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The Devil Of Hjalta-stad {246}






The sheriff writes: "The Devil at Hjalta-stad was outspoken enough
this past winter, although no one saw him. I, along with others, had
the dishonour to hear him talking for nearly two days, during which he
addressed myself and the minister, Sir Grim, with words the like of
which 'eye hath not seen nor ear heard'. As soon as we reached the
front of the house there was heard in the door an iron voice saying:
'So Hans from Eyrar is come now, and wishes to talk with me, the ---
idiot'. Compared with other names that he gave me this might be
considered as flattering. When I inquired who it was that addressed
me with such words, he answered in a fierce voice, 'I was called
Lucifer at first, but now I am called Devil and Enemy'. He threw at
us both stones and pieces of wood, as well as other things, and broke
two windows in the minister's room. He spoke so close to us that he
seemed to be just at our side. There was an old woman there of the
name of Opia, whom he called his wife, and a 'heavenly blessed soul,'
and asked Sir Grim to marry them, with various other remarks of this
kind, which I will not recount.

"I have little liking to write about his ongoings, which were all
disgraceful and shameful, in accordance with the nature of the actor.
He repeated the 'Pater Noster' three times, answered questions from
the Catechism and the Bible, said that the devils held service in
hell, and told what texts and psalms they had for various occasions.
He asked us to give him some of the food we had, and a drink of tea,
etc. I asked the fellow whether God was good. He said, 'Yes'.
Whether he was truthful. He answered, 'Not one of his words can be
doubted'. Sir Grim asked him whether the devil was good-looking. He
answered: 'He is far better-looking than you, you --- ugly snout!' I
asked him whether the devils agreed well with each other. He answered
in a kind of sobbing voice: 'It is painful to know that they never
have peace'. I bade him say something to me in German, and said to
him Lass uns Teusc redre (sic), but he answered as if he had
misunderstood me.

"When we went to bed in the evening he shouted fiercely in the middle
of the floor, 'On this night I shall snatch you off to hell, and you
shall not rise up out of bed as you lay down'. During the evening he
wished the minister's wife good-night. The minister and I continued
to talk with him during the night; among other things we asked him
what kind of weather it was outside. He answered: 'It is cold, with
a north wind'. We asked if he was cold. He answered: 'I think I am
both hot and cold'. I asked him how loud he could shout. He said,
'So loud that the roof would go off the house, and you would all fall
into a dead faint'. I told him to try it. He answered: 'Do you
think I am come to amuse you, you --- idiot?' I asked him to show us
a little specimen. He said he would do so, and gave three shouts, the
last of which was so fearful that I have never heard anything worse,
and doubt whether I ever shall. Towards daybreak, after he had parted
from us with the usual compliments, we fell asleep.

"Next morning he came in again, and began to waken up people; he named
each one by name, not forgetting to add some nickname, and asking
whether so-and-so was awake. When he saw they were all awake, he said
he was going to play with the door now, and with that he threw the
door off its hinges with a sudden jerk, and sent it far in upon the
floor. The strangest thing was that when he threw anything it went
down at once, and then went back to its place again, so it was evident
that he either went inside it or moved about with it.

"The previous evening he challenged me twice to come out into the
darkness to him, and this in an angry voice, saying that he would tear
me limb from limb. I went out and told him to come on, but nothing
happened. When I went back to my place and asked him why he had not
fulfilled his promise, he said, 'I had no orders for it from my
master'. He asked us whether we had ever heard the like before, and
when we said 'Yes,' he answered, 'That is not true: the like has
never been heard at any time'. He had sung 'The memory of Jesus'
after I arrived there, and talked frequently while the word of God was
being read. He said that he did not mind this, but that he did not
like the 'Cross-school Psalms,' and said it must have been a great
idiot who composed them. This enemy came like a devil, departed as
such, and behaved himself as such while he was present, nor would it
befit any one but the devil to declare all that he said. At the same
time it must be added that I am not quite convinced that it was a
spirit, but my opinions on this I cannot give here for lack of time."

In another work {249} where the sheriff's letter is given with some
variations and additions, an attempt is made to explain the story.
The phenomena were said to have been caused by a young man who had
learned ventriloquism abroad. Even if this art could have been
practised so successfully as to puzzle the sheriff and others, it
could hardly have taken the door off its hinges and thrown it into the
room. It is curious that while Jon Espolin in his Annals entirely
discredits the sheriff's letter, he yet gives a very similar account
of the spirit's proceedings.

A later story of the same kind, also printed by Jon Arnason (i., 311),
is that of the ghost at Garpsdal as related by the minister there, Sir
Saemund, and written down by another minister on 7th June, 1808. The
narrative is as follows:--





Next: The Ghost At Garpsdal

Previous: The Hymn Of Donald Ban



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