Ghosts, Norwegian style – part two

We continue the tale of asylum seekers versus local ghost from yesterday’s post, where I noted that the first installment of newspaper Trønder-Avisa’s coverage was really stretching to deliver frights.

First, the newspaper notes that several of the ‘frightening incidents’ took place between the main refugee building and the lieutenant’s resident a few hundred meters further east. This is quite significant, since it is in fact the lieutenant’s residence that has the history of haunting. Only a dozen of the total 79 camp residents live in the older residence.

And it is hard to keep a straight face during Ubeid’s next ‘scary’ anecdote. Let’s set the stage – you’re an asylum seeker, living outside an isolated, hostile community. You decide to take a stroll, alone.

“Once, I was walking towards the camp, when I got a creepy feeling … of a big man, throwing a rock. I turned around and looked in every direction, but could see nothing. I tried to go on, but heard strange voices, shouting at me. I felt that something would stop me if I went further,” relates Ubeid, who decided to turn back and shelter in his room.

The fire appears to be more of a real mystery. The first reaction of authorities is that it was not a case of arson, and that one reason it became so serious is that it was extremely difficult to contact help – remember – no phone, no staff, and poor mobile reception.

The lieutenant’s residence at Vaterholmen, and its ghost, has been the subject of two television programs in the past few years, one by state broadcaster NRK, and the other an episode of Åndenes Makt (Power of the Spirits), a series that profiles a different haunted house, and visits to it by psychics. The haunting is also described in a book by a local historian, one Øystein Walberg, who dedicates three and a half pages to the source of the ghost story.

Vaterholmen was a military camp, built in 1916 as quartering for recruits training to do service at the Verdalsk Befestninger – the Verdal Fortifications – a double set of  defensive ‘galleries’ based on tunnels set in the mountains. A German soldier based here, possibly named Josef, received orders to leave Vaterholmen for the Eastern front, and preferred to hang himself rather than face certain death in combat there.

An incident in the 1990s, where a National Guard instructor and his girlfriend encountered some sort of mysterious force that physically prevented them from approaching the telephone and then fled the house in terror, is also in Walberg’s book.

After the fire, and learning that they were now living in (or near) an officially haunted house, morale among the asylum seekers deteriorated further, and in mid-January the story went national as police responded to emergency calls – the place apparently had gotten a phone line – from hysterical residents.

A few of the asylum seekers said they saw drawers and cabinets start opening and shutting by themselves, and quickly spread their terror to their housemates. This all took place in the modern camp building.

Trønder-Avisa journalist Espen Leirset rejected criticism from the camp leader that he was responsible for sowing the seeds of hysteria in his earlier reports, and frightening the refugees with his ghost story. Leirset argued that the tale is common knowledge, and a natural subject for the local paper.

Tomorrow, another case of Norwegian ghost versus state institution.

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