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A library dedicated to “paranormal phenomena” in Sweden

Press articles and books, testimonies from people claiming to have traveled to Venus or the moon.

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A library dedicated to “paranormal phenomena” in Sweden

Press articles and books, testimonies from people claiming to have traveled to Venus or the moon... Paranormal phenomena have their library four kilometers underground in the town of Norrköping, in Sweden, attracting historians and curious people from all over the world. These archives are being digitized and a large part of the documents can already be consulted on a server, provided you have access codes - which archivists happily share.

Clas Svahn, 65 years old, and Anders Liljegren, 73 years old, are neither believers nor superstitious but like to present themselves as “curious investigators of the unknown” when they reveal their documentation, accumulated over 50 years, dealing with “the inexplicable ". Books constitute the bulk of their collection, which includes more original documents such as testimonies on magnetic tapes and photographs of spectra, all on the 700 square meters of their association Archives for the Unexplained (AFU). “What we are building here at AFU is a repository of knowledge,” explains Clas Svahn, who assures that their improvised library is the largest of its type in the world. "We're trying to get as much information as possible about unsolved scientific mysteries and make it available to the world." He says he receives visits from around 300 people a year.

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Greg Eghigian, professor of history and bioethics at Pennsylvania State University, crossed the Atlantic to immerse himself in the AFU as part of his research for a book on the history of “UFO” phenomenon. “I have worked in countless archives in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. My stay at the AFU was undoubtedly the most fascinating and productive, he explains to AFP. In my opinion, we cannot study the subject in depth without consulting this fund. Long stigmatized and placed on the side of folklore, the famous “unidentified flying object”, or UFO, is gradually carving out a place in scientific research. In mid-September, NASA released a report making recommendations on how to rigorously study them in the future.

In the room dedicated to these unexplained aerospace phenomena, Clas Svahn leafs through the yellowed pages of a book with a red cover. The work, taken from the underground UFO scene of the USSR, was published in the form of a “samizdat” (clandestine text) entirely typed and existing in only 7 or 8 original copies. “It’s a rare piece,” he relishes, scrolling through Russian annotations and rocket sketches. “They didn't know what they were seeing, but it was in fact rocket launches” from the Plessetsk cosmodrome, assures the enthusiast who dissected the contents of the book with Russian speakers.

The AFU archives are full of astonishing stories, such as that of Victor Hugo during his political exile on the island of Jersey off the coast of France, highlighted in an exhibition at the Norrköping Art Museum. In his notes taken to prepare the writing of The Turning Tables of Jersey published posthumously in 1923, the writer described the contacts he had had with his deceased daughter. These writings gave birth to a new religion observed by several million followers in Vietnam, explains the curator of the exhibition, Magnus Bärtås. A fresco by Victor Hugo today adorns the wall of a temple about ten kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh city.

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By accumulating all this data on the abnormal, the artisanal media library “also covers folklore, beliefs”, indicates Clas Svahn, who emphasizes that the archives are not limited only to UFOs. “It’s a social subject, (which shows) the impact on society around the world and on people’s lives.” Beliefs evolve from generation to generation and what was superstitious and rejected as such before is not necessarily so today.

Artist Ida Idaida spent a month researching the AFU's underground archives to create her work, a gigantic black wooden structure. She was inspired by the experiences of female witches, gleaned from books, which she wishes to highlight. Their knowledge has, throughout history, been looked down upon, she said. People whose experiences and testimonies are not taken seriously find, with these archives, a space, according to Magnus Bärtås. “Just because something is (bizarre) or unexplained, we should not dismiss it, we should study it and be open,” he argues.

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