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The Devil Of Hjalta-stad {246}

Categories: Modern Hauntings
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

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:--