s landscape.
British troops seized the theatre in 1940 before its completion, and local Icelanders knew little of what went on inside its walls during the wartime occupation. The legend goes, however, that a young soldier ended his life within the grand building, and his soul has not departed since.
After the building regained its original purpose as a theatre, strange occurrences have routinely been reported from actors and employees alike. Few have seen anything but more common are tales of bizarre unearthly noises, accounts of uneasy feelings, and things inexplicably going missing.
Actors who had no history of forgetting their lines would find themselves flummoxed on stage, and chairs upon which no soul was sitting, would flip back as though someone had just risen from their seat.
The most extreme and arguably the scariest story was from a young actress describing being dragged by an invisible hand into the orchestra pit, the exact site believed to be where the young soldier ended his life.
Actors forgetting their lines or things going missing could easily be blamed on a living-human error, and some may say that creative types, being natural storytellers, could be more prone to tall-tales. Or perhaps, they are simply more sensitive and open to the other side.
Alþingi – Parliament House, Kirkjutorg, 101 RVK
The Icelandic Parliament, the Alþingi, meets in the heart of downtown Reykjavík inside a grand stone building constructed in 1881.
Multiple statements from former employees describe the same spooky character: an older female figure dressed in old grey clothes. The shabby attire of the ‘Woman in Grey’ suggest she hailed from a more deprived background and may likely have worked in the building as a maid or cook.
For those that have encountered the spectre, her presence is not perceived to be malevolent although witnesses do report the hairs on the back of their neck standing on end.
The Alþingi is the longest continuous parliament in the world, so perhaps it should not come as a surprise its building harbours a ghost, maybe it’s more surprising they have not collected more.
Ghostly possessions, on the other hand, seem to number far greater than ghost sightings as many people who enter parliament as bright young politicians, often tend to leave dead inside.
Höfði House – Borgatún, 105 RVK
This iconic white house, which overlooks Faxaflói Bay and Esjan mountain, is most famous for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit of 1987, a significant landmark event in the Cold War era. Since 1967, it has served as the official reception for the city of Reykjavík, and although it is not open to the public, visitors are welcome to explore the exterior of the house.
Since its construction in 1909, there have been multiple accounts of the house to be haunted by a young ‘woman in white’. No one knows who she could be although many believe her to be a victim of suicide or drowning.
In the 1970s, a tour group was walking around the premises, led by a tour guide. After he divulged the story of the house’s uncanny inhabitant, one of the guests, a woman, proclaimed that there was no such thing as ghosts. At that moment, she involuntarily picked up a champagne flute and threw the drink in her own face. Afterwards, she couldn’t explain what had happened, and so she left the house both embarrassed and spooked the same white colour as Höfði’s exterior.
Some have declared the house stands atop an ancient Viking burial ground. This popular legend has provided the rather fantastic explanation for the frequent disappearance of spirits from the liquor cabinet and no immediacy to free the house of its thirsty phantoms.
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