Karolina Olsson: The 14-Year-Old Who Slept for 32 Years in Oknö, Sweden

Karolina Olsson

Here's an interesting story of Karolina Olsson, known as "The Oknö Sleeper" in Sweden. Back in 1876, at the tender age of 14, Karolina Olsson went to her bed in her residence in the village of Oknö, Sweden, to remain asleep for 32 years. Yes, you read that correctly – she slept for a remarkable three decades plus two years. Naturally, this remarkable story leaves us with numerous questions: Why did she enter such a prolonged sleep, and how did she manage to sustain it for so long? Let's look into Karolina Olsson's story and explore whether she ever awoke from her lengthy sleep.

Who was Karolina Olsson?

Karolina Olsson was born in 1861 on Oknö Island, near Mönsterås town, southern Sweden. She lived in a small house with her parents, who were fishermen, and five siblings. Oknö, a small island covered in forests, is now connected by a bridge and sits peacefully in the Kalmar Strait of the Baltic Sea. It's a popular summer destination for Swedish tourists.

Karolina received most of her education at home, where she learned reading and writing. She didn't start going to the nearby school until she was 14 years old. Before that, she mostly helped out with household duties because her family thought she was most needed there. The school was more than 5 kilometers away, so Karolina, who was used to staying at home all the time, had to walk there every day.

How and when did Karolina Olsson fall asleep?

On February 22, 1876, Karolina, aged 14, walked 5 kilometers home from school like usual. When she arrived, she complained about a toothache. Her mother, who is known for being overprotective, suggested that witchcraft was causing the pain and told Karolina to go to bed. Karolina followed her mother's instructions and went to bed, where she fell asleep and didn't wake up for 32 years.

Karolina, unresponsive like she's in a deep sleep, puzzles her family. They can't afford a doctor, so her mom stays by her side, making sure she drinks two glasses of milk daily. Local doctors visit but can't wake her. They believe she has a mental illness such as "hysteria". Karolina was taken to Oskarshamn Hospital in 1892 and given electric shocks for treatment. However, she showed no response to the treatment and stayed in the hospital for a month. The hospital officially diagnosed her with "dementia paralytica," despite the lack of strong evidence to support the diagnosis. Over time, when Karolina was asleep, she didn't react to any physical touching or tingling.

Karolina was believed to be asleep for years, with no one witnessing her awake or conscious. However, in 1905, her mother passed away, sending Karolina into a deep mourning. Family members witnessed her crying loudly, yet she remained asleep. Her father initially cared for her, but as he aged, he hired a maid to assist. Karolina cried again in 1907, when one of her brothers died, still while asleep.

There were instances when Karolina was found crawling on the floor, but she never woke up. Her father once heard her loudly praying before she went back to sleep. The maid noticed strange occurrences, like missing candies and furniture being moved, but Karolina never touched the food left by her bedside.

Despite her sleep, Karolina remained clean and healthy. Her hair and nails didn't grow much, and she seemed fine with just two glasses of milk per day.

Did Karolina Olsson ever wake up?

On April 3, 1908, Karolina's maid walked into her room and discovered her crying and crawling on the floor. Karolina asked for her mother, but when her brothers entered, she didn't recognize them. She appeared very thin and sickly, as if she hadn't eaten properly. Karolina couldn't move well and appeared confused. She was finally awake after 32 years and 42 days, having fallen asleep on that cold February afternoon in 1876. She was sensitive to light and did not speak much.

Doctors, journalists, and curious people visited the Olsson family's home to see the amazing Oknö sleeper. Karolina's former teachers also came to visit her and found out that she could still read and write, she struggled with math, history, and geography. They even discovered that she couldn't find Stockholm on a map. Karolina remembered the day she fell asleep, especially that she had tooth problems, but she couldn't recall anything from when she was asleep.

Outsiders thought Karolina looked younger than her actual age of 46. She was said to appear more like someone in their 30s. Karolina recovered quickly after waking up and went back to working in the household, just like she did 32 years ago. She lived the rest of her life at her family's home in Oknö. She was described as happy and healthy, doing gardening and chores, and walking long distances to deliver packages and buy groceries. Karolina died of an aneurysm on April 5, 1950, at the age of 88.

Why did Karolina Olsson stay in this state for so long?

According to Swedish psychiatrist Harald Fröderström, who extensively observed Karolina in 1910, her prolonged sleep episodes appeared to have been initially triggered by toothache. However, he concluded that her comatose-like state had no physical basis. In an article published in a Stockholm newspaper, Fröderström suggested that Karolina likely believed she was seriously ill, a belief that was possibly reinforced by her mother's constant care until her death.

Fröderström suggested the existence of a secretive dynamic between Karolina and her mother, which could explain many puzzling aspects of the case, including how she survived on only two glasses of milk, why her hair and nails didn't appear to grow, and how she managed bodily functions.

Nonetheless, some questions remain unanswered. Why did she not respond to physical touch or even electric shocks? Why didn't she get out of bed when she was awake?


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