written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Night Terrors, Sleep Paralysis…Ghost?

 by Sommer Marsden

 It’s human nature to want to explain away what is hard to define with something easy to define. Science is easy to define. So…those of us who like things tied up in neat little packages, tend to employ science as string for tying said packages.
in a fog

If you’re familiar with current culture, you know the term skeptic. And I like to think of myself as a skeptic. Which is a lie. Actually, I like to think of myself as a clever, logical person who isn’t easily duped. When I watch shows about ghosts or go on the occasional ghost tour, I always take into consideration the spook factor. How much scare has been pre-planted in my noggin? How much prep work has the guide or the TV host invested in me? Am I a little on edge before the thing even begins? Like a frozen turkey, have I been pre-brined with fear? Probably.
A long, long time ago (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) and I was but a young thing of fifteen, I had an experience that to this day I can re-experience, if you will, just by thinking of it. And I can’t tie it up in string or consider myself pre-brined.
Over *ahem* all these years, I’ve had tons of dreams. I’ve had a night terror or two. I have experienced sleep paralysis on a different occasion. But none of those phenomena come close to this one experience in my life. None of them. So the vivid nature of this experience, and the ability to recall it freshly now at *cough* 40, plays a huge factor in me saying, I think I had a paranormal experience.
You can call it a night terror: A night terror, also known as a sleep terror or pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia disorder, causing feelings of terror or dread, and typically occurring in the first few hours of sleep during stage 3 or 4 non-rapid eye movement NREM sleep.[1] However, they can also occur during daytime naps.[2] (Wikipedia)
You can call it sleep paralysis: Sleep paralysis a phenomenon in which people, either when falling asleep or wakening, temporarily experience a sense of inability to move, similar to when an arm or leg goes to sleep, but not associated with numbness. More formally, it is a transition state between wakefulness and rest characterized by complete muscle atonia (muscle weakness). It can occur at sleep onset or when awakening. It is believed a result of disrupted REM sleep, which is normally characterized by complete muscle atonia that prevents individuals from acting out their dreams. (Wikipedia)
You can call it Aunt Martha, for all I care. But I have to say this: barring one dream that I have had over and over and over again for my whole life and one very odd cartoon dream (where a body lit up from the inside showing the bones. No shit) and one other dream where I was being chased by a demon in a pickup truck while Bullet the Blue Sky by U2 played as a soundtrack (so that’s 3 dreams out of a kajillion)…I can’t remember any of my dreams. Especially not a 25 year old dream.
Furthermore, the memory of the dreams mentioned above does nothing to me when I recall them. If anything, I find the two ‘scary’ ones mildly amusing now. But that’s not how I feel when I think back to that night. My heart rate picks up a little, I can still picture the light. And the shape. The inability to move, and yeah, how incredibly juiced I was after it ended. Every cell in my body has ‘muscle memory’ from that event.
To me that alone says it was something…more.
Here goes. When all is said and done, you are more than welcome to be the judge:

It was 1986 and Steve Winwood was singing about a Higher Love. In fact, he was singing about it as this event occurred. That alone gives me a rough guesstimate of how long it took (there’s a bit of science string for you—time elapsed—it was gauged—the video runs 4:25). I was visiting my aunt in New England and as we were prone to doing when I visited, we stayed up late in her bed talking, watching MTV (back when they actually played music) and catching up while her sons slept in their room. Usually we both conked out sitting there mid-conversation. This time wasn’t much different.
She’d fallen asleep ahead of me, but my plane ride that night had me more awake than normal. I was thinking about going to sleep. Too lazy to get up and go into the guest room where all my stuff was, I rolled on my side and shut my eyes, waiting to watch the new video for Higher Love. They’d just announced it would be airing. I do know I drifted for a minute. But I heard that drum beat start and knowing that was the intro to the song, having heard it on the radio, I figured it was time to open my eyes. When I did, a blinding light was penetrating the door to her room. When I say penetrating, I mean it in the truest sense of the word. The light was coming around, under, over and through the door. And then…voila…the door seemed to be gone. Just like that. It was an amazing whitish blue light and it backlit perfectly the figure of a man. I say man because it was a humanoid figure and it was large. Much larger than me (and at the time I was 5’ 10”…p.s. I am shrinking). Anyway, it seemed like a grand idea to wake up my aunt.
Mind you, in some weird part of my brain—the logical rational not-freaking-out part, I am hearing this song play on her TV and in my very peripheral part of my peripheral vision, I can see some of the video. Why my most peripheral peripheral bits? Because I’ve just realized I can’t move. Not a lick. I can’t open my mouth to scream. I can’t say her name. I can’t even move my tongue. So, obviously my stupid hands won’t work to touch her. I might as well have flippers sewn to the ends of my wrists for all the good those hands did me. My legs are equally immobile, but my brain is just fine. It’s rambling along trying to a) observe this figure through the light, because the thing has not moved. It seems to just be…watching me and b) track that song. Because my brain knows the song is what’s going to save my sanity in the morning (and for the next 25 years).
It seems like an eternity, I admit. But as I said, less than 4 minutes and 25 seconds. I have the video to prove it.
The dark thing never moved and I wasn’t really afraid of it. A control freak to the marrow, my fear stemmed solely from the fact that I was perfectly alert but couldn’t move or cry out. As I watched, the light eventually faded. I thought if I shut my eyes it might go faster, so I made a conscious decision to do so. When I opened them, the light was gone, the dark man gone, and the video was ending. The flickering images still just visible in the corner of my eye. I’d never seen the video before, but when I watched it the next day, there were parts I knew already from having seen them. To me, that proves I was awake. Some may argue, so be it.
I’ve never had something wake me up so much. I found myself too vibratey and wired to sleep. I wasn’t so much scared as rattled. It was tea and my aunt’s big rocking chair in her kitchen until sunrise. I played it over in my mind every way I could and still couldn’t bring myself to think I’d been sleeping. It felt like a cop out. And that was at a time where it felt like any explanation would have been good enough. Except really, saying it had been a dream felt like cheating. I finally gave up trying to explain it, and journaled it instead.
When I told my aunt about it, she asked if I thought it was my dad—he died when I was four. I told her unless my dad’s mission was to scare the shit out of me from the great beyond (a beyond I wasn’t sure I even believed in), then probably not. A friend of hers offered up spirit walking. As in, I had a run in with the spirit of a human still alive, just having an out of body romp. A subject I’ve read up on. I could see why she’d think that. Going on description, I’ve had people toss out “alien encounter”. That feels wrong too—but I see where they’d think that. Fox Mulder would probably agree with them. I have no clue what it was, to be honest. What I can say for certain is, to this day, I can shut my eyes and see that bluish white light. That figure. Feel that horrible feeling of utter helplessness and well, Steve Winwood has never been the same to me.
That’s not a very big and frightening story is it? It all seems rather tame. Even as I try to capture it to tell you. All I can say is, even now, when I say “That time at J’s” my mother knows what I mean and we will launch into a whole new conversation trying to decipher what that experience might have been. And my mother is as logical and tightly laced as they come. But she watched my face as I described it. Read my journal entry (which I tried to find to scan for this blog and failed). Plus, she knows her daughter. There was never a moment where she doubted my sincerity.
Now if you feel brave, tell me what you think it was. I have no emotional attachment to the event beyond its vividness in the tapestry of my life. If you have a theory, do tell!



Sommer Marsden is the prolific author of countless sizzling novels and some scintillating short fiction. 

Author of: Boys Next Door, Restless Spirit, Learning to Drown and Wanderlust.

What's new? Boys Next Door from Mischief Books.

Coming Soon: Lion Hearted from Xcite.

To find out more about Sommer's writing, visit: http://sommermarsden.blogspot.co.uk/


Jo said...

Woah. Well no, it doesn't sounds like a dream. The whole light and figure thing does make it sound alien-y, but then, to what purpose? Why no probing!?

Sleep paralysis is terrifying in itself, but add in stuff like that ... wow. I suspect we're not meant to know about it, and something goes wrong. Which suggests someone or thing is orchestrating it, but I have no idea who or why. The song makes it all ultra surreal. Hey, have you ever thought of going to a hyponotherapist about it? Though... I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to explore it any deeper!

Ashley Lister said...


Thanks for joining us here on the blog.

I read this earlier in the week, as I was getting the blog post scheduled, which means I've had a few days to think of possible solutions.

And I'm stumped.

I agree with Jo's comment above. There is a strong feeling of the "alien visitation" to this episode. The imagery described: humanoid figures backlit by bluish-white light, has all the echoes of Close Encounters or ET.

But, since I don't believe in aliens, I have to discount that one.

I'd be tempted to argue Freudian dream interpretation on this: a strange and threatening man rudely visiting places where you should feel safe and secure; combined with the sleep paralysis which is reminiscent of cases that have been cited in the past as a hysterical reaction to a subliminated fear.

But none of that explains you being sufficiently awake to remember parts of the video.

It would be interesting to hear some more theories if anyone has any ideas.


Colin Daives said...


Cracking blog. I love reading about real experiences. I like to stress that I know the experience is real. I also have an explanation.

First off I have to look at certain evidence. You were strangely awake after your flight, "more awake than normal" this can be an indicator of elevated adrenalin levels. This has been linked to sleep paralysis. It also increases awareness of things around you (O).

In such heightened states our prime evil defences also kick in. One of which is an increased audio awareness when asleep, aka a light sleeper.

You mention you know the length of the experience because you know the length of the video playing. I think this is false memory. You know you heard the song and saw parts of the video during it, and you don't remember any other music. Post event you found out how long the video is and put the 2 together.

You also say you were waiting for the song to come on and knew the opening bars because you've heard it before.

You also know that sleep paralysis happens during NREM, and from everything you you describe, I would say this happened post REM.

You also describe seeing the video on the very edge of your peripheral vision. Interestingly this area of vision in linked the prime evil defences as well. You don't actually see what is in this zone, you brain interprets based on all know information.

Being in the semi sleep state of paralysis, with familiar music playing and half seeing a music video which contains a number of flash images involving back lit silhouette.You probably had a waking dream.

Your mind has merged information that has manifested itself to the vision seen through a door. I suspect that there were probably a few more exterior factors like films you've been watching, books reading. It was 1986, the image was often used.

The combination of adrenalin, music, paralysis, flashing lights and your own imagination (I) creates an experience that when you actually wake up fully sits with you, with a very similar feeling to one you have just after having a near miss.

So to recap, an adrenalin fuelled dream. Who the man was that your unconscious mind manifested in the centre of this 80's back light. Well that's a different analysis

Lindsay said...

I think sleep paralysis too. This type of experience is also known as 'Old Hag' and you can experience sleep paralysis while waking. It's common and many people even describe someone sitting on them. You were probably semi-awake. I knew someone who slept with his eyes open, so that's possible and may explain the video. I'm sure it felt very real and still does but if you had been walking around and wide awake then that would put a different spin on the experience.

Sommer Marsden said...

Love these :) I have watched alien movies over the years and was a die hard X-Files fan. I do not want to um...probe any deeper should that be my explanation lol. Ignorance is bliss.

As for the adrenaline theory, it would not in any way shape or form have been the first time I was fueled by adrenaline. For many years I suffered an anxiety disorder (oddly enough almost completely eradicated when I went gluten free due to Celiac). So that fits and I'd buy that for a dollar.

I can also hop on board with the eyes partially open thing seeing as for years my sister used to torture me because my eyes do not shut 100% when asleep. She used to think I was playing possum so it wouldn't be unusual for her to slug me while I was asleep because she thought I could see it coming. (p.s. I did not see it coming. Ouch.)

The only thing these excellent explanations can't seem to explain away was the feel of it. It felt authentic. And 25 years later, it still does. But that could be a writers imagination, I'm very much aware! ;)

Thanks so much for having me :D


Miz Angell said...

Hi Ashley. First time visiting, and will definitely be poking around some more.

Sommer, I have no theories. I've had absolutely no experiences with this in any way, shape or form, but am so open to it, I'm practically begging the other side to come on over for a drink.

All I can say is thank you so much for sharing. I love hearing about real experiences. I get to live them vicariously this way. :D

Ashley Lister said...


Thanks again fro visiting us here on the Dead Good Blog. It's amazing the level of expertise that these guys have, isn't it?

Jo & Miz Angell - please make sure you visit again. It would be fun to hear your comments on future posts.


Adele said...

I have only experienced the kind of paralysis you write about once, when I was nineteen, at my parents house in Blackpool. I awoke a foot over my bed, upside down and saw a small child in white at my feet under my own body. She beckoned me to her. I remember thinking - "I'm not ready to go with you," and I managed to get to the floor. I looked at my bed and instead of my own quilt, there was a deep red candlewick bedspread and the room was not mine. I ran for the door only to find a satin curtain across it with old fashioned brass runners. I can still here the sound it mad as I ripped it back and charged out onto the landing. I ran to my parent's room and shook Mum awake but was unable to speak. When I explained the episode to then - some time later - when I had stopped shaking Mum recalled a room similar to my description from when she was a child. I was awake - at least I believe that I was.

The episode signalled the beginning of many waking dreams. Each one a premonition - warnings of accidents and threats to my personal safety that are documented and caused me to see life differently.

Personally, I believe that there is an ethereal connection and consider that time is not a constant in the way we are conditioned to believe.

I know with certainty that I have travelled both forwards and backwards in time - sometimes only days, sometimes years. Some of the events I experienced were too accurate to have been other than witnessed as they occurred and written down before they actually did.

Only a small portion of the human brain is understood. As we evolved perhaps we buried the instincts or power that we already possess. Perhaps the opposite is true and they are only beginning to develop.
This is the dawn of Aquarius - a time of spiritual awakening. We should keep our minds open but our feet rooted to the ground.

I do not fear the unknown. Reality is scary enough.

Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your article. Please make more interesting topics like this on.
I'll come back for more :)

From Japs a researcher from Beddingstock gel memory foam mattress

Lisa Math Teacher said...

Hi there,

Very nice post and blog, Nice article and blog, I found it very explanatory and informative, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us, we know how important is experience in our lives.

take care and stay positive

Your follower,

Lisa from Automóveis