ah yes, this happened to me frequently as a child with the awareness and the terror of not being able to move. the oddest thing is that it was in fact packed with auditory and visual hallucinations, in particular, a dense black cloud over head and objects appearing in front of my face that seemed within reach but couldnt be grapsed. once not being able to grasp the object was very very disappointing, as the object was a ‘magic wand’ something i had heard of in fairy tales and really really would have loved to have one ha ha. usually i was able to break the paralysis as soon as i could force a sound out of my throat, which was my usual immediate response: try try try to scream and finally a tiny little sound would come out and break the ‘spell’. i dreaded those nights. there was a certain sleep position associated with it that i also learned to avoid (flat on my back hands folded in front). you really hit the mark here gabrielle, thanks!
That’s fascinating tipota – a magic wand is too cool! It’s the weirdest feeling when you can’t move but you really want to. I think sleeping on your back can have an impact – I have strange dreams when I sleep in that position – sometimes it can make breathing difficult (sleep apnea) and that can contribute to these hallucinations. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.
How scary is that! I wonder if Incubus was the trigger for all those Roman virgin birth myths and the last ‘recorded’ one, on which so many Catholics base their faith?
I could be really naugthty here but I won’t.
Please do Stafford – hahaha!
As long as they’re hypnopomps and not psychopomps everythings okay, haha!
Haha – at least you didn’t spin a pun about the possum Paul 😉
Moses with his kin and kith
Were followed by others forthwith.
But Incubus dreams
Were the source, so it seems,
Of virgin births, visions and myth!
I am now hitting you with a feather, Stafford 😉
You could have knocked me down with a feather!
We men battle hard curtail
Those forces that lead us to fail.
But girls wielding leathers,
Suspenders with feathers
Are too much for any mere male!
Bwahahahahah!!!!! The battle of the limerick – I’ve written a few of them in me day – watch out Stafford! 😉
What an excellent, fascinating post! I had one experience of sleep paralysis in my entire life thus far, and it was so terrifying that thinking about it, even twenty odd years later, still gives me the shivers. And yes, I think it’s highly likely that such experiences gave rise to the mythology of the incubi and succubi (and I think such experiences fuel, in a similar way, today’s alien abduction mythology).
Thanks Thomma Lyn – I think you’re right – it is interesting how as times change so do the contents of these types of hallucinations and that is why today it’s more likely to be an alien abduction (the modern day equivalent of witch riders etc.,). Though with the Harry Potter books and with Werewolves and Vampires making a comeback, this may change. A person will only hallucinate what is in their own sphere of experience (if the contents were truly original then that is when I’d start to worry – haha!) – the same goes for dreams in general.
I’m overwhelmed by Stafford’s wit and your wisdom. Hallucinations in the night were a regular part of our sleep routine this time last year, when A was just home from hospital and coming off the anti-psychotic drugs routinely administered (so we found out) during a long stay in Intensive Care. The night terrors he experienced were enough contact with sleep disorders to last me a lifetime.
Thanks Chartreuse (personally I’m underwhelmed by Stafford’s wit – hahahahaha!!! – gotya Stafford). I didn’t know that about using anti-psychotics in intensive care (I wonder if it’s a behaviour management thing?). Drugs of many kinds can contribute to sleep disorders. That’s why if you get treatment at a sleep clinic they always suggest cutting back on caffeinated drinks, alcohol, drugs, especially before bed.
Dreams have such a powerful effect on our lives… As a boy I saw a lamb killed and even to this day, when things are stresful in life I have dreams of that image… Really used to mess with me, but thankfully I have not had such a dream in years now. I think we all underestimate the effect our dreams have on our waking hours.
That’s so true Graham. Dreams are very powerful and they also provide a great amount of information that we can use to make our lives better – but most people aren’t tuning in to the messages that our subconscious gives us on a daily basis. That dream about the lamb sounds horrible – hope you don’t have it tonight, now you’ve thought about it again.
To all the occult stories, add space alien encounters (an update in the mythology). I’ve had one incident similar to what you describe, particularly the feeling of being unable to move. I knew about sleep paralysis before, but never until now connected it with my experience — a one time early morning episode during which I had the overwhelming feeling that someone was in the house but I was frozen and couldn’t move.
It never dawned on me that I was sound to sleep during the entire thing!
Yes Aletha, in the comments I was talking to Thomma Lee about the alien abduction thing! Apparently the ‘dark intruder’ dream that you refer to is almost universally experienced by women (it was in that book ‘women who run with the wolves’ that I wrote about when I posted my poem ‘the bone collector’.) The author says ‘There is a universal initiatory dream among women, one so common that is remarkable that if a women has reached age 25 without having such a dream,. The dream usually causes a woman to jolt awake, striving and anxious… she realises the prowler is inside the house with her’ Fascinating stuff.
I knew none of this. How fascinating. I’ve only ever had one night terror in my life — my infant son falling out of his car seat onto a freeway. I’m really blessed with the right brain chemicals I guess because I’ve never experienced what you describe and I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, any position. I LOVE to sleep.
Lucky you Pearl :). Technically your ‘night terror’ was a nightmare – people don’t remember night terrors (and to confuse matters even more, a night terror is not the same as a hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations – even though they can be terrifying).
I love this. When I was a kid I used to imagine I saw my dolls move at night. It always happened just as I was falling off to sleep. It got so bad I used to put them under the bed so I couldn’t see them which didn’t help really because then I imagined them trying to scramble up the bedposts, their tiny porcelain hands getting ready to gouge my eyes out. OMG. The horror!
Some dolls can be really scary, that’s for sure. I bet a few children have had nightmares about their toys coming to life.
I agree with topita. There is a certain sleeping position associated with sleep paralysis and that varies with each person. In my case it’s lying down on my left side. I do have visual hallucination with sleep paralysis but less or almost no auditory at all. Most of the time I’m just wrapped in a couple of thorny vines and they just either choke or scratch me. I only manage to break it off by gulping air through my mouth to force open my throat which is really hard to do when you can’t move. I’ve heard of sleep paralysis before but I’ve never really been interested in it and now I am after reading this article. Thanks Gabrielle.
Very interesting aenea, I know what you mean – thanks for stopping by.
Urgh, yes, that’s actually what brought me here so long after the post was made (though I do look forward to reading more of your blog). It was the first time as far as I could remember where the sensations included an intruder/attacker, not merely constriction and possibly a disturbing change of scenery a la Silent Hill or the film “Dark Water”. At least an alluring (if vaguely sleazy-seeming) nearly invisible vampire or incubus is less frightening than a Baba Yaga-type monster or a giant floating head. Still quite unpleasant, though.
One of the worst feelings is being sometimes only partially paralysed (such as from the bottom of the ribcage up), or feeling like flailing one or more limbs about myself uncontrollably without moving at all (though it does come in handy, no pun intended, when only my dream arm accidentally smacks into my face and my real arm is still safely lying on the bedcovers).
And, Gabrielle, a giant ‘possum? Much, /much/ sympathy : (
Thanks for sharing your nocturnal experiences JET73L. A floating head sounds horrific. The possum wasn’t that scary and it wasn’t that close to me – near the edge of the room.
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