Hofdi Poltergeist

Hofdi Poltergeist : Denizen of what was, for a few days in the fall of 1986, one of the most famous haunted houses in the world. Hofdi House, on the outskirts of Reykjavík, Iceland, was the building in which U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev held their first meeting that October. Although the New York Times ignored the haunting in its coverage of the summit, it was headlined in the Washington Post on October 4 and 5, and on October 6 that newspaper’s editorial cartoonist, Herbert Block (Herblock), immortalized the house. His panel shows two shadowy nuclear missiles looming over it, with a caption that reads: “Nonsense—I don’t believe in people.”

American TV networks and the European press at first played up the haunting as well; however, when no phenomena were reported, the media lost interest. Despite rumours about continuing disturbances at Hofdi, investigation showed that none actually had been reported for years. Even at its height, the Poltergeist does not appear to have been very active: there are stories about strange noises and pictures falling from walls, but little more.

There are conflicting stories about the identity of the poltergeist agent. The most plausible of these concerns Einar Benedictsson, one of Iceland’s greatest poets. Benedictsson was also a government employee, and while serving as governor of a northeastern Icelandic province, he was called upon to investigate a case of brother-sister incest that resulted in a pregnancy with the subsequent murder of the baby. On the day she was interrogated, the sister poisoned herself and then died an agonizing death in Benedictsson’s presence. After that, Benedictsson claimed to be haunted by her spirit, which he said followed him as he moved from post to post. He bought Hofdi House in 1914 and lived there during World War I, during which time he reported some disturbances to his friends.

In the 1940s, Hofdi House served as the residence of the British ambassador to Iceland, who also reported incidents, which he gave as his reason for selling the house and moving into town. The house was later bought by the city of Reykjavík for use in official receptions. Members of the staff recall some incidents, such as paintings suddenly appearing askew on the walls and a bottle of wine that inexplicably fell out of a refrigerator when it was opened. However, the phenomena came to an end when, after many things had gone wrong at a banquet, a staff member appealed to the agent to stop. She subsequently appeared in a DREAM to the staff member and promised to end her harassment, after which the disturbances ceased.



  • Haraldsson, Erlendur, and James G. Matlock. “The Hofdi Poltergeist.” ASPR Newsletter 14, no. 1 (1988): 4; 14, no. 2 (1988): 12.


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