Amongst Trolls and Bigfoot in Sweden.

Sweden has around 100,000 lakes and the west, south and southeast faces the sea. No wonder stories about lake monsters are so abundant in our northern Scandinavian country. The most famous one is without a doubt Storsjöodjuret (The Big Lake Monster), roaming the lake Storsjön up in Jämtland. It’s a story that goes back hundreds of years. It was first written down by vicar Mogens Pedersen in 1635 and told the the story of Kata and Jata, and was later rewritten by Anders Plantin in 1685: “It is said that beneath this stone lies a dreadfully large head of a serpent and that the body stretches over Storsjön to Knytta village and Hille Sand where the tail is buried. The serpent was called a rå and therefore shall this stone be risen. Since no one peacefully could cross Storsjön, the ferryman and his wife stated, along with many others, that in the last turbulent time this stone was torn down and broken in two. As long as this stone laid on the ground many strange things occurred in the water, until the stone was risen and assembled anew”.

The runestone referred to is the Frösö runestone, which in reality had a completely different message: “Östman, Gudfast’s son, had this stone raised and this bridge built and Christianized Jämtland. Ásbjörn built the bridge. Tryn and Stein carved these runes”. What makes Pedersen’s original interesting is that it tells about trolls, which by then was a common part of Swedish folklore. It’s said that the first trolls appeared in Sweden during the iron age, but known more as giants. The early accounts described them as big, ugly, hairy and living inside the mountains in the south of Sweden. Sometimes big rocks found in the forest were said to have been thrown there by them, as a result of terrifying anger fits or the results of wars between the giants. When the giants turned into trolls is difficult to say, but the stories lived on. One of the earliest accounts, probably just a legend and not based on truth, was told in the Icelandic saga Landnámabók, where the Norwegian skald Bragi Boddason met a troll-woman and had to challenge her in a duel in verse. Bragi, who was a very skilled poet, won and could continue his journey.

The idea of trolls as giant humanoids is interesting, and it’s not that far-fetched to connect it to later stories about the American Bigfoot, the Yeti of Nepal, the native American stories about Sasquatch, the Menk and Alma in Russia and last but not least, the Australian Yowie. But like many later stories, the trolls/giants had human qualities; raising families, having homes (though deep in huge caves covered with gold and other valuable objects) and their own language. Sometimes described as beautiful humans, but most probably because of their shape-shifting abilities. If the trolls Kata and Jata were so active with releasing lake monsters into Swedish lakes, why aren’t stories about Bigfoot-like creatures more widespread in Sweden? There must be tons of them, considering the country is 70% covered with forest and as much as 97% is uninhabited by humans. One can only imagine what’s hiding out there…

While stories about trolls, gnomes and fairies still are alive in Sweden, to a lesser extent than in the past of course, ones related to big ape-like humanoids are harder to find. However, there are a few interesting ones worth bringing up. In July, 2010, the user Eldaron on the (in)famous Swedish forum Flashback shared a story he claims to be real, and there’s no reason to really doubt the author as stories like this are well known, especially in older generations. The post is a reply to another user who claimed to have seen a hairy big creature:

“When I was young, I went a lot in the mountains in central Hälsingland with my grandmother. We were on our way to a mountain, that I don’t remember the name of, in the evening to see the sunset. On a dirt road we were driving on, I looked out into the forest when I saw something in the forest, maybe ten meters in. I told my grandmother what I saw, and she looked very serious. She turned the car back home instantly and began to tell us that she lived here when she was little. She stopped and pointed into the forest where you could see an old, almost collapsed house from the 19th century. “That’s where I lived”, she said. She had been playing with her sisters when she had seen it run fast past her, She started to scream and her father came quickly — and he looked scared. Later that evening, her grandfather sat down with her and said she had seen the troll.”

I will get back to the province of Hälsingland later in this text, the place for the biggest Bigfoot-flap ever recorded in Sweden. So please, hang on!

The connection between the subject of the thread, bigfoot, and trolls is so strong it’s pretty obvious there’s a lot of similarities between the two creatures, from the size to the overall hairy appearance — and the always present, deep, dark forest. There’s a few other stories being told in the Flashback thread. During the summer of 2010 the user Respons tells about a fascinating observation in Västervik. She and her boyfriend decided to go up on a nearby smaller mountain close to where they were living at the edge of the forest, to crack open a beer or two. While sitting admiring the view they suddenly saw a bipedal creature, slightly hunched and with a gray-brown fur, run past them among the trees at an immense speed. The boyfriend thought it was a bear, but there’s no chance it could have been that according to the witness. “It looked more like a fat man, but the speed made that impossible’’. Another user, Spjuit, claimed to have seen a shorter version, approximately 150 centimeters in height, since childhood. They were seen on moonlit dirt roads, and once near a friend’s stable. The most spectacular experience came from a user who once, as a passenger on a bus, observed the driver swerve to avoid one of the creatures standing in the middle of the road. There was no reaction from her two fellow passengers, and the driver continued on without comment Was it the Oz factor playing a part in the experience?

We can see how the troll and bigfoot mythologies merge here, and the question is if there’s any difference at all in the end? Has the current speed of information streamlined the experiences, removing more detailed obstacles to comprehend the experiences? It’s much easier to visualize a big ape-like creature than something as old-fashioned as a John Bauer-troll? John Bauer was a Swedish artist who during the turn of the century became hugely popular with his paintings of trolls, gnomes and other kinds of forest beings. His work did affect the Swedish consciousness so much that most people see fictional trolls as Bauer saw them, something that’s a lot harder when it comes to real life experiences. One good example is this photo, taken by Grzegorz Fital during the spring of 2021. You can read the full story here. A case of John Bauer-pareidolia — or something else shifting between our reality and theirs? I once threw out the hypothesis that pareidolia is another form of reality, a way to look into another spectrum. It’s an abstract thought of course, more belonging to the fringe-fringe culture than anywhere else. However, the concept attracts me, no matter how insane it might sound.

While reading up on Swedish Bigfoot sightings I’ve come upon a couple of possible hoaxes, internet-mythology with very little substance. One of those is the observation — and filming — done by Leif Petersson in the area of Kelajärvi, Malmberget in the upper north of Sweden. The Cloaked Hedgehog have done a translation of the article that appeared in Norrbottens Dagblad, October 12, 1970:

Leif Petersson was on his way to Gällivare. Then he saw something very peculiar by Kelvajärvi. “I didn’t dare get out of the car since I didn’t have my rifle with me but I had the presence of mind to film it.” It was yesterday afternoon when Leif was traveling in his car on road 45 toward Gällivare that he claims to have made the macabre observation. Opportunistically enough he happened to have his camera in the back seat. “I’m interested in animals and nature and in later years I’ve also begun to shoot animals with my camera”, says Leif. About 5 km before Gällivare, near Kelvajärvi, Leif says he saw a large, hairy creature, about 100 meters in front of the car. It crossed the road with a lumbering gait. What he’s speculating about now is that it might have been an abominable snowman. Critical voices say that it must have been a bear, and insinuate that Leif might not have been entirely sober at the time of the observation. “ I am very familiar with animals and nature, so I’m not mistaken. I have personally shot 13 bears. And I haven’t had liquor since 1964. This was no ordinary animal. I didn’t dare get out of the car since I didn’t have my rifle with me but I had the presence of mind to film it”, Leif continues. Now everyone is excitedly awaiting the super 8 mm film that has been sent to Stockholm to be developed. “It should be enough to silence all critics”, Leif concludes.

On the link above it’s possible to actually look at the super 8 film, stabilized by the user Anna Larsson (a very anonymous name with only two videos uploaded), or see it here — and an additional clip showing footprints. Another YouTube account, Bigfoot Anthropologist, has done a deeper analysis of the video here. Now this sounds pretty spectacular, though I’m very skeptical.

There’s never existed a newspaper named Norrbottens Dagblad (except a modern, on the internet only, site with the same name), and the alleged scan of the newspaper clipping looks suspiciously digital. To be honest, wouldn’t an early bigfoot observation like this — including a film of it — be more known? It might be because there’s very little to go on here. It’s also hinted that it originally appeared on the now closed down homepage of Svenska Yetiföreningen (The Swedish Yeti Organization), which for several reasons itself might be a hoax. The organization, said to be focused on researching Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti in Sweden suddenly appeared at the end of 2007, and one year later a tv-commercial for the Swedish hamburger chain MAX was aired. The members featured in the commercial are obviously actors and way too young to have started their mission in 1962. Svenska Yetiföreningen is a good example of how mythology is created and spread on the internet. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

One of the more well known cases is known as Fanskapet (“The Devilry”), originally posted on Fragbite.se (thread is now deleted). It was on November 23, 2011, and the anonymous poster was out walking near Katrineholm, listening to music and minding their own business when something attracted their attention. “I was out walking along a trail, something I often do during the weekends when I’m back home from the city I study in. With few exceptions I always see deers, often a group of three small ones. Suddenly something moves nearby among the trees and I get my cell phone ready. Two deers run past, and I snap a photo and that’s when the photo was taken. I couldn’t see anything other than something big and dark, with the same color as a moose. But it still looked darn weird at the time.”

What happens is that the witness first sees two deers run past him by the trees, the photo is taken and the result — which they didn’t see until afterwards — shows a burly, kinda chubby and hunched over dark figure on the move. The witness claims he (or she) was raised close to forest and nature and is well versed on what can be seen there. In their original post they also speculate if it’s a human in a costume of some sorts. Hoax or not? Hard to say, but the photo itself has lived on since its initial appearance.

Observations of Bigfoot in Sweden are few, even if those compressed into this text might make them seem to be more than they really are. I’ve deliberately skipped over the majority of those mentioned on Svenska Yetiföreningen’s homepage, as I have no way of telling (yet) if they’re part of a PR stunt or even a deliberately conducted hoax. In the podcast Bigfoot Eyewitness Radio (“Bigfoot in Sweden”, episode 127 and 128) Suzy Hertzman talks about her encounters of several alleged big hairy primates in a nature reserve near where she lives in Linköping. I also found two comments she made on a blog, Sasquatch Chronicles, where she writes a bit about her experiences. It’s worth a listen and read, but Suzanne Hertzman is someone I’d like to interview myself before writing about it. If you read this, Suzanne, please contact me. Another account can be read on Phantoms and Monsters, in the article “Troll, Bigfoot or ‘Glimmer Man’ Roaming Woods in Gubbängen, Sweden”, an incident we brought up in mine and Jimmy Beris’ podcast Märklighetsfaktorn. The thing is that the area the witnesses claimed to have heard and partly seen a big hairy creature isn’t ideal for any wildlife experiences, and it’s either a hoax or have a natural explanation. But don’t be worried, there’s more observations of interest, including one Jon Danielsson and two of his friends saw at the beginning of the millenia, but reported on in UFO-Aktuellt in 2015.

The setting is Vettasjärvi, belonging to Gällivare Municipality in Lapland. The village has under 100 souls and is surrounded by miles and miles of deep forest and hard terrain. Jon and his friends had been out fishing and were returning home by bicycle. When arriving at a crossing they saw something around 100 meters away. The figure, tall and dark, was walking away from them in the middle of the road. “We first thought it was a bear”, Jon said in the interview, “but it walked on two legs and not one on all four”. He also added that bears can walk on two legs a shorter distance, but this creature walked like a human until it turned and disappeared into the forest. One interesting detail is that one leg seemed slightly paralyzed, as the creature was dragging it behind.

Lapland and the Sami culture have their own troll, or giant. The Stalo was considered to be a violent, angry giant — possibly a demon or troll and the earliest written account is in Lexicon Lapponicum (vicars Erik Lindahl and Johan Öhrling, 1780). Its intelligence was fortunately not on the Einstein side of the spectrum, and it was easy to fool. Stories tell of childing defeating the Stalo by either pouring molten lead in its face or crushing its hands with rocks! Brutal! The priest brothers Lars Levi och Petrus Læstadius speculated during the 1830’s if the Stalo was a mythological creature or based on reality, and put forth the hypothesis that it was actually vikings whose presence had created the myth about an angry. stupid giant causing havoc for the Sami people in the past.

In 1985 the only known Bigfoot flap happened, around the area of Edsbyn in Hälsingland. While the information is sketchy, it was investigated and written down by Swedish cryptozoologist and ufologist Jan-Ove Sundberg (1947–2011). While little is known about this flap, and considering Jan-Olov Sundberg kinda drifted back and forth regarding his mental state, a hunch tells me this is the most interesting series of events regarding big hairy primates in Sweden. I hope to get back to these stories for a closer look in the future. The place is once again Hälsingland, and the small town of Edsbyn, famous for its Bandy team, Edsbyn IF. It was here and in the surrounding area something threatening, big and hairy made its presence known throughout the late spring and summer of 1985. Phantom submarines (a Swedish high strangeness in the tradition of the Ghost Fliers, 1936 and the Ghost Rockets, 1946) were still in the news and Olof Palme hadn’t been assassinated yet. There was still an innocence resting over Sweden, even if the cold war still was roaming and 1986, with both the Palme assassintion and the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, would change all of that. Well, except for the inhabitants of our little Bandy metropol, Edsbyn.

It all began with reports of strange grunts and roars in the forests, something that made the stories of something large and wild on the loose spread like wildfire in the area. One such incident was reported by moose hunter Karl Johansson. He and a friend had been out tracking what they understood to be big and smelly together with their dogs. At one point they released the dogs — and was surprised to see them come back terrified and with the tails between their legs. This happened outside Bollnäs, where the next witness, south of the city, Mrs Gustavsson and her husband claimed to have encountered a hairy giant. They could hear it make noise and gruntings during the night, and could on the morning find huge footprints and strange droppings, which didn’t come from a normal animal according to Mr. Gustavsson. From time to time they even saw the beast: “It came quite close to our cabin and would kind of howl in the moonlight with a voice that reminded us of a human with a bass, very very deep. We saw it more like a silhouette against the sky and it never came so close so we could identify it properly”. She added, “It was huge, powerful and gave the impression of being primitive but also intelligent!” A few months earlier, during the spring of 1985 an woman went out to the family cabin in Voxna, a 20 minute drive from Edsbyn, when she found herself in a situation of pure terror! While being indoors she suddenly heard heavy feet moving around on the outside. She got so scared she hid under the bed for an hour, until she dared to move and take a look outside. What she found was huge footprints, 45 centimeters in length and 30 centimeters wide! The most spectacular incident happened a few weeks later, and like in any decent horror movie it includes skinny-dipping and a monster. Two teenage girls, Tina, 15, and Petra, 16, were out swimming and playing in a small lake near the forest, when they suddenly heard mysterious noises, like someone moving around, in the thick vegetation nearby. Suspecting this to be some kind of perv, the girls decided to play along in the game and started to follow the noise and movement while still in the water. Their plan was to surprise the intruder — or even catch him! Brave girls! Well, to their surprise it wasn’t a dirty old man who met them between the trees. It was something far more terrifying. The beast was hairy and ugly and resembled a very large ape! It growled and pounded its massive chest! Tina and Petra, scared out of their minds, turned around and swam ashore on the other side of the lake. Up on dry land they ran naked a few kilometers until they reached the house of Petra’s family, and were finally safe. Petra’s father respected their fear, but thought it was a bear and nothing else. “It was like a monster out of a movie and it walked upright on two legs. Even if it was ugly it more resembled a man than an animal”, Tina told investigator Jan-Ove Sundberg and stood by their claim that this was something out of the ordinary.

Considering the wealth of forest in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, it’s surprising there’s not more reports of these kinds of creatures. Can we even call them Bigfoot, more or less an American phenomenon under that name? The Swedish translation is Storfot, but to be honest, it sounds more like a children’s fairy tale than anything else. Sasquatch seems also wrong, as it’s the Native American name (more closely related to the Sts’Ailes people in British Columbia, Canada. The word Sasquatch is an anglicized version of Sasq’ets, which means roughly hairy man in the Halq’emeylem language) and I don’t see any reason to appropriate their culture). So Bigfoot it is.

The similarities are as big as the differences between trolls and bigfoot. They both are seen as large, animalistic (they’re even scientifically counted as animals in the Norwegian movie Trollhunter from 2009), smelly and hairy — but the trolls have a way more human approach to living, as stated earlier in the text. This can be because of how we’ve seen our green surroundings through the ages, where spirits and other supernatural entities roam — deeply connected to nature. Sweden is a mining country, and the stories about gold and other expensive metals could have been merged with legends of big, hairy rock-throwing giants. Maybe, like the Læstadius brothers though, stories about gruesome vikings hacking their way through innocent victims somehow turned into terrifying forest monsters?

We might have plenty of lake monsters in this oblong country, but hopefully more land-living beasts will make their appearance as time goes by. I think we’re worth a really good scare among the blueberries, mushrooms and pine trees.

Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.

Sources:

“Snömannen -the Scandinavian Bigfoot” — http://cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com/2009/05/snomannen-scandinavian-bigfoot.html

“The only Swedish Bigfoot footage?” — https://thecloakedhedgehog.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/the-only-swedish-bigfoot-footage/

“Vad är detta? (varelse i skogen) — https://www.flashback.org/t1235354

Svenska Yetiföreningen (saved version from Wayback Machine) — https://web.archive.org/web/20090329085759/http://www.yetiforeningen.nu/index.html#observationer

“Fanskapet” — https://nordicbigfoot.blogg.se/2013/march/fanskapet.html

“Bigfoot i Hälsingland” (Historier från Hälsingland, episode 108, October 23, 2020) — https://podtail.se/podcast/historier-fran-halsingland/bigfoot-i-halsingland/

“Bigfoot in Sweden” (Bigfoot Eyewitness Radio, episode 127 & 128)

“What just happened…” (Bigfoot Chronicles, April 11, 2016) — https://sasquatchchronicles.com/what-just-happened/#comment-60391

“Troll, Bigfoot or ‘Glimmer Man’ Roaming Woods in Gubbängen, Sweden” (Phantoms and Monsters, April 21, 2021) — https://www.phantomsandmonsters.com/2021/04/troll-bigfoot-or-glimmer-man-roaming.html

“Sasquatch och sälar” (Märklighetsfaktorn, episode 32) — https://podcasts.apple.com/se/podcast/32-sasquatch-och-s%C3%A4lar/id1532654731?i=1000521034512

“Vad mötte Jon i skogen?” (Alex Olofsson, p. 20–21, UFO-Aktuellt, issue 2, 2015)

“Få rapporter om Bigfoot från Sverige” (Alex Olofsson, p. 22, UFO-Aktuellt, issue 2, 2015)

Lexicon Lapponicum (Erik Lindahl and Johan Öhrling, 1780)

“Snömannen — The Scandinavian Bigfoot” (Cryptozoo-oscity, May 24, 2009) — https://cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com/2009/05/snomannen-scandinavian-bigfoot.html

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Fred Andersson

Fred Andersson

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Author, television freelancer, mystery aficionado and cat lover.