Blast from the Past: The Ghosts of Höfði - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Blast from the Past: The Ghosts of Höfði

Blast from the Past: The Ghosts of Höfði

Published August 3, 2017

So, they‘ve met. Not in Reykjavik as we had all hoped, but in Hamburg. Last time the leaders of East and West needed to end a Cold War, in 1986, they picked Reykjavík. But the Reagan-Gorbachev summit has only in retrospect been hailed as the beginning of the end. At the time, it was seen as rather disappointing. And boring.

As the two men sat inside Höfði House, reporters were at a loss, with nothing much to report. In what can be seen as a precursor to Slow TV, news broadcasts showed the doorknob almost constantly, as people waited for the knob to turn, the door to open and someone to say something. It has even been suggested that this was when the myth of Icelanders believing in elves originated, as the international press had to focus on something and settled on the Hidden Folk.

More invisible beings came into play, as Höfði has long been rumoured to be haunted. This, of course, was utilized in the annual New Year’s Eve comedy show’s portrayal of the event. When the two leaders finally emerged, they announced… well, nothing much. When a local taxi driver was asked if he saw the results of the meeting as a disappointment, he said yes, he really had been hoping for more fares.

The Cold War did, in fact, end a few years after the Reykjavík summit. But it took a meeting the year after in Washington to sign the arms reduction treaty discussed at Höfði. 

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