Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Ghost Of Louise's Island (Part 2)




Let me first of all apologize for such a late follow-up to the story (more than 2 years, I know). A lot of things have happened lately, and it was just one of those projects that had to be put on the back-burner more than a few times. All in all, however, I have made a lot of progress on the case. I even managed to visit the island last summer, together with Thomas. This post will, among many other things, include a photo report from that trip. But let's start from where we left off, as we have a lot of ground to cover.

Towards the end of my previous post, I hinted at the fact that all of the four people involved in the experience have somewhat diverging memories and opinions about what happened that fateful night/morning. This is to be expected in any recollection of events that happened so many years ago, and it neither proves nor disproves that something spectacular actually took place; it is a reminder that any shared experience will always be more subjective than first meets the eye. Even if all witnesses had been questioned directly following the episode, the story would already have been colored by the personalities involved, their individual sensory apparatus, and state of mind at the time which, I will remind you, was largely one of fear. I mention this simply as a caveat for going so much into detail regarding the discrepancies of the following accounts. This is in no way meant to portray the witnesses as unreliable, but simply to try to paint the clearest possible picture of what happened, from a consensus of their collective statements. 


Accounting For Differences


So, what do our protagonists - Thomas, Nick, Olsen & Niels - actually agree on, and where do their stories differ? Let's take a look at this point by point while we go through their accounts.

Beginning with the year in question, the general consensus among all of us was that it must have been either 1997 or '98, and probably around midsummer. As to where they found the boat, Thomas, Nick and Olsen are all certain they grabbed one from a small docking area in front of Frederiksborg Castle, close to where the main shopping street begins, while Niels is not so sure. In fact, he even thinks they might have taken more than one boat with them. He also has a notion of a fifth person coming along, but the others dispute this quite strongly.

Regarding how they managed to even get one boat, let alone two, all the way to the island without anybody noticing them, Thomas believes they carried it mostly by hand. Olsen agrees that they had to walk for some distance, but feels certain that they sailed a good part of the way, maneuvering through the many small canals leading from the castle towards Badstuen. Nick's memories are somewhere in the middle, but they all remember there were some places where they could easily drift under the small bridges, and others were they had to take a detour. At the very least, considering that there is no direct water passage between the park canal system and Ødammen, they had to have carried the boat during this final stretch.


Aerial map of the castle area. The red dot indicates the place from where the boat was probably "borrowed", which is more or less directly south of Louise's Island. Sources indicate that while there has never been a boat renting company at this location, it is true that smaller boats used to dock here back during the 1990's.

Thomas recalls that when they finally reached the island, they tied the boat to some small trees near the shore, while Nick, Niels and Olsen told me they were sure they tied it to a small pier on the north-west side of the island. They all agree very adamantly about one thing, though: they made 100% - no, 110% - sure that the boat was secured properly before they started exploring. Both Thomas and Nick are former boy scouts and Nick specifically remembers tying a double granny knot, so he felt completely confident that there was no way they were going to have to swim to get back to the mainland. 

Another part that everyone agrees on is that the first thing they did after tying up the boat, was to try and enter the wooden cabin. Still, there are some conflicting details regarding how they managed to do that. Nick, Thomas and Olsen remembers the main entrance as being boarded up, while Niels has a memory of a large padlock. Whichever the case, this resulted first in an attempt to climb through a window, but without luck. Niels has some memories of hearing noises that frightened them around this time, but none of the others acknowledge this. According to Nick and Thomas, they tried to force open the door a few times (though being careful not to break anything, out of respect for the old building) and eventually succeeded. In fact, Thomas thought it was strange how they suddenly managed to get in that easily after struggling so much at first.

When they stepped inside, they found themselves in what Olsen describes as a kind of foyer or lobby with benches on each side near the entrance. He also recalls some sort of open roof construction around the cabin "tower", to which a staircase was leading. But the place was so full of old wooden planks and similar rubbish, that it was impossible to get past even the first few steps. Thomas remembers that he found it odd with that much garbage lying around, but in retrospect believes it was probably waste after the renovation, that workers had stashed there, since it was out the public's view anyways. After a while they got bored of exploring the cabin, and decided to take a walk around the island instead. 


The Boat House: The first thing you notice upon exiting the cabin

One detail that Thomas told us back then, but which I had since forgotten, was that some time after arriving on the island they all started to pick up on a distinct and unusual odor. Nick and Thomas remembers it as being sort of like the smell of freshly brewed tea. Olsen more specifically described the odor as being similar to chamomile. From what i can gather, Olsen and Nick were probably the first to take notice of the smell. But while they all have different recollections about when exactly it began, they agree that it wasn't there when they arrived. And that it became gradually stronger the more they walked around. Initially this sounded a bit strange to me when i was reminded of it. But then Thomas told me that, even back then, he thought it might have just been emanating from the plants they were stepping in. More about this later.

After walking around for a while - how long is uncertain, but probably 15 minutes at most - the novelty effect of the little island adventure was beginning to wear off, and the guys decided to head back to the mainland. 
This is when they realized, to their abject horror, that the boat they thought they had tied up so neatly, had come loose and begun drifting away from the island. Not everyone remembers how exactly they managed to pull it back again, only that it happened in the very last second. Thomas thinks they used a stick of some kind, Niels that they could still barely reach it with their fingertips. It was around this time that at least Thomas and Nick began getting the feeling that they weren't alone out there.

After comparing all accounts, it seems certain that Nick not only was the first to step into the boat after reeling it back in, but also the first to see "it". This happened as soon as he sat down, looking towards the island. Thomas would have been the second to climb aboard, and just as he was ready to position himself he felt Nick making a kind of panicky jump, followed by a "what the hell is that!". His reaction was so unusual that Thomas instantly sensed something was very wrong, and when he looked in the direction where Nick was pointing, he almost freaked out. 

In Thomas' estimate the figure was about 3 to 4 meters from the shore in front of them, grayish white and partially transparent. He sensed that it was most definitely looking at them. Nick went even further and described it's stare as "intense" - almost as if it wanted to make sure that they never thought of coming back again. The last one to get aboard the boat appears to have been Olsen. He remembers taking a few steps back and pushing the boat into the water, before finally jumping in himself. He didn't see the figure properly before he turned around to take a final look at the island.

Regarding the actual attributes of the entity, I always imagined it being similar to the so-called "Newby Church Spectre". I am of course referring to this most classic of all ghost photos:




Thomas knew exactly which picture I meant even before i showed it to him, but told me that the figure they saw wasn't nearly as detailed in its features. You couldn't see the face properly, as if there was something over its head. It was also darker in the facial area than the rest of the body. It looked like it was wearing a dress. Nick describes it as having a very "alive" and clearly defined body, whereas Olsen thought that while it was undoubtedly humanoid in shape, you could only really see the shoulders and outline of the head, while the rest was more blurry. Thomas describes the body structure as bulky and about 150 to 160 centimeters tall. Furthermore, he had a clear impression that it was female, from its general stature. This did not occur to Olsen at all, and even in retrospect he doesn't agree with this description. Niels only remembers them seeing what looked like a foggy figure near the area of the dock, but also that they suddenly started seeing ghostly shapes everywhere - between the trees, on the other side of the island, etc. Once again, his account differs quite notably from the rest.

There is also some dispute about how they got away from the island as quickly as they apparently did. Nick believes that they rowed back, but according to Thomas they had no oars or paddles to begin with. If so, it must have taken a while for them to reach land. Olsen and Niels don't remember what they actually did. Thomas saw the entity still standing at the exact same spot when arriving on back on the mainland (southwest of the island), while Nick couldn't see it anymore due to the fog, which had then encapsulated the whole island. Thomas and Olsen are both pretty adamant, however, that the entity was easily distinguishable until they reached land.

According to Olsen the figure was the same basic color as the fog, a sort of grayish white. According to Thomas there was some light mist on the water already when they were sailing away, but he felt it didn't really get thicker until they reached the shore and started running. After that, it became like a massive wall, at least 1½ meters tall, but the figure was still visible through it all, at least to him. Olsen remembers the entity as being the same height as the fog about this point, and that it gradually disappeared behind it. Thomas, Nick and Olsen then ran all the way to a nearby hill that leads to the eastern part of Hillerød, where they lived at the time. Niels, who lived in complete opposite direction, most likely ran that way.

And, as you already know from reading part 1 of this story, a few minutes later I would hear the story straight from the proverbial horse's mouth, as Thomas came crashing home, still in shock from the experience. 



Making sense of it all


With the exception of some of Niels' memories, it is still remarkable how similar the accounts are. In this connection it is important to note, that Thomas and Olsen told me they never really talked that much in the days and weeks following the event, and even less so in recent years, where they have had very little contact with each other. The same is the case with Nick, who drifted away from the group shortly after the event (although for a completely different reason). Of course, there is still a good chance that they could have influenced each other. Niels was never really a part of that group of friends. Furthermore, he lived in the complete opposite part of the city, so he probably did not meet any of the others again until long afterwards. This could, at least in part, explain why his memories are the ones that differ the most. While he was telling his side of the story it also struck me, that he by far has the most disconnected view of the events. According to Niels, this is because his memories from that general period aren't very strong. For the same reason I have been particularly careful to distinguish between his initial memories of what happened, and thoughts that arose after I presented him with details of the others' accounts.

Another important point to mention is that Niels readily admits that he was a bit "off" during that time, and sometimes became like a completely different person when he had too much to drink. So it might just have been one of those nights where no one saw the world quite the same way he did. And while we are on the subject, it should be mentioned that none of the guys tried to hide the fact that substantial quantities of alcohol (and probably marijuana) had gone ahead of the trip to the island. They all agreed that this could have played into what they experienced to some extent, but at the same time everyone, including Niels, feel they have at least some clear memories of that night, that would have been essentially the same without any substances involved. In the end, however, Niels is the one who finds the experience the least supernatural in retrospect, and is much more ready to attribute it to intoxication.

Whatever you may think of their state of mind, it is undeniable that all four guys went to the island with the purpose of finding something, attracted by its inherent spookiness and mystique. Niels in particular pointed out how they had been riling each other up about what they were going to find out there. In that sense they would of course have been geared towards noticing "strange" details even before their arrival, and elements such as the strange smell and the fog could unconsciously have affected them, allowing for a certain narrative to override their senses. This could then have been further reinforced by things they each had read, watched or heard about ghosts prior to, or even long before, the event. Whichever way you look at, it their experience does have almost all the elements of a classic ghost story. So let's try to break it down a bit and see what mysteries still remain.

Regarding the strange tea-like odor: as mentioned previously, even though everyone remembers noticing it, they didn't find it equally compelling. Thomas even suspected back then that it came from the plants they were stepping in, which makes sense considering that they didn't start noticing it before walking around the island. Furthermore, everyone told me that it became increasingly powerful the more they walked, which strengthens the hypothesis further. Taken together with the other details of the story, however, it surely adds in building up a more mysterious narrative. Particularly since strange and powerful smells are a staple of many a ghost story, both "real" and imagined. But when looked at separately it probably did have a very down to earth explanation. Perhaps the smell is also the source of one of the cabin's many nicknames, "The Tea-Brewer House", a name that doesn't make much sense otherwise.

Next we have the presence and gathering of fog, something which is even more prevalent in traditional ghost stories. During the late 1990's, John Carpenter's The Fog was still moderately popular in Denmark and was shown occasionally on TV (the remake didn't come out until 2005), and although the movie doesn't technically involve ghosts (they are more like zombified lepers), it does contain excessive amounts of fog through which figures can be seen, mostly in outline. There is a pretty good chance that at least one or two of the guys had seen this movie some time prior to the event. The fog doesn't really play a big part in the spookiness until the end of the island visit, though. As is evident from the different accounts, there is a dispute both as to when the fog started and about the specific qualities of it, but it was not something that they thought of as being particularly strange until all the other things started coming together.


Still from The Fog (1980) 

The boat untying itself, on the other hand, is viewed by all of those involved, particularly by Thomas, Nick and Olsen, as undeniably weird - and highly unlikely to have happened on its own. As Thomas and Nick told me, they had both been boy scouts for many years, so they were actually trained in tying a suitable knot for something like a boat docking on a quiet patch of water. Nick specifically said that he tied a double granny knot, which is widespread and known for being far better than a normal knot. However, as i would later learn, most active outdoor people seem to swear more to a reef knot (or square knot), as it is considered more stable.




I am no expert on the subject, but viewed in conjunction with the level of intoxication among the group, this would rightly be something to seize upon for skeptics. But again, the timing of the thing itself is certainly striking. It really was the worst thing that could happen and, according to their testimony, the guys discovered it in the very last second before it would have been too late.

But too late for what? Well, we can't know for sure of course, but being trapped on an island with the ghostly entity that they believe they saw next, is not very many people's idea of a good time. Since it isn't possible for us to know exactly how the island looked at the time, it's difficult to speculate about possible sources that could be misinterpreted as a ghost. The buildings - the cabin, the boat house and the ice house - were of course located where they are today. And probably many of the same plants are still growing there. But there may have been trees or bushes that have since been cut down considerably. Also, it would depend on whether the yearly gardening maintenance had happened yet (this usually takes place in August). If it was indeed around midsummer, then it would have been almost a year since the island last had a good trim. Thomas is quite adamant, however, that there was nothing they could have overlooked that would suddenly surprise them and appear as a menacing, human figure. Could it perhaps have been the residue of some long gone, former visitor of the island? Remember, Thomas said that he felt the entity was female. Maybe it was the ghost of the stocky Louise Danner haunting the island, forever concerned about her husbands mischievous activities there? 


But is there a possibility of a fictional spillover effect here, too? Perhaps. One of my favorite horror movies of all time is The Entity from 1982, which is based on a book by Frank De Felitta bearing the same name. The book itself is a highly fictionalized adaptation of one of the strongest and most highly revered poltergeist cases of all time

---SPOILERS AHEAD--- 

In this very creepy made-for-TV film, a single mother of 3 children, Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey), is stalked and repeatedly raped by an invisible being that can pretty much follow her everywhere she goes, making it all the more scary, as you never know when the next attack is going to happen. In the end of the movie there is an attempt to capture the entity by spraying it with liquid helium. In this scene a fog-like effect is created, and we finally see the outline of the otherwise invisible being, which turns out to be of a huge and bulky shape:


                   

I realize it's a bit of a stretch to think that this movie could have had such a powerful influence, but I do know for a fact that it was shown several times on danish TV in the early-to-mid-90s, because i saw it back then and it scared the hell out of me on more than one occasion. In the movie there are also a few references to odd smells accompanying the entity. Unfortunately I have not been able to get either of the guys to make even a basic sketch of what they saw for comparison, despite repeated attempts. 

Several times during my investigation, I also considered the option that Thomas himself could have acted as sort of a "conduit" for the whole episode. He is the biggest "believer" of the four, convinced that ghosts, in the sense of spirits of the dead, really exist, and that what they saw falls neatly into this category. This way of thought could very well have affected both Nick, Niels and Olsen if he had shared certain ideas and stories with them beforehand. And, depending on how far you are willing to stretch it, there could perhaps be something about his personality that plays an even deeper part, as well. The thing is, Thomas has had strange experiences many times before and since the night on the island. I remember him telling stories from his folk high school - episodes of slamming and self-locking doors, disappearances and other unusual happenings, which he appeared to be the at the center of - years prior to the events. Most recently, upon moving into his new home, these experiences has become almost as commonplace for him as picking up the daily newspaper.

How exactly this supposed disposition towards the paranormal relates to the incident on Louise Island, where several people experienced more or less the same thing, is of course another story. But in the literature on ghosts and related topics, especially regarding the concept of poltergeists (such as in the original entity case mentioned earlier), there are many examples of key individuals being pegged as "activators", indicating a larger probability of experiencing supernatural events and enabling others to share it with them. This is of course wild speculation in our case, but an interesting idea nevertheless. For a more in-depth example of how powerful the mind may be in manifesting such phenomena, I recommend reading the book Conjuring up Philip: An Adventure in Psychokinesis by Iris Owen and Margaret Sparrow.



Similar Cases


I have consistently tried to dig up other stories from Louise's Island for the last many years, but without any luck. The
 expectation was that my first post would have stirred up at least something, but even though i shared it in relevant groups on Facebook and with several locals, nothing has surfaced. At an early point I also tried contacting Hillerød's Historical Society, as well as the parents of an old classmate, who are huge collectors of Hillerød folklore and memorabilia and who arrange local tours regularly. Both sources probably know more about Louise's Island and the castle area in general, than anyone else, but neither could remember ever hearing about any strange happenings at all. I also contacted renowned Cryptozoologist and Fortean researcher/writer Lars Thomas, who informed me that he used to attend university with a guy from Hillerød, who on occasion had told him second or third hand ghost stories involving Louise's Island. But Lars never did investigate it further, nor could he help me get in contact with this person.

Thomas, on the other hand, had mentioned to me early on that the father of his ex-girlfriend used to be a night watchman at Frederiksborg Castle during the 1990's (he died some years ago, so I couldn't interview him). He once told Thomas that the team of gardeners who at the time were assigned to the island, didn't like the place and found it uncomfortable even during daytime. He was always ambivalent about things himself, but at the same time 
often claimed to have seen entities when he was going his rounds in the vicinity of the castle. He supposedly once saw a ghostly figure floating over the big lake, Slotssøen. Often times there was nothing to be seen, but instead he had the feeling as if an invisible wall appeared, through which no one could pass. The latter happened in an attic of one of the castle buildings and may be marginal to the case at hand, but of great interest in general, because another old classmate of mine actually used to lived in an apartment at the top of one of the castle buildings during the 1990's. Her mother held a top position at the castle museum at the time and she experienced several unexplained phenomena - including a nightly encounter with an invisible "wall".

I haven't been successful in tracking down any local ghost stories involving Frederik 7. at all, but it is well known that the king believed in and was fearful of revenants. For example he was always cautious about staying at Fredensborg Castle (another royal residence located about 10 kilometers North-East of Hillerød), as it was said to be haunted by the ghost of former Queen Juliane Maria, who died there in 1796. Who knows, maybe one day a relevant story from an old letter or diary will see the light of day.


Queen Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

I also looked for examples other places in both Danish, and eventually even in foreign, literature, in the attempt of finding similar stories. Regarding the former, i have not had much luck. The closest story I have found from Denmark is in one of folklore writer Gorm Benzon's collections of ghost tales, which goes as follows (my translation/resumé): 

In the 1960's a merchant was staying at an estate called Ørbækslunde. During the night he was awakened by something and saw a bulky and mostly featureless, woman-like figure, bending over him. When the entity disappeared again, he noticed a smell like mouldy apples

There is also what, at least at first, seemed like a highly relevant piece of fiction, discovered with the help of Martin Shough, which I would like to just briefly mention. It's an American children's story called The Foggy Figure, which includes basically all the elements from our little island adventure. This slim volume is all but unknown in Denmark, but it does appear to be enjoy some popularity among grade school teachers in the US. But the real argument against it at least being a potential influence, is that it only just came out a few years ago. So there is no way any of the guys could have read it. But as the book itself might of course build upon a much older story, so I contacted the author Kelly Hashway in the hope of learning something useful. Shortly after i got the reply that her inspiration had simply been the morning fog on the lake near her vacation home. Oh well...



Back to the island


Already early on in the investigation Thomas and I had talked about somehow visiting the island again - both to clear up a few things and out of general interest and curiosity. The only way to do this legally was by making an agreement with the gardening team who attend to the island, and once a year go there to clear it of weeds and other plants. They usually do this in the beginning of August, but back in 2016 we missed the opportunity because i was out of the country. Determined not to let it go again, I made arrangements for the next year in good time. So in 2017 it finally happened that me and Thomas were sitting in a small boat with one of the castle gardeners, on our way out to Louise's Island.




When we arrived it became immediately clear why the place has a yearly maintenance team assigned. You don't so much notice it standing on shore, but the plants grow pretty ferociously. I'm also glad we decided to wear long pants, as there were thorny bushes and other nasty appendages all over the place. We started by walking around a bit while the gardener, Thor, was cutting down the weeds around us. One of the first things we discovered was that there indeed was a small pier on the western part of the island. This surprised us both, as it simply isn't visible from land, but could indeed be where they tied up the boat back then. And as Thor advanced in his task, various things such as dead swans and even Frederik 7.'s memorial stone also became visible. We didn't notice any strange smells, though. 


There was of course one main object of our curiosity: the cabin. We quickly concluded that the main entrance was the only realistic way to get inside without doing any serious damage to ourselves or the building. The only problem was that the door was blocked...again. Actually, it is wholly due to Thomas' stubbornness that I have something to write about beyond this point. I initially worked with him to find a way to open the door, but gave up fairly quickly, worried that we might break something. We discovered that it was actually just a question of removing a few nails and then it would be possible to pry it open. But as you might imagine, this was not an easy operation without the proper tools, and that wasn't something we had thought about bringing. After about 20 minutes of twisting and prying with whatever we could collect lying around us, Thomas managed to get the door open just enough for us to enter.


Thomas (me on the left) and Thomas, before entering the cabin. Notice the "decoration" behind me. 


Inside view of the cabin entrance
Upon entering the "lobby" we saw to our right an area with a pile of discarded wood, which looked like it came from some sort of renovation work. This could be the remnants of what Thomas remembered from his previous visit. There was also a hole in the ceiling of the almost empty room in front of us, where we could place a nearby ladder. We tried to climb up and take a look, but there was nothing immediately of interest on the top floor. In the end we decided not to go up there, as the floor simply was too old and brittle.


Thomas checking out the top floor

Then we proceeded into the next room, which was about the same size, but filled with a lot of different objects like old fishing ruses and boxes that might well have been lying around ever since the days of Frederik 7. All over the place there were signs of long deceased, as well as more recent, visitors. Primitive graffiti was scrawled all over the walls, some dating back over 150 years. This was quite fascinating, thinking about who might have been here over the years. Maybe some of it was even the work of the king himself!


Top: Some of the objects we found in the cabin. Bottom: Graffiti indicating the year 1883

Thomas at the spot where he remembers the ghostly figure to have been standing

All in all, the visit was quite interesting, even if it didn't bring any huge revelations or breakthroughs, and as we were sailing back I pretty much imagined in my head how I would use it to round up the post. But, as so often before, one thing led to another and soon I was led down one more trail.

Our gardener friend Thor had not initially seemed very curious about us tagging along. Only on our way back to land did he actually ask us about our interest in the place. He found Thomas' story fascinating, but had not personally experienced anything strange that he could contribute with. And from what he knew, neither had his colleagues. But then again, he had only recently been assigned to island duty, after the former caretaker had left his job a few months earlier. Thor suggested that we instead get in contact with him, because he had been going to the island for at least 20 years. Furthermore he was an interesting character, so there was a high probability he could tell us something of value to our investigation. 

Thor was clearly quite fond of this ex-colleague, whose name was Palle, and lived in an apartment in the western part of Hillerød where I grew up. As soon as i heard the name it rang a bell, but it wasn't until later that day, after talking with my mother, that I realized Palle was the father of a childhood friend of mine. I clearly remembered him; I not only used to hang out with his son, his wife had also worked at my school, and our families even saw each other personally on several occasions, back in the early 90's. But mostly I remembered him for accidentally breaking my precious Commodore 128, once during a visit to our house.

A few weeks later I looked up Palle in the phone directory and called him. He was of course very surprised to hear from me after all those years, and confirmed that he was indeed the former caretaker of the island. More than that, it became clear to me that besides having extensive knowledge of the plant life on Louise's Island, he also knew a great deal about the local history. Maybe more than any other single person i have met so far. Alas, when it came to the subject of ghosts or other paranormal phenomena connected specifically with the island, he drew a blank. He did however remember a period where they often found leftovers from what he could only describe as rituals: burnt out tea candles, rocks placed in certain patterns and even drawn pentagrams. But he never thought that it was really something that serious, i.e. involving human sacrifices, although he jokingly said that that it could maybe explain the weird smell that night. And what about that bird skeleton thingy on the cabin door, from the photo earlier in this post?

On a more serious note, Palle did actually present me with a few plausible suggestions for what could have caused the strange smell. First of all, he said, there is a type of perennial plant on the island that can release a sweet odor. Also the sieves around the island, when bent and crushed, can give off a pretty distinct scent. Finally, a herb known as Cheledonium is found there, which can set off a pretty a harsh allergic reaction in some individuals and is best avoided all together. If we imagine four people walking around the island in the late summer, before the yearly maintenance, when the plant life has been allowed to grow wild for almost a year, it's not hard to imagine that one or more of these could be the culprit. So i think that we now definitively can put that part of the story in the "normal" box.

There was one more thing I had hoped Palle could clear up for me, namely the issue of the open roof construction that apparently was in progress when the guys visited. Narrowing this down to within a precise year would help immensely. Unfortunately Palle could not remember when this might have been, but he told me that he and his colleagues often tried to make measures to prevent visitors from going upstairs and prevent the risk of a collapse and possible accident. So it might be that what Thomas and the others interpreted as leftovers from construction, was more of a deliberate obstruction made by Palle and his crew.

Palle then told me one last, highly interesting fact. The stone seat of Frederik 7 that I included a picture of in part 1, and which is clearly visible on the island today, was thought for many years to have been removed and shipped away to some other place, without a record. For ages nobody could figure out what had happened to it, and any hope of finding it again had long since been abandoned. But one day when Palle was out on the island working, he discovered the top of what seemed to be a large rock under the soil. He started to uncover more and more of it until he finally realized that what he had discovered was the notorious, "lost" stone seat. It had been there all along, hidden by the island herself! He was subsequently in contact with the Danish National Museum, who thanked him many times for making the discovery. 
So while we may not have solved the main mystery of our story, there most definitely has been many interesting findings along the way, this being just the latest.


The End?


Speaking with Palle was a nice way to round up w
hat I initially thought would be a pretty straightforward account, but which has steadily evolved into something much larger, connecting many people I grew up with in the most unforeseeable ways. It has made me grow a lot personally as well, and greatly expanded my historical knowledge of my home town and country, something that would probably otherwise never have happened to the same extent. At the same time, while I do hope and believe that more things of interest will eventually surface, I don't see myself making a part 3 anytime soon. But let's see.

Probably we will never know what really happened on Louise's Island during that summer night at the end of the previous century. But it is the kind of story that resonates strongly with many people, whether they believe in ghosts or not. I for one am glad I've had the opportunity here to raise it to a more national, and even international, level of awareness, and I hope it will continue to be told for many years to come. It deserves it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Ghost Of Louise's Island (Part 1)





I normally don't do ghost stories, but the following has so much personal and nostalgic value to me that I knew I had to write about it sooner or later. What I am about to recount took place one summer night during the late 1990's, in my home town of Hillerød, Denmark. After a night of heavy drinking and partying the older brother of a friend, and a few of his buddies, "borrowed" a boat and sailed out to a creepy, old cabin, located on a small island in a nearby pond. Whether this idea came to them out of boredom or simply because all the local bars had closed (or they had been kicked out of them), no one remembers for sure. But the outcome of this little adventure changed their perception of reality forever.

Over the years I became more and more determined to some day document what took place that night on the island. 
Next after those who were actually there, you probably won't find anyone who were more affected by what happened than me. The basic story was related to me by my friend's brother within half an hour after the event, and for almost 20 years I have been re-telling it in closed circles, whenever the subject of Ghosts has come up. For a full exposé to be possible, however, I first of all had to collect and investigate the accounts of everyone who were there. Also, I wanted to unearth similar cases, both locally and globally, and even look towards finding a natural explanation. During the last couple of years I have been working on these and other angles, and now I finally feel that the story is ready to go public. 

Here then, begins tale of The Ghost of Louise's Island. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.




The King, The Island & Its Cabin


Louise's Island is something of a legend in Hillerød, even though most locals don't know its name or the history connected to it. As you can probably imagine from the picture in the beginning of the post, the island with its picturesque wooden cabin can appear quite idyllic on a sunshiny day, but can also evoke a sense of eerieness and dread on a moonlit night when walking past it alone. Countless are the times that I have done exactly that, wondering what secrets it might hold. 

The mystique surrounding Louise's Island is greatly magnified by its immediate inaccessibility. Not only is it difficult to reach - it is permanently off limits to visitors. Believe me, the police will come down on you pretty hard if they catch you fooling around out there. A few years ago, by chance, I observed a couple of youngsters with sleeping bags out on the island, who had apparently planned on spending the night in the cabin. They had barely docked their boat before patrol officers were on the spot, commanding them through a large megaphone to get the *#&¤@ back. Nevertheless, I did actually manage to visit the cabin once myself in the early 90's, during a winter when the pond was frozen solid and you could walk across it. I don't remember so much from those days, but even though it was years before any tales of ghostly events, you couldn't have paid me enough to do a sleepover there - illegal or otherwise.

But what exactly is the real story behind Louise's Island? When I began looking closer into it, I quickly realized that none of the things I had heard about it throughout the years were true. Therefore, no matter what one may think of ghosts and the people who experience them, this part of the post alone will be of value in clearing up a fact or two. So let us first explore its background a bit, alongside some basics about the area.


Frederiksborg Castle, viewed from the east

Hillerød's landmark attraction is the famous Frederiksborg Castle. Every year tourists flock from all over the world to see and photograph this historic building, which in many ways is the heart of Hillerød, connecting different parts of the city with each other. The castle is visible from several miles away and one can only imagine how it must have appeared to approaching travellers in the days before tall, modern buildings, back when the local population was much more sparse. 

The first part of Frederiksborg Castle was constructed during the rule of King Frederik II in 1560, but was almost completely rebuilt during the rule of his son, Christian IV, in the period 1600-1625. A severe fire destroyed much of the castle in 1859 and it had to be reconstructed during the following years. By and large, the castle church interior was the only part that was spared from the flames, and consequently it still appears much as it did hundreds of years ago.


The Badstue "castle" viewed from the east

A mere stones throw from Frederiksborg Castle lies a pretty park area with a similar yet smaller building, which newcomers and the younger generations typically refer to as The Badstue Castle. For most of its existence, however, it went by its proper name, Badstuen ("The Bath House"). The reason that the word "castle" crept into everyday language, may be due to the fact that it resembles Frederiksborg so much, with its distinct Dutch rennaissance style. Nevertheless, it was built solely with the prospect of being a royal leisure house.

The first incarnation of Badstuen came to life in 1580-81, constructed on the order of Frederik II. The following years it served as a nearby refuge for the royal family and their closest circle of friends - a place where they could escape all the formalities of daily life on the castle. Besides this, the king would also use it as a lodge during hunting season. Badstuen maintained these functions until the late 18th century, when it it began taking on a more communal role. At one point it even became the residential quarters for former castle staff members.




Badstuen viewed from Frederiksborg Castle

 ...and vice versa

Around the middle of the 19th century, the king at the time, Frederik VII, decided to restore Badstuen to its former glory. Frederik VII was a controversial figure in many ways, largely because of his drunken antics (he was, by modern standards, a binge drinker, if not an outright alcoholic) and his morganatic marriage to Louise Danner

In 1848 Frederik and Louise Danner moved to Frederiksborg Castle because of the mounting pressures of daily life in Copenhagen. The castle and its surroundings quickly became Frederik's preferred sanctuary and over the next many years he spent as much time as possible in the area, indulging in his favorite pastimes. It certainly wasn't out of convenience that they settled down at Frederiksborg. The place was miles away from most of the king's practical duties and virtually impossible to heat up during winter, which resulted in several ailments for the couple and their aides. The fact that they nevertheless allowed themselves to suffer through this, indicates how much Frederik both loathed the capital and cherished Hillerød.


King Frederik VII and (Countess) Louise Danner. In 1849, when the freedom of press was instilled with the signing of the Danish Constitution, the two became subject of a huge, and at times bizarre, smear campaign. This is one of the reasons that they stayed so much at the remote Frederiksborg Castle

Regarding Badstuen, the refurbishment dragged on and it never became fully operational again during the king's lifetime. Parallel to this work, however, Frederik embarked on another local project which he did get to enjoy the completion of. First, he had a pond dug out in front of Badstuen, where up until that time one had only existed behind it. The new pond was named Badstuedammen (dam = pond). Secondly, the soil that was left over from its creation was used to establish a small piece of land in the middle of the old pond. The king named this Louise's Ø ("Ø" meaning Island), after his wife, and the old pond henceforth became known as Ødammen.


Badstuen and Ødammen with Louise's Island, viewed together from the northwest 

Not long after its creation, Frederik VII had a wooden cabin built on the island. This would come to serve as headquarters for another of his big interests: fishing. The cabin also became a convenient place for hosting intimate social gatherings, where the king and his guests could let off some steam without worrying about public exposure. There is a popular story about one of the king's island binges, involving a guest, who after having consumed inhuman amounts of champagne had to be smuggled back to his home in the middle of the night. The story further goes that he never woke up again, but even though many think this is an exaggeration, it illustrates the notoriety of the island cabin and what the public believed went on out there.

Frederik's cabin has often been referred to as a Svejtserhus ("Swiss house"), but this is a misconception. It is in fact distinctly Norwegian, in a style that is only found in the area of Østerdalen, Norway. Besides the cabin, Frederik had other structures built, including a boat house and a house made of flat stones known as Ishuset ("The Ice House"), which was used to keep food and drinks cool. The island is also home to another curious object, unknown to most and out of view from the mainland: A stone seat engraved with the king's monogram. Originally there was yet another stone on the island, which Frederik had erected in honor of Louise Danner, but this was long ago moved to the town of Jægerspris, where the king purchased another castle in 1854. 


Photo showing both the wood cabin and the boat house


The stone seat with a close-up of Frederik VII's monogram (Courtesy of John Nørgård Nielsen)

This appearance of stones, both on the island and other places Frederik frequented, seems in part related to his interest in archaeology. He was a pioneer of the field in Denmark and responsible for the excavation of several important ancient relics in Northern Zealand. He even wrote a celebrated, and at the time groundbreaking, treatise titled Om Bygningsmåden af Fortidens Jættestuer ("On The Building Method of Ancient Passage Tombs"). 

Finally, although there is no direct proof to back it up, it is actually not so far-fetched to speculate about past occult activities on the island. In fact, it was Frederik VII who introduced the so-called "Swedish system" of Freemasonry in Denmark, establishing a local chapter of the order - from which he attained the 8th and highest degree in 1852 - in the church of Frederiksborg Castle. The castle itself does not have any freemasonic symbolism or decorations to serve as memory of this, but Badstuen actually has quite a bit if you know where to look. So who knows what he at times might have taken with him to the cabin.

With this bit of background firmly in place, let us segway back into our story. 


The Encounter


As mentioned in the beginning, the ghostly episode we are about to delve into took place back in the late 1990's - most probably '97 or '98. I was at the home of my best friend, Jesper, at the time, and we had been up all night watching movies. Jesper and his older brother, Thomas, lived on the lower floor of their parents house, where they each had their own private quarters. However, their circles of friends overlapped to such a degree that everyone visiting would usually hang out together in Thomas' room (mainly because it was the largest).

Thomas worked at an exotic pet store and was a huge animal enthusiast, with a broad, self-taught knowledge about everything from spiders and lizards to monkeys and dogs. It was always interesting to spend time there and see what new critters he had added to his collection since the last visit. It also has to be said that us young whippersnappers looked up to Thomas and his peers quite a bit. They were the town's local skate punks, a seemingly fearless bunch who really knew how to have fun and party. When Jackass became popular some years later, I immediately recognized a lot of the elements from the Hillerød skater lifestyle.

Anyhow, whether we were sitting in Thomas' room that particular night/morning or not, I believe me and Jesper were the only people present. Perhaps there was another of our friends there too, it is possible. Regardless, the way I recall it is as follows: 

At some point Thomas came crashing home loudly and pulled the door open to where we were sitting. Instantly we knew something was wrong, as he stood there with a shocked facial expression like we never saw on him before or since. He told us that he had been running all the way from the castle area and that we wouldn't believe what he had just seen there. Excitedly we urged him to tell us what had happened and he proceeded to explain how he and a few others had been out boozing around downtown Hillerød, when they suddenly got the impulse to steal a boat docked at Slotssøen ("The Castle Lake"), in the area of Slotsgade (gade = street) just before the main entrance to the castle grounds. Their idea was to use it to sail out to Louise's Island (none of us knew it by its real name at the time - I think we just referred to it as "spooky island").


A more or less current Google street view photo, showing the area where Slotsgade meets Frederiksborg Castle at its main bridge. Back in the late 1990's a local boat-renting business kept their boats docked here.

In one way or another they managed to get the boat over to the Badstue area and from here sail across Ødammen, out to the island. When they reached its shore they docked and secured the boat thoroughly before inspecting the various buildings - while fooling around in a manner matching their current level of intoxication. The main purpose of the expedition had been to enter the cabin and see what was inside, and as I remember it Thomas said that they had succeeded, although there was nothing there to really get excited about. 

After a while they got bored and decided to row back, but to the shock of everyone, they discovered, when approaching the boat, that it had come loose from where they had tied it. It was now slowly drifting away from the island towards the mainland. Luckily they somehow managed get a hold of the rope and pull it back in the very last second, despite their panicked yet all of a sudden less drunk state of mind. But if that wasn't a sobering enough experience, what Thomas told us next certainly was.

As they began to maneuver and push the boat off the island shore, a fog surrounded them. Suddenly, one of the other guys stiffly grabbed Thomas' shoulder and looked at him with a speechless and horrified expression. At first Thomas didn't know what was wrong, but when he looked in the direction where his friend was pointing, his heart skipped a beat or two. A cloaked, ghostly figure was standing nearby, where there had been nothing just a minute earlier. And not only that, it seemed like it was watching them with malicious intent, as if threatening them to leave as soon as possible. 

Seeing the entity created even more panic in the group, of course, and they began rowing as fast as they could back to land. At this time the fog had almost completely engulfed the island and most of the pond, reaching the edge of the boat. However, no matter how thick it got, they could still see the haunting figure standing there observing them, as if it was making sure they would never return again. 

As soon as they reached land, they threw the boat aside and scattered in different directions without even saying goodbye to each other, Thomas running towards the eastern part of Hillerød where their house was located.



The classic "Newby Church Spectre" photo. This is more or less what I imagined the entity looked like, from Thomas' original description (Courtesy of Fortean Picture Library)

Jesper and I were of course floored by what Thomas had just told us, although Jesper certainly was a lot more sceptical of it than me. I am sure that we also got the story from one or more of the other guys at a later point (possibly one of them even arrived together with Thomas that morning) but I don't remember ever hearing any details that conflicted with Thomas' original account. But since it was so many years ago, my memory was kind of hazy and I was interested not only in hearing the story from Thomas once again, but from all those who were there. Did they all experience and remember the same details? Was it possible to link this to other ghost stories from the area? 

But before I could answer any of these questions, I first had to track everyone down. And that proved a little more difficult than first anticipated.


The Search


I knew for sure from the outset of my investigation, that besides Thomas there was a guy named Nick with him that night. As far as i remembered, Nick was actually the one who first spotted the ghostly entity. I also knew that at least 2 more persons were there, but initially I couldn't remember who. 

Talking to my old friend Jesper about it didn't bring about much, since he only remembered the basic outline of the incident and never had an interest in these topics in the first place. Via Jesper I did get the phone number of Thomas, but for the longest time he never answered my calls, even though i tried at regular intervals. By complete chance, it would instead be Nick that I got in contact with first. About 1½ year ago, another old friend notified me that he had seen him on TV, advertising for his new company. I looked up the company name online and through the webpage I found Nick's phone number and called him right away. 

Nick was of course surprised to hear from me, but he remembered me quite well from back in the days. Most importantly, he was willing to tell me his version of the story. I got his account over the phone during that first call and then later in the form of a written summary. I asked Nick if he was still in contact with Thomas, but he told me that they didn't meet up as often as in the old days. He promised he would tell him to contact me, though. A few weeks later I managed to finally get through to Thomas, and we talked the experience through for well over an hour. I even visited the Badstue area with him a few days later, in order to perhaps stir up some latent memories of the event. This proved very valuable for understanding some of the finer details, as we shall see later.

After speaking with both Nick and Thomas, it became clear to me that their recollection of events were by and large as i remembered them. But there were details that I had either missed, forgotten, or which became clear only in retrospect. One major point of uncertainty was who else was there with them that night. Both were quite sure that they were four people in total, but could not remember who the other two were either. After going back and forth about it a few times, we came to the temporary conclusion that at least one of Thomas and Nick's closest and oldest friends, Olsen, had to have been there as well. I kept that option on the backburner, trying to contact Olsen and confirm it, while I tried to figure out who the fourth person was. 

Thomas thought it could have been one of their other very close childhood friends, Simon, who I had actually completely forgotten about. But now that his name was brought up it seemed a very real possibility that he could be the one, so I immedialy looked him up on Facebook and wrote him a message. Some days later I got a reply from Simon, stating that although he indeed remembered the story, since it had made quite an impression on him too, he could say with great certainty that he wasn't the person I was looking for. So the search continued.

Somewhere along the way, I think while waiting for a reply from Simon, I got a very strong notion about who the fourth person was. In fact, even if Simon had told me he was there that night I would still not have been completely satisfied that I had found everyone involved, and would have pursued the option that someone had come along as a "fifth wheel". The someone I was thinking of was a guy named Niels (called "Niels West" because he came from the western part of town), who was kind of loosely connected to Thomas and the rest of the skaters, but mainly associated with a different and more "respectable" group of people. Thomas and his friends mostly came from Hillerød East, but they would occasionally hang out with Niels and skate or get drunk together in the city, so it was not out of the question that he could have tagged along.

When I presented this idea to Thomas and Nick they were somewhat reluctant, but admitted that Niels could indeed have been there. In retrospect, I think that Thomas might even have mentioned it back then, but the reason that I remembered him was because he himself probably told me the story some time afterwards. I eventually tracked Niels down last year too, and lo and behold: he not only admitted to being there, but gave me an account that was sufficiently close to Thomas and Nick's to assure me that he was in fact telling the truth - at least as he remembers it.

Then, a few months ago, I managed to get in touch with the last person in the whole ordeal, Olsen. He also proved without a doubt that he was there that night, and had a pretty good memory of what happened. Now I could finally piece together all the accounts, and work towards a deeper analysis of the case. But before I take the next step and write up my results in a "part 2", I hope that the responses to this post may provide me with further information that i can use.

Until then, pleasant screams


Sources:


Andreassen, Lene: Frederiksborg Slot - Kongeborg og Museum. Poul Kristensen Forlag (1987)

Badstuen ved Frederiksborg. Illustreret Tidende, vol. 21 (1879-80)

Berg, Asger: Frederik 7.'s Stensæde i Hillerød Lokalhistoriske Forening årg. 29, vol.3 (2014)

Erichsen, John: Drømmen om Norge - Norske Huse i Danmark Gennem 250 år. Christian Ejlers Forlag (1999)

Holm-Nielsen, Eva: Louiseøen in Lokalhistorisk Forening i Hillerød Kommune, No. 1 (1997)

Mikkelsen, Birger: Konge til Danmark - En biografi af Frederik VII. Nordisk Forlag for Videnskab og Teknik. 1982

Paulsen, Jørgen: Badstuen ved Frederiksborg in Folk og Minder fra Nordsjælland, 40. årgang (1985)

Prytz, Signe: Frederik VII og Nordsjælland. Rud Pallesen A/S (1966)

Uhrskov, Anders (ed.): Hillerødbogen. Hillerød Byraad (1948)

Wamberg, Bodil: Grevinden - Et portræt af Grevinde Danner. Aschehoug (2005)

Westengaard, Erik H.: Badstuen ved Frederiksborg Slot - Stuk og Frimurersymboler in Acta Masonica Scandinavica vol. 6 (2003)

Westengaard, Erik H & Madsen, Peter L.: Vel dækket og bevogtet - om Frederik VII som Frimurer. Sankt Johanneslogen Frederik VII Hillerød (1996)