'Where is my leg?'
Many of us have some notion of what happens after we die; mostly we can be divided into two sides with one side saying ‘Nothing happens, we’re
just dead’ and the other side saying ‘We go on to something else.’ Thanks to religions, the argument about what the ‘something else’
actually means has led a few million people to find out earlier than they chose to.
What if it isn’t as simple as being dead or going into another existence? What if you miss the legendary tunnels of light and find that your
consciousness, the voice in your head, is still talking to itself? Would that be a good or a bad thing? You’ve proven that life exists after death,
but who cares when you can’t be seen? Would it be lonely being an incorporeal ‘voice’ that nobody else can hear?
In the following account, a drunken Icelandic man was washed away to sea and died. His bones were found on the shore and were buried with little
ceremony. So ends the anonymous life of Runki…or maybe not?
During the 1940s, a group of people were involved in researching the subject of mediums, channelers and séances. If ever a field was infected by
charlatans and hoaxers, this is one of them. During one man’s alleged channelling of ‘the spirits,’ he was frequently interrupted by a grumpy
character complaining about his leg. In the world of psychical research, these types of communicators are called ‘drop-ins.’ They're considered
to be independent characters who offer factual details.
The channeler was called Haffstein Bjornsson and he had a good reputation for ‘paranormal powers’ that went back to his childhood in the 1920s. He
found he was being interrupted by someone who was belligerent and argumentative. When this character was asked for a name, he gave the Icelandic
equivalents of ‘John Smith’ and questioned why he should tell anyone anything…
Time went on and Haffsteinn continued to channel for different people and in different locations for different audiences. Our leg-less friend
continued to make occasional interruptions until January 1 1939 when a fish merchant attended. The man was Ludvik Gudmundsson and the snarky
‘drop-in’ claimed to know who he was. What’s more, he claimed that Gudmunsson had his missing leg and whilst doing so had Haffstein take snuff
and crave a shot of alcohol…
This change in behaviour by the unhappy character quickly led to a breakthrough and something the researchers could get their teeth into. The ‘John
Smith’ evasion came to an end and they were suddenly presented with chapter and verse of who he supposedly was and how he came to be missing his
This detail of being ‘very tall’ became something rather interesting when they discovered the missing leg-bone within the wooden walls of the fish
merchant’s house. The leg bone was long and clearly came from a tall man. To us, it probably seems very unlikely that anyone would casually leave
unknown human bones behind walls or under floors. Superstitions or even common-sense (give to the police!) would dictate our actions. This was
apparently not so in turn-of-the-century Iceland. This is how the bone was allegedly discovered…
Gudmundsson did the right thing and had the bone placed in a leg-bone-sized coffin and buried with the standard ceremonies. In a movie or urban
folklore tale, this is the point where the tunnel of light and a bunch of welcoming entities appear and say soothingly, ‘Your time has come, dear
Runki, enter the light and find your peace.’
Maybe there'd be some big-time harp sounds and a choir too?
No such luck here…or simple explanations. The spirit of Runki continued to manifest from time to time and was apparently a very helpful guide for
Haffstein. Of course, out there, in whatever firmament or ‘plane of existence’ where such ‘spirits’ do their thing, it’s anyone’s guess if
time is linear or even sensible. Maybe he did find some peace and moved on…or faded away.
For our latter day researchers, they couldn’t let the juicy details of name, location and cause of death be wasted could they? Stuff like this is
way too big to pass by and they went looking for evidence that Runki was a real person.
Amazingly, he was! Not only had Runolfur Runolfson been a real person, he lived at the right time and died in the same way as claimed by the Runki
character. Cool huh? Buried in the Parish records, they found this…
So I guess the discussion about the persistence of consciousness, life after death and heaven is over at last?! Let’s shut the churches and put
more funding into psychical research and the pursuit of consciousness! We should invest in channelers, mediums and psychics as fast as we can so
we’ll have someone to talk to. I guess life after death is like standing on stage in an empty theatre with the lights out; just a voice in the
Wait a minute! Not so fast...
Nothing is ever so conclusive and straightforward in the field of paranormal research. Many questions have been raised about the chain of evidence and
the primary source of the communication – Haffstein. Is there any way he could have heard about Runki from local folk? Could he have been to the
archives and done some background? The answer is an equivocal yes he did. He visited the National Library where these records were kept and denied
having done so until his signature was found in the signing-in book. At that point he explained that he’d been there years ago for an unrelated
matter and was so long ago that he’d forgotten.
Critics of Haffstein claimed that he had a photographic memory that could retain details of names and families from lots of areas. They suspected he
studied these families in detail so that in any large group, somebody would know one of the people he was claiming to channel. He wouldn’t be the
first to use these techniques; they’ve been used for centuries. Some ‘psychics’ have admitted rummaging through purses and bedroom drawers to
glean information that hooks their paying audience.
One problem with this dismissal of Haffstein as a fraud, is that damned leg-bone! It was remembered by the old-folk and found in the walls of
Gudmundsson’s house. Could Gudmundsson have been a co-conspirator with Haffstein? Had they heard the old-folk talk of the bones and concocted the
whole Runki character whilst planting a long leg-bone? Without Gudmundsson’s help, how the heck would anyone know that the bone was behind that
Altogether, I found the Runki story interesting enough to write up and post on here. It raises some big thoughts about life and death and what becomes
of *us* when the last breath leaves our bodies and that final synapse fails to spark. If we go on to something like Runki’s existence, I’d rather
say no thank you as it seems pointless and dull. Who wants to spend forever as themselves?
The alternatives between definitive death or continuing to another place are far more attractive than dumb limbo with the company of mediums and