Iceland Still Believes in Elves and Ghosts Skip to content

Iceland Still Believes in Elves and Ghosts

According to a recent study on superstition in Iceland supervised by Terry Gunnell, associate folklore professor at the University of Iceland, a significant portion of participants would not rule out the existence of elves and ghosts.

The results of the study were similar to those of a study conducted in 1974 by Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, Fréttabladid reports.

“Icelanders seem much more open to phenomena like dreaming the future, forebodings, ghosts and elves than other nations,” Gunnell said.

Only 13 percent of participants in the study said it is impossible that elves exist, 19 percent found it unlikely, 37 percent said elves possibly exist, 17 percent found their existence likely and eight percent definite. Five percent did not have an opinion on the existence of elves.

More admitted to believing in ghosts. Only seven percent said their existence was impossible, 16 percent unlikely, 41 percent possible, 18 percent likely and 13 percent definite. Four percent had no opinion on the existence of ghosts.

Gunnell was surprised by the results because the Icelandic society has changed considerably since 1974 when Haraldsson revealed that more Icelanders believed in supernatural phenomena than other nations.

“Many factors could have affected these numbers,” Gunnell said. “A growing belief in haunting can be traced back to Hollywood movies. The city and its houses are also growing older and the countryside is becoming more mysterious.”

The study was undertaken in 2006 and 2007 by the University of Iceland’s Faculty of Social Sciences and supported by the university’s Research Fund. About 1,000 people participated in the questionnaires.

The results have not been fully assessed yet and interviews with some of the participants are scheduled in the near future. The final results of the study will be introduced in December.

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