The Fascinating Case of the Missing Leg

Synopsis by Phil S. Morse, Ph.D. 

thighboneIn the search for compelling survival cases, few are stranger and more intriguing than that of Runolfur Runolfsson. This involves a man who had drowned way back in October, 1879 and who unexpectedly appeared 58 years later at a regular séance of a medium named Hafsteinn Bjornsson who lived in Reykjavik, Iceland.

One day, while conducting a session, Hafsteinn suddenly received a communication from an unknown source who distinguished himself by his rude and uncouth manner. When asked what his name was he said, “What the hell does it matter to you what my name is?” and when asked what he wanted, he replied, “I am looking for my leg. I want to have my leg” which he claimed was “in the sea.” His demands about wanting his leg persisted and he continued his refusal to identify who he was.

When a person named Ludvik joined the sittings, the uninvited guest expressed how pleased he was to have this new arrival show up. Ludvik, like the others, asked him who he was and he continued the pattern of not revealing his identity. Ludvik told him that he would not help him find his leg until he identified who he was. That sent him into a snit and he abruptly stopped communicating.

This odd visitor again appeared abruptly after some months and told a curious story: he gave his name as Runolfur Runolfsson, said that he had gotten drunk and, on his way home, had fallen asleep on a beach after drinking some more. A storm that night washed him out to sea and his body was not recovered until January, 1880.

Now this is where the bizarre part of the story begins. He reported that animals had torn his body to shreds and the remains were found and buried except for his thighbone which had been passed around the nearby village but was now at Ludvik’s house. When asked for proof of his existence, Runolfur said to look in the “church book of Utskalar Church,” which alluded to the cemetery in which he claimed he was buried. He also indicated that he was 52 when he died and was very tall.

Ludvik then questioned several of the older men in the village about this weird piece of information and one identified a local carpenter who had spoken of putting a thigh bone between the outer and inner wall of a house so that it wouldn’t be in the way. A search proved fruitless until the carpenter joined the search at Ludvik’s house and pointed to the spot where he had placed it. They knocked a hole in the wall at that point and, sure enough, found an unusually long thighbone.

Later, an investigation found that the Utskalar Church records did mention when Runolfur died and his age as 52 but only reported that he had been washed out to sea and that his bones had been found much later. The missing thighbone was not mentioned nor where it was. Thus, neither the medium nor Lukvik could have known those facts without Runolfur, the discarnate entity, telling them.


Erlendur Haraldsson & Ian Stevenson (1975). A communicator of the “drop in” type in Iceland: The case of Runolfur Runolfsson. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 69, 33-59. 

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