I love haunted stories. Every time the husband and I travel somewhere, we do a ghost tour. No, I do not care for ghosts or scary stories. Instead, I like the stories of the everyday and the weird that makes a town sound more unique. Typical walking stories tend to focus on kings, the upper class, and famous people. Ghost stories focus on the lower class, the merchants, the poor. It’s fascinating. So, in the spirit of Halloween, I had to seek out the most haunted places in Bergen.
Like any good ghost story, the haunted places of Bergen are local legend and not really written about in English. I had to dig through newspapers, Norwegian blogs, and other websites to find the good stuff. Bergen has some crazy stories, as this page will tell.
If you know any ghost stories in Bergen (or surrounds) add them in the comments!
Haunted Places in Bergen
- The Worst Criminals in a Dungeon at Rosenkrantz Tower
- Eternal Guest at the Radisson Blu Hotel
- Hauntings at Bryggen
- Lonely Mother at St. Jørgens
- Cemeteries Around Bergen
- Bergen Prison
- Town Hall Prison
- The Apprentice
- Gestapo Headquarters
- Octavia the Friendly Ghost
- Ghosts in the Natural History Museum
- Sibling Drama
- Executions on Nordnes
- St. Pauli Cemetery
The Worst Criminals in a Dungeon at Rosenkrantz Tower
The Rosenkrantz Tower is intimidating in its own right, but anyone who has been inside knows how eerie the basement is.
A little bit about the tower. It was originally built in 1270 as an apartment for the King, Magnus the Lawmender. When Bergen was part of Denmark, the Danish lord Erik Rosenkrantz built the tower in its current form. There have been alterations to the tower before Rosenkrantz, but his is the most famous. The dungeon was added around the year 1500.
The dungeon is 4m x 1m, and the ceiling is just high enough to stand up in. Light only comes through a crack in the walls, which are very damp. Imprisoned here were the worst prisoners. The cell was in use from the 16th until the 19th centuries.
Eternal Guest at the Radisson Blu Hotel
Maybe you’ll be staying at the Radisson Blu on your stay? Skip this section if so.
Okay, for those of you who stayed. Before a major renovation at the Radisson Blu, the staff observed strange things. The events took place on the second floor near the nightclub.
Staff saw the ‘eternal guest’ often. In the mornings, they saw him with a beer glass. The revolving doors into the kitchen also moved without anyone being there. Some employees even reported seeing a shadow following them in the corridors. Sometimes a figure would be seen on the dance-floor after closing time.
The staff elevator is one of the most affected places. It can only be used with a code, and it links the party rooms to the kitchen. Occasionally the elevator would stop by itself on the second floor. The doors would open and everything was completely dark. No one had been to this floor.
So, there’s a beer-loving disco ghost wandering the party rooms of the Radisson Blu.
Hauntings at Bryggen
Bryggen Tracteursted is a restaurant located behind Bryggen. It’s in a schøtstuene (assembly room) built in 1708. Of course it’s haunted.
One night a chef was working while playing some music. Suddenly, the pans from the shelves fell off. The chef is sure that something supernatural was the cause of the events.
The Hanseatic Games
Bryggen in general feels very haunted. After all, this is where people have Bergen have lived since the 11th century. It’s the Hanseatic times (1360-1754) that have some creepy stories. In particular are the games that the apprentice merchants would play. One is the water game, held in May. The new boys went to ships on the bay. Their clothes were taken off and a rope tied around their waist. They were then tossed into the water and hoisted up. They repeated this several times. Out at sea, several older men waiting with a rowing boat, armed with sticks. They tried to hit the wet boys. After the ceremony, the boys went back to continue serving the dinner party. One boy is believed to have died when his belly was torn open by a protruding nail outside the ship.
There are so many stories of these games. Another one is the smoking game. Older boys made a fire, and the younger boys were tied up in ropes and lifted up above the fire. While hanging, the boy was asked questions that he should know the answer to, mostly about the business. If he got the answers right, he was released. If he got an answer wrong, he was lowered further into the fire. One boy is said to have died. The statue outside Svensgården represents that the boy came out of the fire looking he had multiple eyes and noses.
Lonely Mother at St. Jørgens
St. Jørgen’s Hospital is one of the best preserved leprosy hospitals in Europe. The Nonneseter Abbey constructed the hospital in the 1300s to treat the growing number of patients. Over the years it developed into one of Bergen’s most important hospitals. Armeur Hansen discovered the cause of leprosy in Bergen and worked near the hospital.
The patients of St. Jørgens had to live in the hospital. They were self-sufficient with their own vegetable gardens and livestock. They would share rooms roughly 2m x 2m, but had a large kitchen and common area.
One of my friends once told me a story about the hospital. Now, every time I walk through the hospital grounds (it’s part of my walking tours) I am reminded of this haunting story. A woman was admitted to St. Jørgen’s for having leprosy and had to remain on the property. Every Sunday, a nanny would bring the woman’s children to play in the park across from the hospital. The children had been told their mother had died, and they were unsure why they were playing in this park. They were brought here so their mother could see them.
Today St. Jørgen’s is the leprosy museum of Bergen, with exhibitions and guided tours.
Cemeteries Around Bergen
Cemeteries are always creepy. They are also always haunted. St. Jacobs has an interesting story. Established in 1629 as a cemetery for the poor, it is the oldest cemetery in Bergen. Back then it was very uncommon to bury the poor in marked graves. So, between 60 and 70 percent of the dead had unmarked graves. Meanwhile, the wealthy were buried inside the churches – often in the floor or crypts in the basement.
In the 19th century, it became less common to bury the wealthy in the church. After all, imagine the smell coming from the church? Eventually, St. Jacob’s became a cemetery for the upper class. The graves of many famous Bergenser’s are there.
An honourable mention goes to the cemetery around the Bergen Cathedral. That cemetery was the leprosy cemetery. It got so full that they made cemeteries like St. Jacobs.
Further down the road is the Assistant Cemetery. In 2016, when they were doing work on the railway, they found skulls belonging to 50-60 people. They were likely buried in the 19th century.
The prison in Bergen was built in the mid-19th century. A reform in the country meant new prisons based on the Philadelphia system. This meant one prisoner per cell, and harsh treatment of each prisoner. The Bergen prison did built one cell for each prisoner, but it became known for being nice to the prisoners. During the 1916 fire, the prison was in peril. The prison management let the prisoners go, asking them to come back the next day. With one or two exceptions, the prisoners returned after the prison wasn’t lost in the fire.
The Gestapo took over the prison in 1940. One of the Gustapo’s prisoners was Gunvor Mowinckel, who was imprisoned here 1944-45. She and her husband were sheltering refugees during the Norwegian resistance and arrested for this. After an interrogation and torture by the Gestapo, they are imprisoned here. Gunvor wrote:
“At a point in the Gestapo HQ I was asked by Kesting (Gustapo) how many children I had. When I answered, Kesting said that the children of such a terrible individual weren’t worthy of life.
Later that day we were transferred to the Bergen County Jail. It was a horrible time. I think the fear for the children and what was coming next was the worst.”
The prison is now abandoned and certainly has a creepy vibe about it. While the stories aren’t exactly scary, there’s something eerie about the building.
Town Hall Prison
The town hall prison is creepier than the main prison. The basement had a cell for 12 prisoners and a room for the mentally ill. There was no fresh air. If they had the opportunity to move around, it was in the corridor outside their cell. No outdoor area was available to them. It wasn’t a prison but a holding cell before sentencing. Prisoners could wait up to two years in this basement cell with stench, darkness, no light, no heat, and no comfort.
When they were sentenced, they were sent to prison or executed.
Executions were commonplace. For example, in 1630 they executed a woman for stealing from the parish clerk. In 1632 they accused a girl of causing a shipwreck – she was clearly a witch. After torture, the girl pointed the finger at another woman for causing the disaster. This woman was also executed. If the crime was petty, prisoners were deported to Northern Norway. In 1692, wealthy merchant Jørgen Thormøhlen got permission from the King to take prisoners to his colony in the West Indies.
As mentioned above, there was a bedlam next to the holding cell. They likely received no treatment. Back then, the mentally ill were treated poorly. For example, in 1634 they executed a man for helping treat someone back to their sanity.
A room is still preserved in the basement, but it’s seldom open to the public.
Kløverhuset is a shopping mall located on Strandgaten in Nordnes. The shopping mall made news many years ago for noises that were coming from it at night. The noise was so intense that the locals complained to the press. It gained so much attention that a clairvoyant came to inspect the mall. The clairvoyant said she spoke to a figure named Albert Albertsen. Turns out, he was an apprentice to Johan Petersen, the man who started Kløverhuset in 1852.
No reportings of Albert have been made in recent times, but maybe he’s still there?
The Gestapo was an executive branch of the German security police during the Second World War. Germans occupied Bergen during the war. The Gestapo had their headquarters in a building close to the theatre. The building became known as a torture site and a symbol of the oppressive occupying power in Norway. Brutal methods when interrogating people became a trademark of the Gestapo.
Following the drama in Telavåg in 1942 (click here to read about that), the Gestapo brought in the villagers for interrogation. One woman, Martha, did not want to tell the Gestapo about what was happening in Telavåg. She also didn’t want to identify the Norwegians who were part of it. To force a confession, the Gestapo beat Martha with wooden sticks until she lost consciousness.
800 to 900 prisoners were subjected to violent interrogations by the Gestapo, where they were tied up and hung up in meat hooks in the basement or in offices further upstairs. A total of six resistance fighters died as a direct result of the Gestapo’s torture.
The Gestapo tortured many victims to death. To avoid breaking during interrogation, several prisoners jumped to their death from the 4th and 5th floors.
After the war, the Gestapo in Bergen were convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death. Today a memorial stands outside the building for those who were tortured and died.
A museum is currently being developed on the fourth floor, where four graves have been preserved. Read more here.
Octavia the Friendly Ghost
Every theatre has a ghost, and Bergen’s is the friendliest. Her name is Octavia Sperati, and she is one of the female actors from the theatres early days. She is a useful ghost, taking care of the building and the people working there.
There are several sightings of Octavia. She is observed as a woman in a white dress flying around the corridors. There are reports of knocking noises, footsteps in corridors, and paintings falling off the wall. Some even claim to hear her voice.
If you want to see her, there is a portrait of her in the lobby. The painting has survived fires and bombings, so people think she’s the ghost.
Ghosts in the Natural History Museum
Rakkerdammen is a swamp area located close to the Natural History Museum. The swamp is gone, the remnants are now a pond. The site is an old execution site; ‘rakker’ means ‘executioner’. In the old times, children were told to avoid the swamp as the ghosts could take them into the swamp.
It’s believed the ghosts haunt the Natural History Museum.. After all, it’s built on the old court square next to the execution site. Unusual activities are said to be the ghosts of those executed. The last execution was in 1803. Anders Lysne was beheaded for leading a farmers’ revolt against forced military service.
Some of the objects inside the museum are also haunted. The Egypt department has 5,000-year-old statues on display that turn and move. This is even though they are behind glass. Observations of a monk have also been made. The old monk is moving around in the church exhibition area.
There’s sightings of ghosts near the old Munkeliv Monastery in Nordnes. It’s not from the monastery itself; the monastery is today a park. Rather, it comes from one of the houses close by. Yes, Bergen has a haunted house. The story goes that two siblings were romantically involved with one another and living in a house in Nordnes. The sister got pregnant, which is of course a bad thing. The couple killed the child when it was born. Then it is said the brother killed the sister before hanging himself.
The park over the monastery is also said to be haunted. After all, the soil was taken from an old cemetery where Bergen’s worst criminals were buried. We’ll explore them now.
Executions on Nordnes
The majority of executions took place on the Nordnes Peninsula. There are two separate sites: Galgebakken and the area close to the aquarium.
Galgebakken means ‘gallows’, and it’s where some executions took place. It is also where pillories were to punish and humiliate prisoners.
The site close to the aquarium is famous for its witch burning. Over 100 women burned at the stake for being a witch in Bergen. The most famous is Anne Pedersdatter Beyer, who was the widow of priest Absalon Beyer. During the witch trials, it was very uncommon for upper class women like Anne to be accused of witchcraft. Typically, witches came from the lower classes. Being accused of witchcraft could be due to ordinary, everyday accidents. The worse accusations involved women taking part in accidents, most often shipwrecks. It’s believed they burned Anne for being a witch because she was unpopular in Bergen. After all, once you are accused, it was hard to fight that.
Later on, the site was used for executions. Between 1842 and 1902, 1888 people were sentenced to death in Norway but only 20 were executed. Four people were beheaded in Bergen after 1814 on this site. One was the counterfeiter Jens Fenstad. Another was murderer Jakob Alexander Jakobsen Wallin. The latter was the last public execution in Bergen in 1876. 5,000 people were present when Jakob was executed. Those present were from the lower classes. The upper classes had read in the newspaper to stay away from the execution.
St. Pauli Cemetery
The site where St. Pauli Cemetery used to be is said to be the most haunted place in Bergen. The cemetery was established around 1650 for the poor and criminals of Bergen. It is often said that there were ghosts both inside and outside the walls. This is because they buried the poor in the walls. Meanwhile they buried the executed criminals outside the walls. Jens Fenstad, the counterfeiter, was buried outside the wall. A stone slab was over his grave until the end of the 19th century. A courthouse used to stand next to the cemetery.
Ever since the cemetery was built over and the area got gas lanterns (and now modern lighting), the ghost activity has calmed down. Additionally, in the late 19th century the remains were moved to Møllendal Cemetery. The soil was used to built Nordnes Park, which they think has hauntings from the criminals.
histos.no / An excellent website with historical stories about Bergen
Nordnes Republikken / A blog about the Nordnes Peninsula