The intelligence trail (1951–1988)

This article is chapter 4 of Secrets of Sweden, a 2012/2015 miniature sourcebook for the fictional setting known as the Cthulhu Mythos.

In 1940, the German Wehrmacht requested the use of the Swedish telephone network for communication between the occupied territories of Denmark and Norway. The Swedish government granted this request but a military cryptanalysis unit immediately started to intercept German communications. Success in this effort led to the foundation of the National Defence Radio Establishment, known by the abbreviation of its Swedish name as FRA (initially Försvarsväsendets radioanstalt, later shortened to Försvarets radioanstalt).

After WWII, Swedish military intelligence in general and the FRA in particular generally worked with the USA against the Soviets. The FRA conducted advanced signals intelligence, spying on Soviet communications from the air. One Swedish operative earned the nickname “Mr ELINT” for pioneering this type of espionage.

The Vertical’s evidence from Vojmbyn was instrumental to the formation of a very minor agency within the armed forces in 1951. It had none of FRA’s finesse and was called the IB for “Import Barracks” (importbaracken), a jocular reference to the plain wooden building in which the unit stacked its periodicals from around the world. Its initial purpose was to monitor foreign media for something like Vojmbyn being exposed elsewhere.

The officers running the IB were former junior anthropologists. Most junior among them was Captain Gustav Elmersson. Elmersson contacted Sven Hedin in October of 1952 to consult him on some Asian sites. Hedin was ill and had not heard of Vojmbyn, but he lent Herskind’s notes to Elmersson. A month later, Sven Hedin was dead.

In June 1952, Soviet Air Force fighter jets shot down two Swedish aircraft over international waters in the Baltic Sea. The first was an FRA spy plane full of American equipment. The second, a Catalina flying boat, was on a rescue mission for the first. The ensuing diplomatic crisis came to be called the Catalina affair (Catalinaaffären).

Elmersson kept Herskind’s old notes, reading them with great interest while he and his fellows at the IB claimed to be doing military intelligence work. After the Catalina affair, the IB was pressured to coordinate its efforts with other agencies, working with foreign intelligence against the Soviets. Other parts of the Vertical, poorly placed to deflect this pressure, merely transported all of the evidence from Vojmbyn to a bomb shelter beneath a bunker on the Kalix Line (Kalixlinjen), a series of top secret emplacements designed to delay a Soviet attack against Sweden through Finland.

Threatened with defunding or reorganization in 1954, the IB began to collaborate with the T Office (T-kontoret) which had been responsible for foreign intelligence since 1946. In a joint operation, Swedish agents learned of the Soviet occult organization Smersh1 through a researcher trying to escape a purge of that organization. In a second interview at a Moscow café, this man gently laid out the difficulties of translating the Necronomicon. He was never seen again, but he’d made a deep impression on Elmersson.

The genetic crisis that Herskind and Kalhjälm had both anticipated did not materialize. By the late 1950s, the initial version of the IB was technically defunct, its purpose forgotten. Nevertheless, more by virtue of office politics than by their meaningful successes, the men who ran the IB had come out on top of the institutional crisis.

In reality, the IB was founded in 1965. It joined together the T Office and the B Group (B-gruppen). The latter had formed out of a political spy ring in 1957 to handle internal security. The IB’s two main purposes were to liaise with foreign agencies and to gather information about communists and other individuals perceived as a threat to the nation.

Leveraging vague hints of Soviet superweapons, the defunct IB was reinstated in 1965. In one stroke, albeit in name only, it subsumed both of its closest competitors. Their original mission happily forgotten, Elmersson and the other Vertical men inside the new IB found their careers much improved. They now played at being middlemen between the Soviet GRU SV-81 and the American MJ-10/MJ-11.2 To the superpowers, the Swedes offered only a layer of insulation. The Swedes themselves, prepared to believe in the preternatural, learned more than Hedin and Kalhjälm ever had.

Elmersson continued to study Herskind’s notes, running down every lead. Then he enlisted an old friend from the SSAG, now a professor of history. Together, they delved into the secret history of Scandinavia, including a witch burning in 1667 where the corpse was retrieved by a massive creature from the water, and a 1762 letter from the Linnean disciple and explorer Peter Forsskål, who claimed he had seen a copy of the original Necronomicon in Arabia.3

Elmersson gained a broader perspective than any of his predecessors. The fact that he had no active cults to target ceased to matter as his priorities shifted. By the late 1960s, he was experimenting with magic. Among other crimes, he ordered IB agents to break into the Egyptian embassy in 1970 to recover artefacts he thought were more than decorative.

Division Zero

On April 17, 1971, two Croatian nationalists shot the Yugoslav ambassador to Sweden. A year later, their Ustaša comrades hijacked a plane, forcing it down in Scania and demanding the release of the shooters, which was granted. These crimes were the first of their kind in Sweden. To combat future terrorism, it was made legal to open the mail of any non-citizen under suspicion, tap their phone, or deport them. 29 people were thusly deported between 1973 and 1991. To protect national security, the deportees were not informed of the accusations against them.

By 1971, the dormant Vertical’s two legs in law enforcement and medical institutions no longer communicated. The anti-terrorist law of 1973 revived the law-enforcement branch, this time under the shared leadership of Anders Kvarnberg and Thomas Vettrén, who had become estranged from Elmersson and his partners working in the international intelligence community.

Kvarnberg was in the intel branch of the police: the Swedish Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen). Vettrén was a more senior figure in the main branch (Rikskriminalpolisen). They referred to their regular meetings as Division Zero (Nollroteln), but conducted no Mythos-related investigations. What they led was a fading old boys’ network of racists. Their primary interest was to inspire terror in immigrants.

Kvarnberg and Vettrén’s most notable achievement was to make the 1973 law permanent. To this end, they briefed two legislators about the Vojmbyn incident, claiming the material had been gathered by the original IB. One of those briefed was Carl Lidbom, the original author of the law. Lidbom was visibly shaken by his visit to the Kalix Line bunker. He ended up sharing the intel, including two photos, with a fellow minister without portfolio named Ebbe Carlsson.

The 1973 anti-terrorist law did become permanent, enabling its continued use until 1991. However, journalists exposed the IB in 1973, describing the 1970 Egyptian embassy incident as an Israeli project. Ebbe Carlsson, the parliamentary press secretary, played his part in denying the accusations. He nominally left politics in 1976, forced out in a historic defeat of the Social Democrats who had ruled the country without interruption since 1932. The IB was closed in 1978.

IB fallout

Ousted from politics, a resentful Ebbe Carlsson considered exposing the Vojmbyn incident. Looking for evidence, he turned to the IB through connections he had made trying to protect it.

When the IB was exposed in 1973, Elmersson arranged another top-secret briefing with a handful of MPs. This one was not about Vojmbyn. He laid out evidence for the existence of the Cult of Transcendence, a powerful occult organization headquartered just outside of Stockholm.4 The MPs became Elmersson’s patrons, enabling him and a few of his veterans to continue their work after 1978 with an informal bipartisan mandate to chart the old cult’s influence and pull out its claws in Swedish politics, industry and popular movements.

In 1986, Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot while walking through central Stockholm. Carlsson, who had gone back to publishing and held no official position, still took part in the Palme murder investigation at the highest level. He operated out of a ten-room office with several police officers following his orders, a civilian police car at his disposal, and a letter of authorization from the Minister of Justice to obtain information from foreign intelligence services.

Carlsson’s investigation unraveled in 1988 when his bodyguard was arrested for attempting to smuggle banned surveillance equipment into the country. The bodyguard, himself a policeman, knew this was a crime. He thought it was sanctioned from higher up the ladder. Three high officials were sacked over the scandal, including the head of the Swedish Security Service.

Ebbe Carlsson was an early victim of AIDS and died in 1992. His last public appearances indicate that he had nothing to lose through his illegal investigation of the unsupported theory that Kurdish guerrillas had assassinated the prime minister.

Kurdish guerrillas were not under suspicion. Carlsson was not investigating anything. Duped by Gustav Elmersson, Carlsson was merely the liaison between a handful of high government officials and the old head of the IB. The sacrifice of Carlsson to the media protected Elmersson and his veterans, who posed as policemen working for Carlsson and now faded back into the darkness.

  1. Delta Green: Countdown (Pagan Publishing, 1999). 

  2. Delta Green (Pagan Publishing, 1997). 

  3. These two incidents are lifted from Rickard Berghorn, “Necronomicon i Sverige”, Minotauren, issue 8, December 2000. 

  4. Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity (Arc Dream Publishing, Pagan Publishing, 2010).