If “Anthropologist Held Hostage By Elves” sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is

A blogger writes up a fake story to go with the pictures of a real story from 2011.

Anthropologist Held Hostage By Elves For 7 Years

Seven years after she vanished without a trace, a female anthropologist emerged from a mysterious cave where authorities believe she may have been held hostage by real-life elves!

Danish researcher Kalena Søndergaard was stark naked, covered by dust and babbling incoherently when rescuers found her outside a tiny opening in the famous Elf Rock, traditionally believed to house the underground dwelling place of mankind’s tiny cousins.

“She was crouching like an animal and spoke only in a language unrelated to any we know,” said Arnor Guðjohnsen of the National Rescue Service, which airlifted the 31-year-old survivor to a hospital by helicopter.

Wrong wrong wrong. It’s totally made up. The first clue? It’s a blog, not a news service. A quick search of her name and details of the story only result in links to other mystery mongering websites which repeated the story that she was a researcher in Icelandic folklore who was looking for evidence of real elves.

A search of the photos in the story reveal that this one, supposedly of Kalena, is from a Russian dating site and returned over 200 results of “Russian student”.

Not Kalena. Some unnamed person because she looks like the girl in the rescue photos.

Not Kalena. Some unnamed person because she looks like the girl in the rescue photos.

The real story is that a woman got stuck on a beachside cliff in California back in March of 2011. She was apparently attempting to access the secluded Black’s Beach near San Diego. It is a nude beach but I’m wondering why she took her clothes off before getting there. She picked the wrong path and got stuck. Rescuers sent a female aid to help her into a harness which then lowered them safely onto the beach. She was not injured, just probably embarrassed.

Of course the Daily Mail had to report this salacious story complete with pictures. The Orlando Sentinel also has photos which confirmed the story was from 2011. Many newspaper typically take older stories off online access so it was not readily available to fact check the story on the internet. Sites like Ghost Theory, Above Top Secret, and many forums and blogs reported the elf story with some trepidation. But just reporting it was enough for it to go viral.

Will people remember that this was a hoax story? No, they will think she really was rescued from a cliff in Iceland, escaping from elves.

Not Iceland, but California, 2011 - nude beach cliff rescue.

Not Iceland, but California, 2011 – nude beach cliff rescue.

Tip: Jeb Card

  26 comments for “If “Anthropologist Held Hostage By Elves” sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is

  1. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    That the story was obvious fiction and easily googleable, and still virally spread through the various occulture websites, including being posted by some of the managers of those sites, speaks volumes.

    My interest in this story was once again that anthropologists are investigators of the weird and supernatural, a topic I am about to submit some publications about. Of course, there are real-world examples, especially if one goes to the origins of studies of anthropology, archaeology, folklore, etc.. This, for example, is a classic and well-known work on fairie lore in Northwest Europe, and the author in fact believed in fairies, much in the same way as a ufologist would write about aliens or ultraterrestrials today (it was written in the wake of beliefs that fairies were memories or remnants of earlier “races” an idea held by more than a few early anthropologists and other scholars, though in this case the author believes in a more supernatural or psychic explanation).


  2. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    PS: I’ve got no beef with the author (who seems to be a fan of Arthur Machen). His page is obviously dedicated to horror fiction.

  3. November 16, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    This is a typical skeptic smear job. How dare you question this woman’s personal experience of being abducted and enslaved by elves? You need to check your privilege… Unless you have been held hostage by elves for years, you have no right to question her story. This woman needs a cult debriefer and a can of elf repellent, not our scorn!!!

  4. November 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    so, TV movie, book deal? “not since SNOW WHITE has there been a story of such horror! Held captive by elves….”

  5. Eve
    November 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Obviously a fake story: “Guðjohnsen” is not a proper Icelandic spelling.

  6. November 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    I was in Iceland earlier this year and I saw the Troll House in Keflavik, but missed the elf cave. It’s and excuse to go back, I guess. As if I really needed an excuse. I’d love to explore more.

  7. Chris Howard
    November 16, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Sexy anthropologist is kidnapped, and enslaved by elves?! I think I’ve seen that movie on Cinemax, Up All Night?!

  8. One Eyed Jack
    November 16, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Suspicious in its lack of specifics on the elves. We don’t want to go about disparaging all elves in a single stroke.

    What type of elves are these? Wood elves are peaceful and generally keep to themselves. High elves are far too concerned with their studies and would never deign to get their hands dirty. Snow elves? Well, no snow, so not likely.

    It’s a safe assumption that we are probably dealing with dark elves (Drow). They are insidious creatures who make their homes deep under ground. A cave would be just like them., but I can’t put faith in a reporter that would gloss over this important detail.

    I suspect the Koch brothers are behind this because I’ve always suspected they were secretly dark elves, and well, they’re behind everything… that or Dick Cheney.

  9. One Eyed Jack
    November 16, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    I think it came on right after “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama”. (Sadly a real movie. Even sadder, I watched it. Curse you USA Up All Night! I need to go watch some MST3K.)

  10. November 16, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    I did some research into this as well because it just smelled of fake… right down to the fake name of the anthropoloist whom I could find no information about except from this story…

  11. November 16, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    > That the story was obvious fiction and easily googleable, and still virally spread…speaks volumes

    I have a very mundane take on that.

    I spent a couple years on kook sites such as Before It’s News and it was pretty obvious that most posters simply repost content without reading the articles. If the headline seemed to support the poster’s worldview — and would get hits — that would be enough for them. The posters couldn’t answer my fact-checking and so would claim they were just passing on the info and letting people decide for themselves. But, clearly, they were simply afraid that their readers would go to other sites — the more posts you have, the more Google hits you get. That always struck me as odd because these same posters would frequently claim they were presenting the “truth” that the mainstream wouldn’t report on.

  12. November 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    Elf abduction support groups, led by an amateur hypnotist, are popping up everywhere, no doubt.

  13. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Again, that speaks volumes. While some of the places that posted it were sites you’d expect wouldn’t care, others where you can find this story say they are interested in serious investigation of paranormal etc. claims. I’d argue you can’t be serious about investigating paranormal claims, and at the same time post almost certainly false garbage.

    I’m not arguing that most of those who passed it on were gullible and taken in (though in a few cases that does seem to be the case). Instead, as you say, they passed it on anyway despite it being almost certainly BS without any checking, and obvious BS with even 20 seconds of checking. The real issue here is the rampant dishonesty (either with us, or with themselves) that a lot of “paranormal enthusiasts/investigators” have about how “serious” they actually are. or what their motivations are. I don’t even suspect in a lot of cases that motivation is financial or attention-grabbing, though in some it is.

    More likely, for most, it is that they treat this stuff like entertainment. Which if that was all it was, would largely put skeptics out of business. No one is going to be standing behind them fact-checking a ghost story told on a camping trip. Hell, as someone who has read a lot of the influences that are clearly in that story, I kind of enjoyed it (the guy’s larger site has some other amusing pieces very much in the style of The Onion though with a paranormal and sci-fi/horror bent, though there is a somewhat problematic exploitative nature to more than a few of the other “news stories” he has up there). But if you put yourself out there as a researcher or scholar, and try to convince other people that your ghost story is real, that you’re working in groundbreaking science, and then usually follow that up with “buy my book/take my tour/watch my show,” well, then don’t be surprised when people treat you with the seriousness of a carnival barker or worse.

    PS: I am increasingly fascinated by the persistent hold the “underground race of trapped psychic evil-doers” Bulwer-Lyton/Machen/Merritt/Lovecraft/Howard/Shaver/Kirby/Icke/etc. meme has.

  14. Chris Howard
    November 16, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Could be. The tentacles of The Kochtapuss are everywhere!

  15. November 16, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    > they treat this stuff like entertainment

    That’s a big component for many readers too, I imagine. UFO proponents will hold a talk about abductions and MIB and other scary stuff but in the lobby you see vendors selling keychains and plush toys and coffee mugs with cute aliens on them. If the fandom thought these “crimes” were really happening — which sometimes include sexual assault, forced surrogacy, and torture — they wouldn’t celebrate them.

    The vile and loopy comments left on most kook sites probably represent a tiny sliver of readers — I hope.

  16. Irritated Kalifornian
    November 16, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    I spent some time on ene news & if I asked questions “What’s your source, or who said that, or could you explain something, I was often called a troll just for asking, or they just blew me off.

  17. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    EDIT: Christ this got long. Probably because I’m finishing up a piece for publication that touches on a few of these themes.

    tl,dr: Have fun, but don’t lie about it

    A lot of readers treat it as entertainment. But a lot of repeat readers? I’m not so sure about that. More importantly, this shouldn’t be framed as how many readers take it seriously or not, for several reasons.

    – Trolling. There are people who enjoy roleplaying as “believers” because it is a fun game. They’re usually pretty easy to spot, though not always.

    – The reality-challenged. You provide any canvas of any sort, and some people will come along and re-interpret it to have bizarre claims and mythology. Whether or not this is an issue of psychological problems or a more normal part of the human experience is outside my abilities to discuss other than to point to past comments I’ve made about amongst other topics, the Shaver mysteries (something of obvious relevance to the story that kicked this post off).

    No, the real issue here is the propagators, not the audience. For example, there have been a handful of “vampire murders” in the last twenty years. Some of them even showing clear influence from movies or games. I doubt almost any skeptic would suggest that the authors and companies making such movies and games were irresponsible when they made their products or artworks, because they labeled them as clear fiction, and never pretended anything else. Those who have attempted to criticize supernatural fiction have usually been pushing a political, social, and religious agenda. Everyone else in these cultures (let’s say urbanized societies of the last 250 years, give or take, and there have been other times and places with a similar understanding) has decided that if you label yourself an author of fiction, then you are given a space for play that, providing you don’t break that trust, won’t result in serious negative consequences (other than being found unamusing if you aren’t good at it).

    But when you freely mix play, entertainment, and supposed claims of reality, you break that trust, and give up that play space. And more than a few occulture authors, bloggers, etc., seem to not have an issue with this. They want to have their cake and eat it too. On the one hand, they want to be taken seriously as researchers, philosophers, and the like. Yet they also want to be able to tell a tall tale, one that they know will entertain their audience but isn’t the product of serious inquiry, and then escape with “I’m just having fun.” You don’t get to do that and not expect to be criticized for dishonesty.

    Many fiction authors play with aspects of the real world, but at the end of the day make it clear that they aren’t investigating the real world beyond emotional exploration. Tolkien was an expert on European languages, history, and folklore, and heavily used this in his tales. He even played with the notion of suggesting that Middle Earth was our mythological past, before the age of Men. Yet AFAIK, he never claimed any of his stories were real or even remotely real. Lovecraft clearly borrowed from the methodology of Charles Fort. He also talked about how one should (and he did) craft one’s tale with the care and eye for detail of a hoax. And he even used certain meta-techniques to further this end (sharing names of books and creatures back and forth with other authors, and modifying the names in the way real mythology shifts through time and space, as well as heavily mixing in real-world elements almost seamlessly). Yet when contacted about the reality of his creations, he always made it clear they were fictional creations. Even when paranormal-minded correspondents tried to convince him that he wasn’t a fiction writer at all, but an unwitting channel for the Great Old Ones.

    I think one can go very far without crossing the line. For example, the X-Files very obviously utilized real-world occulture memes and style in its fiction. It drew as much from ufology and Forteana as Tolkien did from Germanic mythology, and then some. It did encourage some paranormal investigators and enthusiasts, and probably did make these topics somewhat more acceptable, though I suspect the impact was minimal and offset by also encouraging an interest in science (one can google up articles on the Scully effect, of more than a few women who cite the X-Files as having inspired them to take a career in science, just as Star Trek had done for a previous generation) But it didn’t lie to us. It never said “this is real.”* It maybe offered the opinion that occulture claims might be worth investigating. It may have been sympathetic to such. But you can do that in art, and people are free to disagree, but that’s an issue of opinion.

    This isn’t what a number of paranormalists are doing. They engage in lazy and cheating fiction writing, but increase the impact of that fiction (or amuse themselves as having fooled people) by pretending it is real, or might be real but clouded in a fog of mystery. They take on the appearance of an actual, serious, researcher and use that credibility to tell a story that otherwise would probably fall flat (often because it is quite derivative). Even this is ok if done in a context where you are not meant to be taken seriously. If you go to an amusement park and an employee shows up and pretends to be a scientist before taking you on a dark ride, even if they never say “I’m an actor” the context makes it clear. If you go on a camping trip with your friend from accounting (who isn’t a historian, a folklorist, a scientist, etc.), and they start telling you about how the woods are haunted because of the curse of blah blah blah, if this becomes a major piece of your reality, I can’t really blame your tall-tale telling friend.

    But if you crank out books as a “paranormal researcher” telling such tales; or go on television as an “expert”; or appear as a public speaker with either of those titles, or you start charging money outside of a context that makes it clear you are providing entertainment only, etc., and you act the “trickster” and tell BS stories, well, how do you expect people should treat you? If your blog or website or podcast or video channel trafficks in such, then don’t get angry when people call you woo or worse (of course, doing such will be a wonderful way of ginning up indignation, controversy, page hits, etc.).

    I say this as someone who does use such tricks in education. When I teach, I do use supernatural, paranormal, or alternative claims from time to time. I might even wink and nod about it … initially. But within a reasonable amount of time, and only after I’ve established how we respect inquiry and questioning, I will reveal what I’ve been up to. I get the power of mystery. But I’m also honest.

    *the X-Files pilot did toy with the idea of saying it was drawn from the real-world, but this was cut by the next episode, and the show was from the pilot on obviously fiction with prominently credited actors and writers, in contrast with say the Megaladon or Mermaids “mockumentaries” earlier this year.

  18. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    To be fair, that’s kind of true

  19. Chris Howard
    November 16, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    The Kochtapuss’ tentacles are everywhere, or USA Up All Night plays some addictive, soul-sucking, drivel?

  20. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    All of the above.

  21. November 17, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Elf repellent is available at my online store; if this story concerns you, you need “Elf-Off.” Click the link. First sale comes with a free sample of “Gno-More.”

  22. drwfishesman
    November 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    You guys joke, but elves are everywhere and invisible and are not made of matter and in no way can they interact with the physical world….so you must be constantly vigilant. Also dragons.

  23. November 18, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    So elves are stealing Russian mail order brides?

  24. Richard
    November 18, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    > Will people remember that this was a hoax story? No, they will think she really was rescued from a cliff in Iceland, escaping from elves.

    I doubt it.

  25. November 18, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    I’ve heard that, if you can get past the elves, there’s a passage that leads to the center of the earth! (Or to a vent in Snæfellsjökull, if you take the wrong turn.)

    Also, make sure you have a reliable light source, or else you might be eaten by a grue.

  26. MisterNeutron
    November 20, 2013 at 1:28 AM

    “There are people who enjoy roleplaying as “believers” because it is a fun game. They’re usually pretty easy to spot, though not always.”

    This is a good illustration of Poe’s Law.

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