Based in Brooklyn, NY, I write about all things creepy and strange. My book based on the real haunting of Doris Bither (The Entity 1982 movie) will be released soon. Got a question? Drop me a line.

As many of you may already know, we here at GhostTheory subscribe to a more skeptical mindset. A mere logical and headstrong sense when we review cases. There are many explanations that we like to use when debunking cases or evidence presented to us or the world. Like a swiss army knife that is full of an useful arsenal of tools, we have our own arsenal of explanations that are best used to explain what many consider paranormal events.

I’d like to talk about Hypnagogia, or as it’s more commonly referred to, Sleep Paralysis.

Now note that this will apply to the majority of cases were people will either be in the state of sleep and be awaken or be in the drowsy stages leading to sleep.

In a Hypnagogic state, an individual who is in the REM phase of sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) which is the most profound state of sleep, is awakened and their body remains in a paralyzed state. It’s been reported that terrifying hallucinations sometimes come from this state. Where a person is aware of their surroundings and can recognize objects near them, but then interpret the body’s reaction or paralysis to that of a dangerous situation. Hallucinations range from demonic, angelic to ghosts and other unworldly beings around the individual (Alien visitations/abductions).

“Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee Around A Pomegranate Only Seconds Before Awakening”
-Salvador Dali

How does one go from being asleep and dreaming of being in your favorite movie scene or a night club full of beautiful women who are all over your (don’t ask, I was watching ‘El Cantante’ the other night) to that of a demonic being standing at the foot of your bed or Aliens abducting you?

Environmental or external influences for one.

I remember as a child when my grandmother (not a very pleasant woman) would “tuck” us in for sleep, but had her own way of getting us to be quiet. She would tell us that if we were not asleep by a certain time, there were these “witches” that would turn into owls and scratch or peck out our eyes if they heard children awake in the house. She would mock the “witches” cackle and scare us kids. She would also tell us the story of “La Llorona”. The weeping woman. Which is a legend throughout the Americas with many origins and premises. The one we heard was of this lady who drowned her children (for unknown reasons) and would then commit suicide after realizing what she’s done. Her ghastly spirit would roam the town/city looking for her lost children. Snatching any child who was not inside their home asleep.

Now after hearing this “bedtime story” I would try my hardest to fall asleep. At times I would wake up in the middle of the night and being scared when listening to the house settling in or other noises that I swore were the witches cackling.

Even though I never (as far as I can remember) experienced a hypnagogic event, I’m sure this is a major reason why scientist and researchers think that ghosts are explained by sleep paralysis. Makes sense.

So can we say that the influences of bedtime stories of zoomorphing Wicca practitioners (do we call them wereowls?) and women suffering from postpartum psychosis and/or Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder (La Llorona) are enough to explain ghosts? No, we cannot.

Hypnagogia can better explain bedside or bedroom ghosts or Alien abductions, but it does not explain the other reports of apparitions of awake, coherent and sober individuals.

In general, Hypnagogia helps us explain our physiological responses that can contribute to paranormal phenomenon, but I find it difficult for it to explain other paranormal cases.

  • Open-MindedSkeptic

    I have to say, never having posted to any site, that I feel compelled to share my recent experiences and views on this.

    For the past 2 weeks i’ve had several experiences that i’ve never had before, and one repeat of an experience when I was 21. All of these have alarmed me.

    My new experiences were of my bedroom door slamming shut so loudly that it startled me awake. But honestly, on reflection, I could not remember if I fell asleep with it open or closed. A few nights later I awoke to the loud sound of something crashing in the kitchen, but I sat there and heard nothing further. In the morning nothing was out of place. Finally, a few nights ago I woke up to the deafening sound of a metallic slam that had a ringing quality to it and it sounded like it came from right in my bedroom next to the bed. That night my 11 year old son was at the house. In the morning I asked him if he heard anything and he said no.

    When these sounds happened I woke up scared stiff and/or sat up straight in bed terrified. More than I would think I should have been, and all three times I felt panicked, fearful, and that “cold-dread” sickening feeling. Because of the experience below, and the times when I was younger, I immediately began praying and asking for strength and protection and tried to picture a “bubble of light” around me and my son and home. It’s odd, but my first reaction wasn’t that an intruder broke in, but that it was some kind of paranormal event.

    Between the 2nd and 3rd time of these loud sounds that woke me, I had a repeat of what had happened to me in 20 years ago. Back then I felt I had been attacked by what I then called the “child-like black figure” which tried to “snuff me out of existince” by pushing me downward into a black void. It’s hard to explain the experiences, but it was like a battle of life and death/good vs. evil. Of note during those episodes was that I did experience paralysis, I felt I was wide awake and staring at this black figure on top of me, and when it was over I was screaming my head off, but realized shortly that the sound was only in my head and that my actual voice was more of a whispering hiss.

    So the other night, when I felt the bed sag, I instantly KNEW what it was as soon as it happened, and I belive because i’m now older and wiser and stronger, I immediately “blasted out”, on offense if you will, as in my mind I said “enough of this!”. The experience lasted much shorter compared to when I was 21, there was no paralysis and no loud screaming in my head. The experience felt to only last seconds compared to when I was younger when it felt like a lifetime.

    Because of these new experiences and my alarmed reaction to them, I started to google and research if anyone else has experienced these loud sounds while sleeping. The nearest match appears to be Exploding Head Syndrome. But what i’ve read it seems the people feel the sound is coming from inside their head. My experiences are that the sounds are coming from somewhere either close me or some short distance away like the kitchen.

    Through the course of my 41 years I have had many other strange things happen not related to sleeping, but won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say, they have all led me to my beliefs about a few things and a general interst in the paranormal, but also in science.

    I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, but also skeptical. I’d like a reasonable answer before I settle on a paranormal one. But, honestly, when you experience something that truly feels paranormal, it’s hard to convince you it was not.

    I have to say that what i’m reading about Hypnagogia sure sounds like a possibility for what I experienced the other night and when I was 21 with the black figure holding me down. This appeals to my “logical” part of my personality.

    However, my “feelings” or “gut” go the route of paranormal. You could say that I guess I haven’t made up my mind, and after reading alot of these comments to the post, I see people leaning one way or the other, which is also why I felt the need to comment here.

    But I also think it’s important to remember a few things. For one, our brain is just a big organic computer. Our five physical senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing, and seeing, are basically external organs that transmit electrical signals to the brain that must be processed and “decoded” so that it makes sense.

    I think as people, we often make the mistake of being arrogant. Arrogant in that we think if we can’t see it, taste it, touch it, smell it, or hear it, it doesn’t exist. How narrow-minded! Does infra-red light exist because our rods and cones in our eyes don’t react to that wave-length of light? Are there sound waves lower than our ears can detect? Could our brains process other external stimuli that doesn’t come from our eyes, nose, mouth, skin, or ears? Isn’t it possible that some people, “sensatives” if you will, have brains that process some kind of “electrical residue” of people who have passed on?

    So, finally getting to my point – can we truly say for sure if Hynagogia, or even Exploding Brain Syndrome, are real sleep disorders and nothing more? A purely physical and rational explanation for a bizzare experience? Or, do we remain arrogant and not consider the opposite? Could not these kinds of experiences only be the brain’s attempt to make sense of a truly paranormal event? This is my dilema. My experiences “feel” real to me. They scare me quite badly. My logical mind would like a logical explanation to calm it down. But my other experiences of things and events not happening at night and not related, have taught me there is more going on than my poor 5 senses try to tell me.

    What I fear, is that science may only be seeing the shadow of the real event, not the event itself. The other month I was watching TV and one of those discovery channel shows came on. If I remember correctly it was one of the Morgan Freeman Through the Wormhole episodes. Anyway, on the show a scientist created a head piece with a large electro-magnet on it. And when subjects used the helmet in a dark room many of them reported feeling someone was in the room with them. The scientists choose to conclude that his magnet which pinpoints a specific part of the brain proves that things like ghosts and spirits are not real because it’s just a part of the brain that gives us this feeling. I was reminded of our arrogance again. How can this guy know that he isn’t artificially activating the portion of the brain that allows people to sense the presense of a ghost? That the ghost is real in the first place and his device merely allows us to sense it?

    Hopefully one day the science of the paranormal will catch up and maybe then we will be able to have definative answers to all these questions.

  • VC

    @Open-MindedSkeptic, You seem to be in the right place, a person both open minded and skeptical! There’s a lot of that mindset on this here site. Being both we’re all very post-post-modern, I think. Anyway, I have to admit I had to stop reading your post for a bit when I got to the “child-like black figure,” freaky as all heck. Have you seen this, Sleep Paralysis Documentary: ‘Old Hag’ Syndrome? It can be watched here:
    It sounds similar to your experience.

  • Lea9

    I used to experience night terrors when I was 12 or 13 and would wake up screaming and flailing, trying to get away from something (they were almost always dreams of being chased but being unable to move). As a child I would sleep-walk, and was found walking around and mumbling about something but was completely asleep.
    I would wake up and say I saw this or followed that. My parents made double sure all the doors were locked at bedtime…once they found me fumbling with the door to the attached garage. I also spoke in my sleep well into my teen years.
    I have had sleep paralysis a few times, and even seen things at those times. It causes deep panic and then just…forcing yourself out of it.
    Once I saw an old woman sitting on my bed, quietly watching over me but it turned out that a side effect of a medication I was taking was mild hallucinations. I have also regularly felt my bed sag as if a cat jumped on or someone sat on it, but nothing is there.

    It’s all very interesting that so many people here have experienced these things in varying degrees and that efforts are being made to understand things previously attributed to psychological problems. This is somewhat comforting, in that, you wake up and know “there is a reasonable, scientific explanation here, not something creepy”.

    That said, science can’t prove everything, at least not yet, and it’s not a bad thing to have a healthy belief in something “else”, whatever that may be.

  • This is my first time at this site, I love it, finally a paranormal site that doesn’t jump to the “its a (fill in blank ghost,ufo,etc)” rhetoric that many others do. But on to my comment about this topic.

    I experienced sleep paralysis myself about 2 years ago and it was terrifying at the time. I remember being awake but not able to move, I could hear what sounded like whispers surrounding me and a weight on my left side(I sleep on my right). It wasn’t until I forced myself to move my leg that it all went away. I didn’t think it was paranormal at the time and knew there had to be an explanation so I went online and found out about sleep paralysis.

    Using this knowledge I have been able to put quite a few people at ease who have come to my group for help. We have found a number of people who have reported a lot of the symptoms of hypnogogia as their main case on why the feel their house is haunted. Once we explain this to them a lot of their other claims seem like exaggerations of normal occurrences(shadows, house noises, etc).

  • sam

    i experienced this last night scary stuff i was inbetween sleep and being awake when i heard an almighty bang bang bang bang like someone was hitting my door with the palm of their hand i awoke with chills and a horrible feeling of fear and struggle to go back to sleep as i was scared of falling back into the hypnagogic state

  • Steven

    Sam im right with you. Ive even had someone whisper (I say whisper but it was loud) in my ear and woke me up. I was they was right there!! Scary