Thousands of Norwegians were saddened by news Friday of the death of Joralf Gjerstad, a humble healer and psychic from the scenic rural town of Snåsa in Trøndelag. Known as Snåsamannen, Gjerstad became famous for his warm hands that healed generations of people who traveled to Snåsa seeking his help.
The mystery of Gjerstad’s healing powers was never scientifically established and he had his skeptics. Many of the thousands who visited him in Snåsa, though, claim he cured their ailments, and he became somewhat of a reluctant cult figure who simply wanted to share his healing powers.
His death at the age of 95 was confirmed Friday by Snåsa’s mayor, Arnt Eina Bardal. “Joralf has meant so much for Snåsa, and for so many,” Bardal told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday.
His fame spread nationwide when NRK aired a documentary on Gjerstad in 2006 entitled Kjenner du varmen? (Do you feel the warmth?). It captivated the nation, has since been aired 14 times and in both Sweden and Finland as well. Gjerstad was portrayed as a grandfatherly figure who willingly received visitors young and old who had various health problems. The majority, including several top politicians and even prominent attorneys, invariably felt better afterwards. Gjerstad always burned the letters he received from people asking for help, to protect their privacy.
Oslo attorney Cato Schiøtz became acquainted with Gjerstad 12 years ago and told NRK on Friday that he was of “extraordinary” importance to many. “He was an empathetic man who offered his good services through a long, long life,” Schiøtz told NRK on Friday. He said Gjerstad was well aware that some were critical of his healing and psychic powers, “but he accepted that professionally.” He said the skeptics had no personal experience with Gjerstad, “as opposed to the thousands who have experienced something that can’t be explained away with placebos, luck or as a bluff.”
Schiøtz himsef, well-known as a criminal lawyer who’s often in the media, is convinced Snåsamannen (the Snåsa man) had special powers. “I have no doubt at all he had psychic abilities,” Schiøtz said.
Gjerstad was decorated by the king, honoured as “Trønder of the Year” in his home region in north-central Norway, took part in a public conversation with the bishop at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim and even had an audience with the pope.
A condolance protocol set up by NRK on its website Friday afternoon attracted scores of messages expressing gratitude and hailing Gjerstad. Funeral arrangements were pending.