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.

The “Old Hag” syndrome. Quite possibly one of the most terrifying sleep related disorders that affects more people than previously thought. Tales of an “old hag” coming into somebody’s bedroom at night and pinning them down while they struggle to breath from the enormous pressure they feel smashing down on their chest, are well too common. These tales span from different races, continents and religious backgrounds. Most assume that these nightly episodes are visitations from something out of this world.

I’ve written about the “Old Hag” syndrome a bit here on GT. There was a great documentary on the subject that I had posted back in 2009. Check it out.

So what is this “Old Hag” and how to you avoid it? The answer might be as simple as blaming narcolepsy for the ghoulish episodes. Neuropsychiatrists have gathered some important data from the dozens of cases studied each year. Most patients have exhausted all avenues in trying to rid themselves of the terrifying syndrome. Some even seeking an Exorcist. But what modern science has to say can put many at ease…at least until they get “the visit”.

In the following article, a Neuropsychiatrist talks about some of the most weird cases involving the “Old Hag” syndrome and narcolepsy:

“I had a patient in the States, a truck driver with an 18-wheeler, zig-zagging on the highway and was caught by the cops,” Mirolo said. “The reason he was zig-zagging was because he was busy going over little green dwarves, and he was feeling how they were being splattered by the truck and everything. He felt it, he saw them, and he heard the splattering. “Another patient was watching TV when a furry animal came out of it and bit him on the arm. These hallucinations are usually in 3-D, in colour, and very vivid.”

Full source: The Telegram

It’s so common, we have a slang term for it: seeing the old hag.

For Denise (not her real name), however, the fact that it’s typical didn’t make it any easier to endure, and at one point, she found herself meeting with her parish priest, asking for an exorcism.

“It sounds so silly now,” she told The Telegram, adding that’s the reason why she declined to use her real name or have her photo printed.

“But there was a point when I really thought something paranormal was going on, and I wanted it gone.”

The first time she experienced the old hag was as a university student, during exams, the 47-year-old said. She woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling of something pressing down on her chest.

“I couldn’t move; couldn’t even wiggle my toes. I tried to call out to my mother, but couldn’t. It was like something was sitting on me, holding me down. I even felt the presence of a ghost,” Denise said. “It was terrifying.”

The old hag came back about a week later. This time, Denise said, she clearly saw a ghost.

“I saw the form of a person, sitting on me, their hands pushing down on my chest. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman, but it was very clearly a human. Once again, I tried to scream, but nothing came out. I tried to raise my arm and couldn’t. It‘s like I was paralyzed.”

Because she had no known health problems and had actually seen what she thought was a ghost, Denise was convinced her problems were of the paranormal kind.

After nearly a year of being tormented by the old hag on almost a weekly basis, she turned to her faith for help.

“I went to my priest. I honestly thought there was a chance I was possessed, or maybe my family’s house was haunted,” she said, laughing.

“I asked him to bless me, which he did, and I asked him how to go about having an exorcism performed. At that point, I was dreading going to sleep at night. When the sun would start to set, I‘d start feeling panicky.”

It was the priest who suggested Denise talk to her doctor. A couple years later she visited a sleep disorders clinic in Ontario, and was diagnosed with narcolepsy.

Dr. Hugh Mirolo is this province’s only neuropsychiatrist, and sees many patients who suffer from narcolepsy.

Seeing the old hag is what he calls a combination of sleep paralysis and a hypnopompic hallucination.

Temporary paralysis happens to everyone, every night, while we’re in deep sleep, Mirolo explained.

Sleep paralysis, such as the old hag, occurs during the transition between deep sleep and waking up, as the brain may not always switch off the paralysis right away. It may not switch off dreams immediately, either, causing vivid hallucinations.

Seeing the old hag is a normal occurrence when it happens in isolation, Mirolo said, and can particularly affect those with unstable sleeping schedules, like those who do shift work, as well as people like us, who live in an area where the winters are long.

“The dark season affects us all, not just people with brain injuries,” Mirolo explained. “This is so common in St. John’s, because of the northern latitude and our frequent prolonged overcast weather.”

Put the old hag with other symptoms — including excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia at night, hallucinations when in the process of falling asleep, and cataplexy attacks; sudden paralysis of all or some of the muscles in the body at any time of the day or night — and it’s part of narcolepsy, Mirolo explained. A number of factors could trigger symptoms like the old hag to suddenly appear, he said, including sleep disruption — as in the case of Denise, who had been pulling all-nighters, studying for exams — or brain trauma.

Though narcolepsy can be inherited, Mirolo mainly sees it as a symptom of a brain injury, which, many times, his patients don’t even know they have before coming to see him. They make the discovery after Mirolo assesses them, which can take weeks of interviews with family members and questions about the patient’s life right from birth, or even in the womb. A lot of patients will have suffered a brain injury in a semi-serious car accident, sports accident or playground mishap in the past, but never connected it to any of their current symptoms. People with narcolepsy are going in and out of sleep all the time, Mirolo said, describing it as the invasion of deep sleep into normal life. Those with narcolepsy can experience an abrupt unplugging of the brain — falling asleep in the middle of a conversation, for example — or a more subtle “going, going, gone” type of unplugging. It’s not uncommon for those with narcolepsy to fall asleep during car rides or to never seem able to see the end of a movie before falling asleep.

“A number of times, the patient will not even realize they have (narcolepsy) or they will not realize the extent of it; the sleep attack is usually witnessed by others,” Mirolo said. “The patient will perceive that they just nodded their head, and (in reality) a half an hour elapsed. They’re watching TV and then all of a sudden the news is on.

“Another typical example is as a passenger in the car: they unplug, replug, and where did Gander go? If there’s no time-giver, like the TV or if they have no relatives around, they might not know they have it at all.”

Symptoms can be even worse, Mirolo explained: people suffering from narcolepsy can often perform complex tasks while their brain is unplugged, like making phone calls or driving. They may look to others as if they’re sleepwalking, or they may simply look as if they’re in a daze.

“They can look like they’re playing close attention, but in reality, no one is home,” Mirolo said. “I have patients who were driving on the other side of the road for an unknown amount of time, and then all of a sudden they wake up and think, ‘What the heck?’ It can be very dangerous.”

Because they are constantly going in and out of sleep, people with narcolepsy can experience hallucinations like the old hag at any time of day or night, Mirolo said, and the hallucinations can include visions, voices or sensations.

“I had a patient in the States, a truck driver with an 18-wheeler, zig-zagging on the highway and was caught by the cops,” Mirolo said. “The reason he was zig-zagging was because he was busy going over little green dwarves, and he was feeling how they were being splattered by the truck and everything. He felt it, he saw them, and he heard the splattering. “Another patient was watching TV when a furry animal came out of it and bit him on the arm. These hallucinations are usually in 3-D, in colour, and very vivid.”

Sleep attacks can last between a few minutes to hours, Mirolo said, depending on how severe the narcolepsy symptoms are.

Part of the treatment for narcolepsy is the same as the treatment for anyone who sees the old hag, and involves what Mirolo calls basic brain/sleep hygiene measures. There’s a long list of dos and don’ts, including no caffeine after 4 p.m. (in any form, including coffee, tea, soda and hidden forms like chocolate and soya sauce), no nicotine or alcohol after 6 p.m., and no naps during the day.

Bedrooms should be cool and dark while sleeping, should not be used for anything other than sleeping and sex and should not contain a TV, radio or computer, and we should expose ourselves to natural or full-spectrum light as soon as possible upon waking. A proper night’s sleep is between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., Mirolo explained, and this is based on biorhythms; though we may get the same number of hours sleep if we go to bed a 2 a.m. and wake at 10 a.m., it’s not the same, he said.

Exposure to light in the evenings should be minimal, Mirolo said, adding any light bright enough to enable us to read is bright enough to wake us.

“If you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, the light should be barely enough to allow you to see,” Mirolo said. “If it’s a bright light, your brain reads that as, ‘Good morning, Sir!’ The brain reads light as time to be awake; the absence of light as time to sleep.”

  • crazydog606

    suffer from SP…bad.Winged demon on my chest holding me down screeching into
    my face. I get about three attacks a year, every night I go to sleep I worry
    that this is the night it comes. Absolutely the most terrifying experience I’ve
    ever experienced. The entire time I’m wide awake mentally and screaming for
    someone to wake me up. My body is frozen but for some reason it is vibrating
    like being shocked. My first attack I remember to this day, I was around 7 or 8
    lying in bed with my mom I could see her turning the pages to the book she was
    reading but I couldn’t move. In the very top corner of the room a giant spider
    was floating there and it didn’t try to scare me, it just floated there asking
    me questions. “Do you like your mom and dad?”How is your relationship with
    them?’” Do you ever get mad at them?” It was very interested in my home life…
    It was almost sort of interviewing me. After that the attacks were fierce. I
    could literally feel the rage,hate,anger,sooo much hate. The more I fear and
    panic the more excited it becomes.Whatever it is its the most terrifying experience ive ever had.I get the entire 3d experience,visual,audio and feeling the energy “rage.”I have done something that has kept the experience from coming back for almost two years now… it feels so real that it is just as well real

  • crazydog606

    I also did the same..instantly released.Only I said “God help me” Been plagued with this “issue”for all but the last two years of my life….40 years worth.

  • crazydog606

    Ive always felt like it was feeding on my “fear” The more intense the fear the more it seems to get excited and get off so to speak.I could literally feel the rage,hate,jealousy emanating from the figure holding me down,tons of intense energy being generated.Had them all my life, I just dealt with it and didn’t tell anyone because they would think im lying.

  • crazydog606

    Its the only thing that has worked for me.I prayed and become really close to God.Haven’t had an attack in two years.Makes me think it was real…..

  • crazydog606

    I never knew what sleep paralysis was in till three months ago.That hag has throttled me for the last 40 years.I would get an episode every two to three months.She wasnt a hag though she was more succubus like with dark grey skin and smaller wings behind her.

  • crazydog606

    Me too.I have an above post that describes my very first attack when I was about 7 or 8.

  • Lee Davids

    I’m 32 yrs old now. Until 2 years ago I had no idea I wasn’t alone. I cried when I first stumbled on a site much like this one. The reason I’m posting under eddiek ^^ is my experiences resemble his most all.. truth be told.. I can’t even put it onto words and really don’t want to talk about it..further.

  • Lee Davids

    All I know is my mother is/was very religious and calling on Jesus and rebuking demons did nothing to help or stop the attacks.. worst period was between 15 yrs old and 19 yrs old
    Little to no sleep for weeks at a time.. never told a soul.

  • Lee Davids

    Only happens every now and again but I’ll NEVER forget a few nights in particular during “the bad stretch” of my life.. a long history of narc Stimulant use can be traced back to those days. IT WON’T HAPPEN IF UR UP.

  • Sharon Scully

    You can call it whatever you want about the Old Hag visiting. Unless it happens to you, you can bend words anyway you want. It happen to me nightly as a child. She would pull my hair, torment and and laugh. The person claiming it’s all to sleep disorder is an Idiot.

  • Chubs

    Yeah I know so too I’ve seen her…an old hag pointed chin and hooked nose looking at me with beady eyes the bed would shake and I couldn’t move or open my eyes…I got a priest to bless the house. And it stopped but I couldn’t help wondering why this evil came to me in the 1st place I never done ouija board on anything like that the only thing I fine when I was 11 was do the Bloody Mary ritual. I’m 33 now and have had bad luck all through my life like I’m cursed

  • SheGaveBirth2sAtan

    This is interesting. Seems there are a few of these entities. I too was tormented by one. It stood over me and was a silhouette of a person as it began to walk through me and become me as I was completely paralyzed. I would try and make words but my mouth would not work. I recalled what I was taught growing up about Jesus and the word of God and in the final moments before it became me, I was able to break these chains and yell out “Help me Jesus!!” This is the point in which it left and a peaceful feeling swept over me and I was so exhausted from the experience that I fell into a slumber. It had no guns, weapons, or hats of any kind. I could tell it was the shadow of a man with wavy like hair and it’s presence conjured up pure mortal fear like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Even as writing this my spirit is ablaze from thinking about it and even learning that I’m not alone in this as others have experienced similar events.
    Make no mistake, this entity is either satin or his servants and he/they will eventually destroy you. I’m curious now as to how many out there have been through this as we’ll as how many didn’t make it through and their bodies are vessels for these spirits. The end game is total control and domination over you. This is some freaky stuff without a doubt and has forged my belief into a firm foundation by this experience. BTW, I haven’t seen this again in over 15 years but sometimes I get the feeling that its watching and waiting for me to fall into sin once again. Thanks for having this forum as it’s been 15 + years and I’ve carried this with me thinking if I said something, then everyone would think I’m nuts. I’m hoping my testimony may relieve someone’s torment from these spirits. Thanks for your time.

  • Jorge Morales

    Pretty simple …this is a phen that’s been described around the world for centuries and commonly described before age if social media…we try and make us feel better by stamping a science label on it. Problem is we get Smarty’s (scientist) wasting there time

  • Acaxochitl

    The Old Hag Syndrome is happening to me now, and it’s scary! Both times, the incident occurred at exactly 5:10am. It’s never happened to me before in my life and I’m 62 now. I started ghost hunting a little over a year ago, and got some crazy good evidence of ghosts. I’m wondering if they truly have the power to harm or kill us?

  • brain peppers

    When i was in my early twenties and living with my parents, I awoke and found i could not move no matter what i did. Then i became aware of a red faced hag wearing a hood hovering towards the end of my bed. I have never been as scared in my life. I tried to scream but couldn’t. I wasn’t even aware that i could breathe. With a great effort i managed to raise my arm with the aim of turning on the light .. My arm moved sooo slowly and seemed to take forever, all the time the hag appeared to be grinning .. but i got there in the end. I flicked on the bed side lamp and felt the paralysis leave. Only problem was, I was now sitting up in bed wide awake with the light on … and I could <> see the red faced hag ! Suddenly it seemed to glide to the right , in jerking like motions .. and faded away after about 4 jerks . … Science can’t explain that away !!