Ghosts, Norwegian style

Of course the main headlines in the mainstream Norwegian media tend to be the usual mix; breaking news of major events at home and abroad, ludicrous global celebrity tittle-tattle, sport and attention grabbing ‘tabloid’ tales. The stuff I like to examine tends to emerge at the local level.

Like, for example, the recent problems caused by ghosts at public institutions. Ghosts are a matter very much in the eye of the beholder, but they can apparently cause quite a bit of bureaucratic trouble. I have a long and a short example.

The short story is an embarrassing example of state-subsidized exorcism. The Hetlandstunet youth center was so troubled by ghosts that one of the Bufetat (Regional office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs) staff hired a clairvoyant to rid the institution of them.

“The requisition of clairvoyants was not cleared with management. And I must point out that this is absolutely not a treatment method that the state supports,” regional leader Øistein L. Gunnarshaug told newspaper Haugesunds Avis, calling the incident, a case they ‘would prefer to forget‘.

The long tale has quite a bit of atmosphere. Immigration stories provide guaranteed reader interest, tending to involve a wide range of conflicts and heated opinions. But the refugee center in Vaterholmen in Verdal, Nord-Trøndelag County, gained wider attention after terrified residents called for police help to deal with ghostly manifestations.

The recent creation of a small residency center for asylum seekers at the old Vaterholmen military camp has been a highly controversial decision in little Verdal, which is best known in Norway for cheerier news, namely having an astonishingly high incidence of Lotto winners over the years.

And if locals have been against the center, the arrivals were even more so when they got their first look at it, a grim location with a bleak history.

“This is like Guantanamo, we are in a prison,” two residents told newspaper Trønder-Avisa in November last year. “We have nothing, not even phone contact with the outside world. There are no mobile signals in the area. We have nothing to do here,” said another. The leader of the Vaterholmen center was soon sacked, leaving the facility temporarily unstaffed, and the residents have been restive.

In December newspapers start reporting supernatural disturbances. Yusuf Ubeid tells a Trønder-Avisa journalist about a series of odd occurrences during his stay there, and it all comes spilling out when he learns that his room – number five – is the one linked to a haunting by a German WW2 soldier. This interview comes less than a week after the canteen building at the camp burned to the ground.

“We feel that many strange things have happened here the last couple of months,” Ubeid says. “Last week I was playing billiards with a couple of others. We heard the front door open slowly, then shut. It happened several times in a row. We couldn’t see anyone outside, and we were so terrified we fled the house,” continues Ubeid, who comes from the Gaza Strip.

From here, the first story gets stretched pretty thin indeed. To be continued tomorrow.

Images from Vaterholmen: The top results should show the camp buildings, fire and asylum seekers, and link to related stories in Norwegian.

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