“People come to me with their stories and they swear to me that they’re not a drunk, they’re not on drugs, and they’re not a pathological liar”, Magnús Skarphéðinsson says. Headmaster of the Elf School for the last twenty years, Magnús has met over 700 people who have seen elves, hidden people and other nature spirits.
“I never planned to create the Elf School”, he says. “As more and more people inquired about my work, I just started telling everyone to come by on Fridays and that’s how it all began”. By now he says 8.000 people have graduated from the school and received his Diploma in Elves and Hidden people Research Study. Note: This is possibly both the easiest and most enjoyable diploma you will ever earn.
A QUICK LESSON
Magnús invites us into his classroom and we sit down around a table. Surrounding us are shelves bursting with old books and trinkets. There are no less than five different lamps sitting on the windowsill, along with more trinkets of every which kind. “Welcome to the Elf School”, Magnús says. To the best of his knowledge, it is literally THE Elf School, with no counterpart anywhere else in the world.
He begins class by describing himself as a neutral scientist who collects testimonies from people who have had encounters with “álfar,” which translates to elves, but is used as an umbrella term for elves, hidden people, light-fairies, dwarfs, mountain spirits, and gnomes.
In the booklet Magnús gives us are sketches of these nature spirits, whose appearances Magnús says have been confirmed by countless testimonies. In all, there are thirteen species of elves, two species of dwarfs and three species of hidden people. While elves are from 8 to 80 cm tall, hidden people are said to look just like humans, only they dress in old-fashioned clothing.
“There are many things we still don’t know about elves and hidden people” ,Magnús admits. “What we do know, we have learned from people who have had decades of friendships with them and have been invited into their homes”. After thirty years of collecting these experiences, he says he doesn’t know anyone who knows more about the subject than he does.
AND IT’S STORY TIME
About 75% of the encounters he has recorded involve hidden people, which exist as Modern, Blue, Ancient species. Yet, Magnús says nobody has ever spoken to the Ancient or Blue types. “They always run away”, he explains, and after a short pause, he continues, “They run away, yelling, ‘You, you bank robbers!’ And then turns to the American in class and says, ‘You imperialists!’ Well, at this point we laugh because we think he must be joking. In fact, he’s full of jokes this evening.
Magnús, who by the way should not be confused with his brother, Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson, is an excellent storyteller. We pass the evening listening to stories of one encounter after the other. At some point without warning, he disappears and we wonder if he hasn’t just taken off. But, he returns with a plate full of freshly baked waffles with jam and whipped cream and then continues to recount another series of inexplicable events, that is, unless you believe in the existence of hidden people.
Leaving the Elf School, diploma in hand, I wonder what to make of it all and recall a 2002 documentary I once saw called, ‘Investigation Into The Invisible World’. Appearing in the film, Iceland’s former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir says quite diplomatically:
“I have never seen elves or invisible people. I haven’t yet encountered a ghost but I have often heard about them. This type of belief no longer exists in France or Spain because they are Catholic countries. Catholicism is so powerful; it leaves no room for other beliefs. In the Middle Ages, the Icelanders adapted Catholicism to fit their pagan heritage and continued to tell stories of hidden people, elves and ghosts. The existence of elves, ghosts, extrater-restrials and of a life after death has never been proved. It’s the same thing with God. No one has proved whether he exists or not”.
You Laugh But…
Just last week elves in the remote Westfjords town of Bolungarvík were in the news. They apparently have a beef with the construction company Ósafl, which built the tunnel between Hnífdalur and Bolungarvík last year and are now working on an avalanche barrier.
Medium Vigdís Kristín Steinþórsdóttir told DV reporters that the elves were upset that nobody asked for their permission before beginning construction. They would apparently have liked to pack up their bags before their home was obliterated.
To appease them, Vigdís called for a meeting between the elves, construction workers, town residents and parish priest Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir. The priest reportedly said a prayer and asked for the elves’ forgiveness. Unfortunately, Vigdís said they weren’t buying it, and coincidence or not, rocks from the avalanche barrier construction site rained down on the town the following day.
While Vigdís claims it’s the doing of angry elves, Leó Jónsson from Ósafl says he doesn’t believe in elves. In any case, elves in Iceland are real enough to make the news.
‘Investigation Into The Invisible World’ (2002), Jean Michel-Roux explores Icelander’s beliefs in the supernatural:
“I’ve won the title of the world’s strongest man four times now. I believe in elves and invisible forces. These forces support me when I make physical efforts.”
– Magnús Ver Magnússon, athlete
“Many people used to have intimate relationships with hidden people. Women would go into some rocks and come out pregnant. Today, that is known as visiting rights but, in the old days, they had to visit the elf man every nine nights.”
– Björn Sigurðsson, police officer
“In 1993, the extraterrestrials came as planned but didn’t show themselves to the reporters. They were on another frequency. Their huge spaceship stayed for 36 hours above the glacier. The humans who had left their bodies during the night were able to observe a lecture by the extraterrestrials from a circular gallery. They wanted to warn people on Earth that “grey” extraterrestrials want to enter our atmosphere to infiltrate the world of finance and politics. Some of them are already here. Their aura is dark and gloomy, so we should be able to identify them. But there are already so many evil human beings that it’s hard to spot them.”
– Erla Stefánsdóttir, piano teacher and seer
“Sometimes, mediums contact the office nearest to a work site to warn us that elves are living there. They usually offer to act as go-betweens to help things go smoothly. We try to keep everyone happy like when we have to cross a farmer’s field. Sometimes we wait until the elves move on. Such courtesy doesn’t cost the road office much.”
– Helgi Hallgrímsson, head of the Icelandic Road Administration