Haraldsson, Erlendur

Erlendur Haraldsson (1931– ) Professor of psychology at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík, best known for his studies of Deathbed Visions and the Indian holy man Sathya Sai Baba. In 1989, Haraldsson began to work in Sri Lanka, studying children who claim to remember previous lives.

Erlendur Haraldsson was born November 3, 1931, near Reykjavík. He began his professional life in the early 1960s as a newspaper reporter. He worked in Iceland, Germany, and the Middle East, and wrote a book on the Kurds, published in Icelandic and translated into German.

Haraldsson studied psychology at the universities of Freiburg and Munich, Germany, from 1964 to 1969. In 1969, he turned to parapsychology, an area to which he had been drawn since his teens. He spent a year (1969–70) with J.B. Rhine at the Institute for Parapsychology (see Rhine Research Center) in Durham, North Carolina; completed an internship in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia (1970–71); and then went to New York to work with Karlis Osis of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) from 1971 to 1974. In 1972 he received his Ph.D. degree in experimental psychology from the University of Freiburg. In 1974, he joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Iceland.

His work with Osis was largely concerned with a massive cross-cultural study of deathbed visions, as reported by doctors and nurses. Osis had already done two surveys in the United States and wanted to bring in comparative data from another culture. He invited Haraldsson to join him in that phase of the research, and together they traveled several times to northern India. Their surveys resulted in the well-received book At the Hour of Death, which used advanced statistical analysis to argue that what the dying see may well have an external, as opposed to an internal, reality. First published in 1977, At the Hour of Death has appeared in 11 languages, and in 1997 a third edition was issued in English.

Following the work with Osis, Haraldsson conducted a survey of psychic phenomena in Iceland, published as a book in Icelandic in 1978. A survey reported in English of encounters with the dead followed in 1988. In this survey, 14% of respondents reported having seen Apparitions, with another 17% reporting some other form of contact. Haraldsson is also well known for studies of Icelandic mediums, especially INDRIDI INDRIDASON and Hafsteinn Bjornsson (see RUNOLFUR RUNOLFSSON CASE).

Haraldsson’s interest in Sai Baba began during his visits to India with Osis; however, Haraldsson pursued his studies on his own, returning to India numerous times before writing his book Miracles Are My Visiting Cards. In this book he reported on the variety of paranormal phenomena associated with the famous holy man. Miracles also met with extraordinary success and by 1999 was available in 17 editions in several languages, including English.

In 1987, Haraldsson was one of three academics to accept the invitation of Ian Stevenson to undertake an indirect replication of his research on children who claim previous life memories (see Reincarnation). Haraldsson chose to study cases in Sri Lanka and to focus on the children’s psychological development, a theretofore neglected aspect of the research. Although he has yet to publish a book on the cases he has investigated, several reports have appeared in academic journals, including the prestigious psychiatric journal Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.


  • Gissurarson, Loftur R., and Erlendur Haraldsson. “The Icelandic Physical Medium Indridi Indridason.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)57 (1989): 53–148.
  • Haraldsson, Erlendur. “Survey of Claimed Encounters with the Dead.” Omega 19 (1988–89): 103–13.
  • ———. “Personality and Abilities of Children Claiming Previous- Life Memories.” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 183 (1995): 445–51.
  • ———. Miracles Are My Visiting Cards: An Investigative Re port on Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Rev. ed. New York: Hastings House, 1997.
  • Osis, Karlis, and Erlendur Haraldsson. At the Hour of Death. 3rd ed. Norwalk, Conn.: Hastings House, 1997.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007