Friday, 21 November 2008



“When the old hag comes to visit”

No I’m not talking about your mother-in-law; I’m referring to sleep paralysis, also known as the hypnagogic and hypnapompic states and fondly titled ‘Old hag syndrome’ as many people feel the pressure then see an old hag like woman sat on their chest or near their bed.

What are they?

They are visions one experiences whilst either going to sleep or whilst waking up

What causes them?

There are differences of opinion; some doctors would have you believe it is brain chemicals, whilst psychics would argue it’s spiritual beings visiting you in the dead of night.

Who suffers from them?

It is mainly young people going through puberty who experience the hypnagogic state more, they tend to lesson as one gets older, but some adults do experience them from time to time.

Are they really entities?

Maybe, it all depends on your belief system. Some people are adamant that what they saw was a real entity because they are so vivid. Others realize it is a trick of the brain, or a waking dream or hallucination.

Are they all in the mind?

This is debatable. Scientists would argue that they are. Believers in the spirit realms would have you believe that these beings are very real and they are visitations from the other side.

Many people report strange visions upon either falling asleep or waking up.

The victims of ‘Old Hag Syndrome’ awake to find an evil presence in the room rendering the person immobile either through fear of seeing an entity or because of the lack of control they have over their own body or both. These experiences are what are known as ISP’s or isolated sleep paralysis. Whilst some people witness these at random others experience them during a period of sleep deprivation or illness.

People have reported hearing voices, footsteps, smelling strange aromas, seeing apparitions, ghosts, lights, aliens, angels and ethereal beings. In some cases the hypnogogic state is blamed for so called alien abductions.

As we sleep we go into an altered state of consciousness and there are many levels of sleep. Some people believe that the astral world can permeate into your dream state and by doing this they can communicate messages to you. Although it is also noted that a lower realm entity can also find a way into your sleep state, maybe because it sees a vulnerable human being to pick on!

Maybe people who have these experiences are highly sensitive to the spirit realms and this is why some people experience them whilst others don’t. Maybe it just down to brain chemicals that keep the body paralyzed and don’t wear off when they should only for that person to wake with his body shutdown, in conjunction with semi-conscious dreaming.

As I write this article my mind takes me back to a time when I had one of these experiences.

My hypnapompic experience

I was 14 years old, I woke up in bed, well so I thought; I was flat on my back unable to move anything except my eyes. I had a very strong sense of presence and I looked up to my right only to see this horrendous beast stood at the side of my bed. What I saw was a lycanthrope or werewolf.

It was bending over my bed leering at me, with its arms in the air, it had very long sharp claws and very pointy teeth, the saliva was dripping down its mouth and it was growling at me. I will never ever forget its eyes, I was staring into them, I could see the wetness of the sclera (the whites of the eye) and they were bloodshot and the hairs on its body were brown coarse and short which I could see in great detail. I was terrified and I tried to scream as loud as I could but nothing came out, no matter how much I tried. No one could hear me and I was totally pinned to the bed, it was as if there was a big magnet under the bed. But what made this experience even creepier was, I could see my office chair, there was a pile of ironing on it that my mother had placed there the night before and this thing was obscuring the view of the chair as a solid object would. No sooner had this thing appeared it disappeared and I got back the full use of my body once again, but I was worried that what I had seen was roaming the house!

The image is still clear in my mind after all these years, 26 to be precise. I still talk about what I saw to my family as I try to figure out what it was I saw that morning. I often wonder if my mother had walked in the room at that precise moment that I saw it, if she would have seen it too. Back then I’d never heard of sleep paralysis but even as I read some of the explanations that accounts for it I still can’t decide if what I witnessed was real or just in my mind.

What do I believe?
As someone that has witnessed sleep paralysis, I am unsure, my opinion sways. I think it is something your brain conjures up but then again I am of the belief that what I saw was incredibly real, so I tend to battle with myself. It is all pretty frightening all the same.

Relationship between the hypnagogic/hypnopompic states and reports of anomalous experiences

By Simon J. Sherwood,Department of Psychology,The University of Edinburgh.

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