WANDERING the streets of Vaasa, on Finland’s west coast, one could be forgiven for thinking that not much controversial happens here. Proudly bilingual, the population of the regional capital of Ostrobothnia swells considerably each year with an influx of students attending its three universities and two polytechnics.
But what is lurking in the shadows of the city proudly touting itself to be the sunniest in Finland? Quite a lot it seems.
If you find yourself at the former Hotel Central, located close to the railway station, keep an eye out for the white lady ghost that has been seen on occasion around the Schauman cabinet. By all accounts she moves chairs around, turns on the lights at night and unlocks doors, making her something of celebrity on the ghost scene in Vaasa. And how about professor Hedman, the guardian spirit of the Ostrobothnian Museum? His ashes were buried at the entrance of the museum so that he could continue to guard it according to his last will. So proficient is he, security cameras inside the museum often indicate that something is moving – even if no one actually seems to be there. And these are just two examples.
In fact, there has been so much apparent paranormal activity through Vaasa’s long history that it is now possible to take a guided tour of the many haunted places around town. Furthermore, a book has recently been published, The Ghosts of Vaasa, compiling these paranormal phenomena and just where to find them about town.
But this supernatural activity in Finland is not just restricted to the west coast. There have been many more ghost stories over the years that are indigenous to other cities in Finland, such as the ghost of Emma Lindroos whose antics moving objects around in the late 19th century were witnessed by many in a small village outside Tampere. Elsewhere, the 1940s saw the ghost of Mäkkylä throwing stones and other objects. Then there was the ghost of the Jyväskylä Stoneworks in 1954 and the ghost of Lahti in 1974, knocking on windows and throwing stones.
A novel approach
The history of sharing ghost stories depicting experiences with the supernatural in Finland continues to this day.
“I wanted to write a creepy book for teenagers and remembered how we used to love ghost stories when I was young,” explains Anneli Kanto, author of Kuollut kulkee – Tarinoita kalman majoilta (“The Dead Are Walking – Stories From the Afterlife”). “The ghost stories are in a way ‘real’ for I have found them in archives - I have not invented them. I have only written them anew in a way that is interesting for the young reader. In a way they are Finnish tradition.”
Covering everything from car-driving ghosts, to the ghosts of animals and skeletons, given her experience in researching and then documenting 13 different ghosts for a younger audience, does Kanto actually feel that these supernatural beings actually exist?
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” she states. “But I once had a feeling of a ghost in Villa Salin, Helsinki. Curiously the other woman in the same room had the same feeling. It was probably Ida Salin, the former owner of the house.”
However, there are many others who are much more convinced about the reality of paranormal activity.
“There are more ghosts around us than most of us think,” explains Irene Harnesk Lundqvist. “But it’s still a kind of taboo to believe in the supernatural. The most common thing for them to do is to turn on/off the lights, change channels on TV, hide things from us and give us warnings etc. All ghosts can be experienced as a mass of light that flits.”
A psychic since she was young while growing up in Sweden, Lindqvist is also a medium, a spiritual course leader, an energy balancing therapist and a social worker.
And so, is the potential presence of ghosts something to be afraid of, or are they more commonly a friendly spirit, something akin to Casper? “Naturally there are evil spirits to be found,” Lindqvist offers. “It’s when those people try to scare others that stories become more and more bizarre.”
Perhaps the most famous ghost legend here in Finland is that of Liekkio, the ghost of an unwanted child who had been secretly buried in the woods. It is said that it appears as a dancing flame, its presence pronouncing death.
“I don’t believe these sorts of spirits to be particularly unhappy children, unborn or not,” Lindqvist offers. “These unhappy spirits are reborn quite soon into the right families and to the right existence. An unborn child or an infant is a pure spirit and why they should walk on earth like that is inexplicable for me. I think the tales of scared people play a big role in other people’s fears. There are only a few ghosts who are downright evil and who are able to put a death curse on someone or on some area. I don’t believe those kinds of spirits/ghosts can be driven out or helped to the other side.”
Currently living in Sweden, but visiting Finland over the coming summer to continue her work, Lindqvist conducts séances as well as visiting the homes of people who feel that they have bad energies in their houses or apartments. While she is there, she makes a reading inside the house in order to uncover what kinds of energies exist there.
“Most of the time it is close relatives, who want to be seen and heard and who want to guide us,” Lindqvist explains. “In cases like that, it’s possible for me to mediate messages from them. Sometimes it’s about negative energies, in other words: some spirit who is trapped between the worlds who doesn’t know if they are dead or not. These are often spirits who did not have the time to say farewell before they passed away, or had some unsolved situation with somebody. Then I help them over to the other side, cause it’s not meant that they shall be here with us.”
But doubt inevitably lingers for skeptics of such supernatural beliefs, weaned on lingering historical encounters with the spirit world that are punctuated by tales of bored children pulling pranks to scare others. How do we know that Lindqvist isn’t just making this up, in order to make herself a living?
“It’s hard for myself to criticize my own work, but I couldn’t possibly have that good an imagination to make up what I experience through the messages I get from the other side,” she explains. “And sometimes people come back to me and confirm that the things I have predicted have taken place.”
With such a film belief in the spiritual world, it comes as no surprise then that Lindqist pledges allegiance to the presence of reincarnation and angels. One begins to wonder, however, just what is her view is on Heaven and Hell – amidst all of the paranormal, do they still exist?
“Yes, there is a Heaven, if that’s how you want to call it. Hell is something we create ourselves here on earth. I am convinced that the more bright, positive and loving thoughts we have and give to our fellowmen, the less chance we give to the dark side to get to us.”