Trolls are unique to Norway, and an significant part of the Norwegian folklore. Although not all of them are mean, they are invariably rather scary in appearance, and generations of Norwegian children have grown up fearing them.
But for a slightly different take on Norwegian trolls don’t miss the indie mockumentary The Troll Hunter (released this week in Norway), which tells the story of a group of Norwegian film students intent on capturing real-life trolls on camera after learning their existence has been covered up by a government conspiracy. Watch the trailer.
Spooky northern lights
And to finish on a brighter note. Spooky doesn’t of course have to be scary, it can also be beautiful. Ever seen the northern lights? Watching the dark winter sky light up with waves of fluorescent green is an unforgettable spectacle, and an excellent example of how a unique natural phenomenon can be as stunning as it is alien. Well, for visitors at least. And guess what? Norway is a great place.
The haunted Hotel Union Øye
Hotel Union Øye near Geiranger in Møre og Romsdal is one of Norway’s most famous wooden hotels, dating back to 1891. Its Victorian splendour and unique atmosphere made it a home away from home for the many heads of state and aristocrats visiting the region at the turn of the 20th century.
It was during one of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s visits that a beautiful maid drowned here, Ophelia style, after her lover, a member of the German emperor’s military entourage, committed suicide (his wife back in Germany had refused to grant him a divorce). She is said to still be heard sobbing in the Blue Room. Not that this puts guests off – the room is so popular that reservations have to be made a year in advance.
Norwegian black metal, an extreme sub genre of heavy metal, might not be to everybody’s liking (at a musical level, and also because a few troubled musicians have been linked with violent stage performances, church burnings and even murder), but the genre enjoys a popular following, not least abroad.
It even has its own festival, the aptly named Inferno Festival, held in Oslo every year in April, and attracting bands with names such as Mayhem, Immortal, Dark Throne etc. Expect hell-raising music… and copious amounts of black lipstick. Find out more about Inferno Festival.
Edvard Munch’s dark art
Edvard Munch’s early life was marked by tragic events. The death of his mother, followed a few years later by that of his favourite sister, were to have a profound influence on his personality and his career. He became a tormented soul, prone to depression, and death, anxiety and melancholy were recurrent themes in his work.
His painting The Scream, which so powerfully illustrates existential angst, has become an icon of expressionism, but many of his other works are equally dark, in both content and form, and very suitable for a Halloween art gallery visit. Self-Portrait with Skeleton Arm and The Vampire are two that spring to mind, but you will find many others at both the Munch Museum and the National Gallery in Oslo.
Witches in Bergen
Witches are other creatures associated with Halloween, and Norway’s most famous witch is probably Anne Pedersdotter (sometimes spelt Pedersdatter), a rich widow accused of performing sorcery who was burned at the stake in Bergen in 1590.
She was not the only one – 350 witches were executed in Norway between 1500 and 1750. A memorial has been erected on the Nordnes peninsula, near the aquarium, to commemorate their fate. You can learn more about Anne Pedersdotter in a small exhibition in the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen (on until late 2012). –
Ghost in Trondheim
The monk in Nidaros, Trondheim’s cathedral, is probably Norway’s most famous ghost. A tall figure with a dark habit, a monk’s tonsure, glowing eyes and blood dripping from a slash in his throat, the monk first appeared to the local bishop’s wife back in 1924, during a service in the cathedral, and has since been spotted by several other eyewitnesses.
He was described by many as a good-looking young man, although he displayed a disturbing tendency to sever his head from his body, and walk through churchgoers without their noticing. Creepy stuff. He was the inspiration behind Frid Ingulstad’s novel The Monk (1991), and featured in a Norwegian TV series, The Dahl Brothers and the Legend of Atlant-is (1994).
Moonlight walks in Oslo
Too scared to go ghost-hunting on your own? What about joining a guided tour? Oslo Walks offer an exciting and creepy two-hour ghost walk through the history-filled streets of the old city centre (Kvadraturen) and the area around Akershus Fortress, which is said to be haunted by several ghosts – among them the big black dog Malcanisten, which guards the passage leading to the heart of the fortress, and a horse that can be heard riding in front of the old entrance – legend has it that anyone seeing the horse would die before the year was out. Book ahead as the tour is popular. Guiding available in English, but you must send a request in advance.