Fortean Times

The man who saw the light

If one were to pick a country in Europe that might claim as many ghosts as England, the prime candidate would be Iceland. In 1980-81 hundreds of Icelanders were asked: “Have you ever in a waking state personally perceived or felt the presence of a deceased person?” as part of a major survey into contemporary ghost experiences. Many hundreds replied, confirming they had.

This pioneering survey was just one of a number of major contributions to the field of apparitions and the fate of consciousness after death, made by the late Dr Erlendur Haraldsson over more than half a century of serious academic research. This was conducted both in Iceland and internationally, including Europe and North America and with fieldwork investigations in India, Sri Lanka and Lebanon.

He placed ghost encounters on a spectrum of experiences of an afterlife and entry into the next world, encompassing crisis apparitions, spontaneous contact with the departed, mediumistic communications, apparent memories between one life and rebirth, pre-natal memories and especially reincarnation. Rather than look to materialistic explanations, or putting phenomena in discrete categories, he considered experiences as a unified whole, overlapping and reinforcing each other. His own research projects reflected this diversity in a career where work in one area seemed to move almost seamlessly to the next.

A prolific author of articles for newspapers and magazines, as well as scholarly articles and books, his bibliography from the years 1960-2018 includes over 360 articles and books, translated into 14 languages.

Born on 3 November 1931 in Vellir in Seltjarnarnes, he was the son of Anna Elimundardóttir, a housewife, and Haraldur Erlendsson, a labourer. His early interest was astronomy, but

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