3 February 2016


Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur R. Gissurarson. Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium. White Crow Books, 2015.

Zofia Weaver. Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship. White Crow Books, 2015.

The stories of Indridi Indridason (1883-1912) and Franek Kluski (pseudonym for Teofil Modrzejewski (1873-1943), give us an extremes example of apparently rational and sober people reporting events which by currently accepted views of the world, just could not have happened, and indeed it is difficult to imagine any world view at all in which such things could be possible.
Haraldsson and Gissurarson’s account centre on séances held by the so-called Experimental Society, which, despite its name, was mainly concerned with psychical research. These were held with Indridi between 1905 and 1909, by which time his health had become undermined. This book is based on recently re-discovered notebooks of the Experimental Society and press reports. Much of the séances were devoted to physical mediumship of one kind or another. These began with table turning, automatic writing and trace, but gradually progressed into levitations of objects and Indridi himself, knocks, strange lights, clicking sounds, a quieting period in which healing, 'psychic surgery' and trance mediumship occurred, followed by an upsurge of violence in which there levitations, objects thrown about, sounds of music, mysterious voices and sitters touched by invisible arms, followed by choirs of music and materialised limbs.

Indridi Indridason
The most extreme alleged phenomena were the dematerialisation of Indridi’s left arm during séances held on 19-21 December 1905 and the appearance on the road outside the séance house of a creature like a cross between a horse and cow in the autumn of 1907. This is clearly some kind of folk boggart and was claimed to be the spirit of a suicide using materials from animals to materialise. The authors provide useful tables of Indridi’s phenomena and detailed comparisons with the phenomena attributed to Daniel Home.

Convinced spiritualists and believers in physical mediumship will see this as further confirmation of their beliefs. More sceptical readers are likely to come to the conclusion that much of this would be a lot more impressive if these amazing events had taken place in broad daylight and in conditions which made fraud virtually impossible, rather than in darkness. They might also think that it is by no means impossible that an intelligent but bored young man might get quite a kick out of fooling the local intelligentsia. If Indridi was a fraud he almost certainly had one or more confederates.

Not all the alleged phenomena can be attributed to fraud by Indridi; in one case a 'communicator' announced a fire in faraway Copenhagen, at time when there was not even a telegraph service to Iceland, and where the alleged entity was found by Haraldsson in 2009 to fit the profile of a man who lived a few doors away from the site of the fire. Here we are pushed to the conclusion that something genuinely anomalous occurred on at least this occasion or that the whole thing was made up by the Experimental Society after the event from knowledge gained back in Denmark. More neutral commentators might note the similarities with shamanism and ask whether such a folk tradition continued in Iceland under the surface of Christianity, and also to look at the social background to these events, as Iceland was at the time engaged in the struggle for home rule from Denmark. They might also note that in the stories around Indridi we can see a mixing of traditional lore, folk Christianity and Spiritualism. 

Franek Kluski
If anything the claims made on behalf of the Polish medium Kluski were even more extreme and the connection with shamanism even closer. As a child he is said to have told fellow children of his journey’s to the kingdom of the mole via long dangerous road and tortuous passages, and constructed a sort of shaman’s tent out of chairs covered by a shawl. He was said to have communication with invisible human and animal friends from puberty onwards. 

Two traumatic events, the death of his first love, and his own near fatal injury in dual, seem to have only added to his shamanistic personality. He apparently suffered from sudden and inexplicable (?psychogenic) ailments and violent swings of mood. In his séances all sorts of odd things happened, human forms and strange creatures materialised, the latter including the so called 'Pithecanthropus', a sort of folk image of an ape man, which had a habit of licking sitters with its huge tongue, as did a sort of materialised dog. Kluski was also seen to grow an extra arm on occasion and also produced materialised hands which left impressions in wax and which seem difficult to fake,

His most extraordinary alleged feat however is said to have occurred not in a séance but in his own home where on the evening May 7 1920, in reasonable light, a “tall elderly man with a large dark beard wearing a white burnus and ... head wrap” materialised, bowed to the audience, sat on the floor, conversed in sign language and when offered a cigarette from a box a couple of metres away “stretched its hand towards the table, the hand becoming elongated and nebula like..” Never did the phrase 'a festival of absurdity' seem more apposite. 

We really are forced into the position of accepting the world is totally different from what we assume it to be or that these stories are essentially made up. In the case of Kluski the bulk of the stories about him come from his friend Norbert Okolowicz, artist and soldier, another connection was a bohemian poet and Modrzejewski himself was a published writer. Is it possible that Kluski (the pseudonym means something like 'Dim Frank' was a fictional character created by Modrzejewski and his friends and the séance were forms of performance art? Could this have been a satire by devout Roman Catholics on spiritualists, or even some kind of satire by friends of Pilsudski on what they regarded as the chaotic and disorganised Polish Republic 

Such an interpretation doesn’t seem as plausible in the case of Indiri, and if that story is a fiction then its motivation lies buried in the mists of time. We can note that both of these narratives come from countries struggling to re-establish independence and a national identity. As I have argued before the real problem that those who claim these narratives are evidence for extraordinary human abilities face is why, given how useful in the struggle for survival they would be, they are not entirely commonplace. -- Peter Rogerson.

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