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Messages from the dead: The drowned son who returns for bedside chats

by Patricia Pearson Daily Mail

The astronaut who spoke to his father’s ghost. Impossible? This spine-tingling series may make you think again

Thought death was clear but? A new book, Opening Heaven’s Door, will callenge your views. In the second part of our serialisation, bereaved people recall visits by dead loved ones, writes PATRICIA PEARSON

A humid night in summer. Ellie Black wakes at around 3am and her eyes focus on a figure at the end of her bed. It’s her father, from whom she’s long been estranged. Now fully alert, she watches him as he tips his hat and bows with a flourish. Then he’s gone.

The following morning she relates the experience to her daughter at the breakfast table. Later that day the phone rings — with news that her father died in the early hours. A tall story? Not at all.


TELEPATHY

Research in Wales, Japan, Australia and the U.S. shows that between 40 and 53    per cent of the bereaved receive some kind of signal or visitation when someone close to them dies.

Usually they sense a presence; sometimes they actually see or hear one. Psychiatrists have labelled these experiences ‘grief hallucinations’, though they have not yet been studied neurologically.

In 2012, the psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson published a comprehensive study he’d done on 340 cases of extraordinary encounters with the dying.

Usually people encountered their fathers or mothers — suggesting that the parental impulse to connect and reassure continues past death.

About a quarter of his subjects saw or heard the dead person at the hour of death or within the day it occurred. In 86 per cent of these cases, they weren’t yet aware of the death by ordinary means.

Some surveys report that about half of all these telepathic experiences occur in dreams. A musician, Rory McGill, told me that on the night his father died, he had a vivid dream in which he climbed onto his father’s bed and held him in his arms. ‘But in an instant, I was standing alone in the room — he was gone, and the bed was empty and neatly made,’ he recalled.

The next day, his mother phoned: his father had died unexpectedly while Rory was dreaming about him. A mere coincidence? Highly unlikely. A review of ‘spontaneous telepathy’ studies concludes that the odds against chance are 22 billion to one.

So, do we have a form of consciousness — a way of knowing — that has yet to be fully explained? Intriguingly, studies of twins separated by distance seem to confirm that something odd is going on.

One of the first of these studies monitored the electrical impulses of the twins¿ brains. The scientists found that when one twin was asked to close his or her eyes, which causes the brain¿s alpha rhythms to increase, the distant twin¿s alpha rhythms also increased.

One of the first of these studies monitored the electrical impulses of the twins’ brains. The scientists found that when one twin was asked to close his or her eyes, which causes the brain’s alpha rhythms to increase, the distant twin’s alpha rhythms also increased.

Many later twin studies had similar findings. In 2013, a study of British twins reported that 60   per cent felt they’d had telepathic exchanges. Among identical twins, 11 per cent said they had frequent exchanges with their sibling, including shared dreams.

Other studies of telepathy by University of Virginia psychiatrist Ian Stevenson explored how people could know that someone physically distant was dying or in distress. Stevenson started by analysing 165 meticulously researched historical cases. Nearly 90    per cent had occurred, he discovered, when the person was awake, rather than asleep or dozing.

Two-thirds involved news of an immediate family member. Eighty-two per cent involved death, a sudden illness or accident.

But people did not, apparently, pick up on one another’s good tidings.

‘Is it that the communication of joy has no survival value for us, while the communication of distress does?’ Stevenson wondered.

He then moved on to 35 contemporary cases. And one startling conclusion from these was that a third involved violent death.

His findings were replicated in 2006, when Icelandic researchers found a dramatically higher number of abrupt or violent deaths in telepathic cases.

In addition, there were many accounts from both World Wars of a soldier¿s family or loved one suddenly waking in the still of the night. In that instant, they knew the soldier had died ¿ and a telegram later arrived to confirm this.

In addition, there were many accounts from both World Wars of a soldier’s family or loved one suddenly waking in the still of the night. In that instant, they knew the soldier had died — and a telegram later arrived to confirm this. Perhaps, Stevenson mused, there was something in the emotional quality of the event — a thunderclap of fear or pain — that carried like a sound wave across water.

In more than half of the cases, the person who received the message was driven to take some kind of action — such as making a phone call, embarking on a frantic trip or changing holiday plans.

One woman drove 50 miles home in the middle of the night after suddenly gleaning that her teenage daughter was in trouble. It turned out their house had been broken into by armed intruders, with the daughter inside.

But how do you know that the news you’ve just received telepathically is correct? No one has yet fathomed this mystery. But Stevenson discovered ‘a feeling of conviction’ was one of the characteristics that separated telepathic communications from ordinary dreams and anxious imaginings.

But how do you know that the news you’ve just received telepathically is correct? No one has yet fathomed this mystery. But Stevenson discovered a feeling of conviction was one of the characteristics that separated telepathic communications from ordinary dreams and anxious imaginings

There were two other factors that made people sit up wide-eyed and reach for the phone or take other action. One was if the person in the crisis specifically focused on the other person during the moment of danger. This seemed particularly true of parents responding to children.

The second factor was the possibility that the person receiving the distress call had experienced previous psychic communications — suggesting that some people just have a gift for this. Janey Acker Hurth, for example, not only sensed her daughter’s (non-fatal) collision with a car, but also her father’s sudden illness a few years earlier.

Back then, when she was newly married, she’d awoken to ‘a feeling of deep sadness, an impression that something was wrong’. The feeling intensified and she began to sob.

Then, when she was making breakfast, she cried: ‘It’s my father! Something is terribly wrong with my father!’ Her dad had gone into a coma during the night and died shortly afterwards.

Stevenson was struck by how this type of information sometimes gradually came into focus. People like Mrs Hurth, he concluded, ‘may scan the environment for danger to her loved ones and, when this is detected, tune in and bring more details to the surface of consciousness’.

But how do you know that the news you ive just received telepathically is correct? No one has yet fathomed this mystery. But Stevenson discovered a feeling of conviction was one of the characteristics that separated telepathic communications from ordinary dreams and anxious imaginings

In the Eighties and Nineties, a British neuropsychiatrist, Dr Peter Fenwick, of King’s College, London, appealed to the public for cases of what he called ‘death-bed coincidences’, and amassed more than 2,000 accounts.

Typically, one woman wrote to him about the suicide of her husband, from whom she’d recently separated. She’d awoken at 3am in 1989 from an intensely vivid dream in which her ex was sitting on the bed, assuring her that he’d found peace.

‘I got up, did some work I needed to do and two clients phoned me around 8am,’ she continued. ‘I freaked them out completely as I told them I’d be taking some time out because my husband had just died.’

She didn’t yet objectively know this to be true. But when she let herself into her former husband’s flat, she discovered his body.

In her case, the person in distress hadn’t sought help — instead, he’d apparently sent a message of reassurance after his death.

In other cases, people may be telepathically sharing the calm and peace they feel as they die. Stevenson concluded: ‘It’s altogether probable that important, unrecognised exchanges of feelings through extrasensory processes are occurring all the time. Even if we can only observe it occasionally — and usually between persons united by love and during a special crisis — this should arouse our curiosity.’

SHARED PAIN

On the evening his father died of lung cancer, sailor Raymond Hunter felt as though his lungs were collapsing and he could scarcely breathe.

‘I remember grabbing my mouth, forcing it open to help me breathe. I was fighting for all I was worth, but the pains were unbearable,’ he recalled afterwards.

Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson has suggested it could be a kind of telepathic extension of a phenomenon in which people who live together sympathetically take on one another is symptoms or moods. 
But that is only a theory

Unbearable pain — now, that’s not something you shake off as a strange dream. Particularly when you later discover that your father died in that very moment.

This abrupt and violent experience of another person’s dying symptoms has been noted by some researchers, though it remains almost completely unexplored.

Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson has suggested it could be a kind of telepathic extension of a phenomenon in which people who live together sympathetically take on one another’s symptoms or moods. But that’s only a theory.

A particularly vivid instance involves a woman in her late 30s.

‘I was awoken around 2am by the sound of my heart breaking. I know that sounds really odd, but I heard it crack and felt my chest sort of splitting,’ she recalled.

‘The next morning I got into the car to drive to work. I was sitting at traffic lights when I felt this pressure on the side of my face. I distinctly remember that the pressure was that of a cheek lightly pressed against mine, sort of cuddling me.

‘The feeling I was filled with at this time was one of love and support — it felt fine. I then felt a hand holding my hand and felt it had no middle finger. And then it dawned on me.

‘It was my dad’s hand; he’d lost his finger in a building site accident when I was a little girl.

‘I returned home after an hour to be met by my husband’s words: “Your dad’s gone.” Apparently, he’d died from a massive heart attack during the night. I wasn’t at all surprised.’

Why should the dying want to share such agonies with the people they love? No one knows.

But one thing at least is clear: no one in their right mind could dismiss these visions as wishful thinking.

RETURN OF THE DEAD

Two hundred miles above Earth, Jerry Linenger was working on the space station Mir when he suddenly became aware of the presence of his father.

It was 1997 — and his father had died seven years earlier. A conversation ensued in which the older man spoke of his pride that his son had realised his dream of travelling in space. Linenger was deeply moved.

Two hundred miles above Earth, Jerry Linenger (pictured) was working on the space station Mir when he suddenly became aware of the presence of his father

Later, however, he chose to interpret his father’s presence as nothing more than a projection of his imagination. And yet, at the time, he had derived great consolation from the encounter. Nor was his experience by any means a strange aberration. In fact, it’s estimated that around half of all bereaved people — in all cultures — at some point register the presence of their departed loved one.

According to a study done in 2006, 84  per cent of the bereaved were in good mental health at the time. And only 5  per cent found the encounter negative or distressing; for the majority, it was profoundly comforting.

Visual perception of the presence seems to be the rarest. In another study, only about 5  per cent actually saw the dead person; about 15  per cent heard him or her; and the rest had partial impressions, such as feeling hands on their head or noticing a distinct presence in the room.

Unlike our conception of ghosts, these presences can physically react with the material world.

The writer Nancy Coggeshall, for instance, felt the presence of her partner twice while lying in bed, five months after he died in 2002. ‘I felt someone lying down beside me, and I felt the impact of [his] weight on the mattress. The second time, the pressure was so great, I rolled over and asked: “Who’s there?” ’ she told me.

Karen Simons, who works in advertising, recalled a similar experience in 1994, after her father, a farmer, died of a heart attack.

‘After Dad’s death, I began driving his big, old Ford Taurus,’ she told me. ‘It was comforting, in the way you hang on to people’s shirts. But that’s all it was. Until about six weeks after he died.

‘It was a very cold night in January. I’m driving on the highway and into the passenger seat comes Dad. I could feel him settle in. He had a very distinctive lean to the left, because of the way his back was.

‘Also, you know how you know the sound of people’s breathing? How you can tell whether it’s your son or your daughter in the room? It was Dad. He rode with me for about ten miles.

‘It was incredibly real and completely transforming. I was almost giddy. I was hoping he’d stay.’

People held in solitary confinement for a long time, for example, are known to hallucinate. This takes the form of random, often paranoid imagery, and it¿s accompanied by agitation, panic attacks and general mental disintegration

Karen never sensed his presence again. Her father, she believed, had been saying a final goodbye.

Yet some loved ones can linger for years. This continues to be the case with her aunt’s son, who drowned 35 years ago in a fast-flowing river.

‘On a very regular basis, Allan comes and sits on the end of her bed, and they have a conversation,’ Karen said. ‘ “And don’t tell me I’m crazy!” my aunt always says.’

Back in 1917, Sigmund Freud labelled all such visions and sensations as ‘hallucinatory wishful psychosis’ — and his view remains popular in the medical profession. Since then, however, a great deal more has become known about hallucinations.

People held in solitary confinement for a long time, for example, are known to hallucinate. This takes the form of random, often paranoid imagery, and it’s accompanied by agitation, panic attacks and general mental disintegration.

But widows and widowers are clearly not in this state when they see or sense their loved ones. Nor are they likely to be alone for days on end in tiny windowless cells.

What about the theory that sheer longing for someone could cause a hallucination? Unfortunately for the sceptics, this falls at the first hurdle. Think of all those long-term lovers who leave people heartbroken when they run off with someone else. No one reports having visions of them.

In any case, the vision may not even be of someone close to you. That was certainly the case when a lawyer — interviewed by psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson in 2006 — had an unexpected encounter.

Throughout most of our history, everyone has known that those who die can return as anything, from a sigh to a physical presence. Our ancestors simply assumed the dead continued to watch, console, guide and even meddle in their affairs

One day, as dawn was breaking, he was coming home from a dance at which he hadn’t drunk any alcohol. While he was walking over a hill, ‘a woman came towards me, kind of stooping, with a shawl over her head.

‘I didn’t pay any attention to her, but as she passed I said “Good morning” or something like that. She didn’t say anything.

‘Then I noticed she was following me. When I stopped, she also stopped. I started saying my prayers in my mind to calm myself. When I came close to home, she disappeared.’

But had she? The lawyer’s brother, who was awake, greeted him with the words: ‘What is this old woman doing here? Why is this old woman with you?’

The brothers lived with their father, who worked at the local psychiatric hospital. A few hours later, they were told by him that a patient at the hospital had just died.

When the brothers investigated further, they found out that she exactly fitted their description of the old woman.

Clearly, whatever had caused the woman to materialise after her death had nothing to do with the lawyer suffering from isolation. Nor had he been longing to see her.

Yet, bizarre as it was, his experience would not have amazed our ancestors.

Throughout most of our history, everyone has known that those who die can return as anything, from a sigh to a physical presence. Our ancestors simply assumed the dead continued to watch, console, guide and even meddle in their affairs.

Collective delusion? Mass hallucinations? Or perhaps our ancestors have something important to teach us.

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Paranormal

Intruders and incubi: The waking nightmare of sleep paralysis

Brian Barrett Motherboard

© Nicolas Bruno

Once, when I was 17, I woke up in the dark and couldn’t move.

I could hear, at least. That’s why I was awake to begin with: someone was banging on the front door in the middle of the night, insistent, sharp, angry.

I could see, too. My eyes were open to the ceiling above me. My head, though, was locked into position by some invisible vise. I tried to yell, to warn my parents about the angry intruder outside, and the irrevocable harm I was convinced he would do. I couldn’t yell. The knocks got louder.

No matter how insistently I begged my body to jump out of bed and find a place to hide, it remained a slab. Something terrible was about to happen to me, to my family. The door was going to give way. The outsider was going to come in. I was going to face whatever—whoever?—came after completely immobilized and alone.

It was the most afraid I’ve ever been in my life. What I realized, looking back later, was that it still would have been even if it weren’t for those knocks on the door, and my certainty that something awful would follow. My deepest fear came from the realization that my body, in that moment, had become completely dissociated from anything I recognized as myself. It was a car sinking to the bottom of a lake, my mind its captive passenger, waiting to drown.

I don’t remember how long it lasted, but eventually it wore off. I quickly found out that the person on the porch was my older brother, home at an unexpected hour on an unexpected visit from college. It took me a few more years to figure out that the other part, the immobility, the sense of self reduced to flickering consciousness, even the deepness of the fear I felt, had a name. It was sleep paralysis.

At least, that’s what we call it now. Dr. S.A. Kinnier Wilson coined the term in a 1928 edition of the medical journal Brain. His description then should feel familiar to anyone who has experienced sleep paralysis today: a man dreamed of a murderer, then carried that dream over to a conscious state. The patient in question “lay thus, flat on the floor, motionless but suffering acute mental stress.

That’s not to say that sleep paralysis is a relatively new human experience. A Dutch physician named Isbrand van Diemerbroeck published several case histories that accurately describe sleep paralysis in 1664, one of which, titled “Of the Night-Mare,” may as well have been penned by Mary Shelley.

“In the night time, when she was composing her self to sleep, sometimes she believed the devil lay upon her and held her down, sometimes that she was choaked by a great dog or thief lying upon her breast, so that she could hardly speak or breath, and when she endeavored to throw off the burthen, she was not able to stir her member,”van Diemerbroeck wrote, suggesting moderate exercise and plenty of juice as a possible remedy to the invisible nighttime demon attacks. [17th century sics implied throughout.]

Even that landmark medical documentation isn’t remotely the first reported instance. Go back further still, and you’ll find references to sleep paralysis in medieval Persia and Ancient Greece and even more ancient (400 BCE) China. There’s probably a cave drawing somewhere that depicts a red-eyed saber-toothed tiger sitting atop a paralyzed Neanderthal’s chest. Sleep paralysis is as ageless and as universal as fear itself.

It’s not quite as simple as simply being afraid, though. It’s a complex confluence of physiological and psychological occurrences that force you to experience your deepest nightmares with eyes wide open.

Take a normal night of sleep, assuming you still have those once in awhile. Your body cycles through five sleep stages, the last of which is REM, which you probably remember from your high school biology class as being your brain’s lights-out, shut-it-down, dream-time state.

Which is great! Dreaming is wonderful, especially if you ever wondered what it might feel like to fly down Rodeo Drive with a soft serve twist cone in one hand and a chainsaw in the other. Dreaming, though, can also be dangerous, because your big dumb body doesn’t necessarily know that your brain is just playing pretend. Given the opportunity, your body will act out those dreams, which can lead to a whole other terrifying condition called REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).

You’ve heard of sleepwalking, which can technically be a type of RBD, depending on whether it occurs during the REM stage of sleep. Many RBD episodes are much more involved than just puttering down the hall, however. Think of it like this: juggling with tennis balls and juggling with flaming swords are both technically types of juggling, but you’d never confuse the two.

Comedian and storyteller Mike Birbiglia turned his experiences with RBD into a very entertaining show, book, and film called Sleepwalk with Me. Well, entertaining but also terrifying; at one point in his mid-20s, Birbiglia threw himself out of a closed, second-story La Quinta motel window. At the time, in his dream, he was trying to escape an incoming guided missile.

The reason more people don’t experience RBD is that the brain also has a safety valve. “During dreaming… bursts of neural activity called PGO waves spread through the cortex, producing the imagery we experience during dreams,” explained James Allan Cheyne, sleep paralysis expert and professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo. “Simultaneously, activation spreads down the spinal column causing spinal interneurons to suppress signals that normally would produce muscle movement.”

Your body, in other words, paralyzes itself during REM sleep to keep you from throwing yourself down a stairwell when you dream about laying out for touchdown pass to win the state championship.

Sleep paralysis, then, is what happens when you wake up before that effect has had a chance to wear off. Your body has frozen to keep you from acting out your dreams. But also, haha, good joke, you’re still dreaming.

“You have aspects of REM sleep that are going on when you have waking, conscious awareness,” said Brian Sharpless, assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University and author of a recent book about sleep paralysis. “First, you’re paralyzed, and second, you are having dreams, but unlike normal dreaming these two things are happening while you’re awake and able to look around the room.”

Not just any dreams, though. Sharpless estimates that while a little less than a third of our normal dreams could be considered nightmares, 80 to 90 percent of dreams experienced during sleep paralysis qualify. “You can kind of imagine why,” he said. “If you’re lying on your back and can’t move, that’s scary enough. And if you’re having hallucinations that are scary as well, that’s a bad mix.”

My own sleep paralysis, then, was fairly textbook. The banging on the door vaulted me into consciousness but not out of REM, leaving me frozen in a liminal hell of the mind, waiting for a bad man with an axe to bust down my door. Actually, I got off easy.

As it turns out, sleep paralysis nightmares can be divided into three tidy categories, two of which—the Intruder and the Incubus—would make for decent Paranormal Activity sequels. The third is “vestibular and motor,” a less-fun name for a more-fun condition.

Cheyne cautions that these categories are broad, and the experiences the describe can vary greatly. On the other hand, he also is one of three authors of a landmark 1999 scientific paper, published in Consciousness and Cognition, that helped define them.

Vestibular and motor incidents—Cheyne calls it “Unusual Bodily Experiences” in his 1999 paper—are relatively harmless, potentially even enjoyable. “It’s fancy term for feeling like your body is being moved without its volition,” Sharpless explains. “You could feel like you’re floating, or levitating, or your arm is being lifted.” Not so bad, right? Your standard Sigourney-Weaver-in-Ghostbusters scenario.

The other two, Cheyne says, have no such upside potential.

For Intruder experiences, the main sensation is the sensed presence—a feeling of something in the room,” he recently explained over email. “That something may then also be seen, heard, or physically felt. It may move around the room, approach the bed, and sometimes climb onto the bed.”

Scary! But remember, at this point you also can’t move. As far as you know, you may never be able to move again, even if you somehow survive being horribly violated by the shadow monster in your periphery. Screaming would at least be cathartic, but you can’t scream, and you can’t breathe all that well, so all that’s left is to wait.

I was fortunate in that my Intruder scenario involved an actual (friendly!) person. That gave quicker closure, presumably, than some hallucinatory demon-dog lurker might have. I was fortunate, also, that I didn’t draw an Incubus instead:

The Incubus experiences often continue this sequence by climbing on top of the ‘sleeper,’ Cheyne continues, “perhaps smothering, and even assaulting them physically and sexually.” This is how your brain works. This is van Diemerbroeck’s devil.

© Nicolas Bruno

Beginning in February of 1995, reports began to circulate throughout Zanzibar of a spirit that assaulted men and women in the dark of night. Its name was Popobawa, which means “winged bat,” because that was the form it was said to take most often, though it was just as often invisible.

As social anthropologist Martin Walsh detailed in 2009, Popobawa attacks spread quickly throughout the country, jumping from person to person, house to house, and village to village, eventually constituting a full-blown paranormal pandemic.

The bat demon was said to sodomize its victims. The response was violent. At one point, residents of Zanzibar City murdered a suspected Popobawa who unsurprisingly turned out to be a human, one who had visited the capital in search of mental health treatment. The terrors, both spiritual and corporeal, continued. Then, three months after they began, the Popobawa incidents stopped.

An entire nation plagued by a sex-starved bat demon would laughable as a SyFy channel script. As reality, it seems impossible. That it led to mobs and murder, more so.

It happened, though. And again, to a lesser degree, in 2007 (“Sex attacks blamed on bat demon” read the restrained BBC headline that time). How?

“A typical [Popobawa] assault involved somebody waking up in the night to find themselves being attacked by an amorphous or shape-shifting intruder, which was most frequently described as ‘pressing’ or ‘crushing’ their chest and ribs, and of suffocating them until they had difficulty in breathing and passed out,” Walsh wrote. “In general all of the victims experienced extreme terror, and were often frozen speechless when they were assaulted.”

An intruder. An incubus. The inability to move. The loss of respiratory control. The Popobawa, Walsh concludes, was no demon. It was textbook sleep paralysis, at a massive scale.

Zanzibar’s example is extreme, but far from isolated. Every culture has its bogeyman. Every century has ghost sightings. Everyone has heard things go bump in the night.

“We believe that sleep paralysis is a good, naturalistic explanation for a lot of paranormal beliefs,” said Sharpless. “Alien abductions that occur at night; visits by ghosts and demons; more recently, shadow people. If you look at people’s first-hand descriptions of these events, they map really well on to sleep paralysis.”

“Different cultures have come up with unique names for sleep paralysis that are descriptive of various common experiences in how it manifests,” explains Kevin Morton, who five years ago founded a site dedicated to better understanding sleep disorders as part of an undergraduate project at Stanford University. “In Japan it’s been known as ‘Kanashibari’ (retaliating spirit), in Thailand ‘Phi um’ (enveloping ghost), or the ‘Hauka’I po’ (night marchers) in Hawaii.”

In the same way that we might ascribe a happy coincidence to a guardian angel or God, we paint sleep paralysis with the brushstrokes of our deepest terrors.

Sleep paralysis being blamed on ghosts, spirits, and demons transcends cultures, but you can count on Japan to give it the perfect anime treatment.

Estimates vary as to how many people will experience sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. Sharpless pegs it at 8 percent of the general population, with students (28 percent) and psychiatric patients (32 percent) even higher. Sharpless thinks that spike may be attributable to those groups having disrupted sleep patterns to begin with, making sleep paralysis more likely. Cheyne notes that incidence rates are higher still “in societies with an active tradition of haunting night spirits.”

Despite the prevalence of sleep paralysis, especially among certain groups, there’s been no large intervention trials to determine an effective treatment for it. In a 2014 paper, Dr. Sharpless and co-author Jessica Lynn Grom outlined a few preemptive methods (e.g., changing sleep positions and patterns), as well as techniques to help mitigate the impact mid-episode. Among the most effective of those? Simply trying to calm yourself down in the moment, if you can manage it. Focus on trying to move your extremities. Don’t worry about the demon on your chest.

That’s more easily accomplished if you’re aware that you’re experiencing sleep paralysis, or even of what sleep paralysis is. It’s a condition that’s been largely (apologies) in the dark, in part because it’s not an easy thing to talk about. I didn’t tell anyone about my experience for years, and even then it was only after I had found out what it was. Until then, I was too worried that it signaled something deeply wrong with my body or mind or both.

“Sleep paralysis has quite a large awareness bias associated with it,” says Morton, whose site has received hundreds of submissions from people who have lived it, and a magnitude more visitors looking for answers. “It is such a crazy experience–waking up with your body paralyzed, often hallucinating frightening dream imagery, occasionally of a sexual nature–that those who experience it often don’t talk about it with others, usually out of fear that they will be seen as crazy or possessed, or just otherwise stigmatized if they bring it up.”

Morton is optimistic about the internet’s power as a great normalizer; all it takes is a quick search of symptoms to find out that you’re neither possessed nor insane. Sleep paralysis also seems to be having a larger cultural moment beyond the web, if a phenomenon as old as consciousness itself can be said to have moments.

That’s a brief clip from The Nightmare, a documentary from Rodney Ascher, which brings brings to life people’s real descriptions of sleep paralysis events. Ascher, who previously directed the critically lauded Room 237, pursued the topic after experiencing it himself. Devil in the Room, a short film released in 2014, takes a similar approach, while photographer Nicolas Bruno has a series of photographs depicting the horrors he has experienced in his years of sleep paralysis.

Most dreams stop when they want to, not when you tell them. A modicum of awareness, though, helps with what comes after. Even if you can’t beat sleep paralysis, you can cope with its reverberations.

There’s comfort in knowing that the demon on your chest actually resides in your mind. Or at least, that yours isn’t the only mind with demons.

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Paranormal

The Charlie Charlie Challenge – what is the spooky craze?

A strange new viral phenomenon has left social media buzzing with attempts to summon a Mexican spirit.

Although it has been around for quite some time, the challenge, which involves using pencils and a piece of paper to summon a spirit named Charlie, has really taken off this week.

To play, participants are required to take a piece of paper, balance two pencils in a cross shape in the middle and then write the words “yes” and “no” at the four corners of the page.

To begin, those taking part must then clearly recite the phrase “Charlie, Charlie, are you here?”.

If the pencil moves then, according to the myth surrounding the game, the spirit of Charlie will have arrived to begin answering your questions.

Despite the widespread uptake of the challenge on social media this week however the mechanism behind this alleged paranormal communication is actually very simple – the pencils will invariably move by themselves no matter what because they are so precariously balanced.

The vibration of a footstep, someone shuffling around in the room or even a subtle draft from a window or door can make it seem as though Charlie has come out to play.

Nevertheless with the “Charlie Charlie Challenge” becoming increasingly popular online it is likely that we will be seeing quite a few reaction videos of pencils moving over the next few weeks.

Source: Independent

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Paranormal

A Drug Addict Changed His Ways When He Saw Something Strange In This Photo

While some consider ghosts to be expert photobombers, they’re certainly not alone in the world of paranormal photobombing. Demons also seem to be quite good at it. In fact, demons might actually be better photobombers than ghosts, which is something Joe Martinez learned a few years ago in the most shocking way.

Martinez, who was heavily involved with drugs at the time, went with his wife to his in-laws’ wedding anniversary celebration. It was a fairly ordinary party by all accounts. At one point in the evening, however, someone snapped a picture of Martinez posing with his wife. No one thought anything of it…until the picture was developed.

Could it actually have been a demon? Perhaps it was a trick of the light? According to Martinez, several reputable paranormal investigators examined the photo and found no evidence of tampering. Even stranger is the fact that the demon creature did not appear in any other photos from the anniversary party. Fake or not, at least this photo did some good in getting Martinez to clean up his life.

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