“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
― Mark Twain
The moon has always been a source of mysticism and folklore, and some say it is linked to heighten supernatural activity. I’ve talked about my living in haunted houses. Have I mentioned that I occupied a haunted dorm room while I was in college? I do now because it was in this dorm room that I experienced my first Waking Dead Sleep (WDS).
I hadn’t experienced WDS since college, until the nights of the recent Super Moons, which plunged this mysterious topic to the forefront of my research. I thought we could probe a little into what it is and maybe why it affects some people and not others.
The Waking Dead Sleep
The haunted dorm room came to mind this morning when I recalled the first time I experienced a Waking Dead Sleep—not to be confused with sleep walking or a nightmare. It has also been labeled as sleep paralysis, demon on your chest, out of body, or alien abduction.
WDS is different than a nightmare in that you are awake but paralyzed. You are not running from monsters or evil as in a typical nightmare or night terror. You sense something is dreadfully wrong but are unable to escape. You can’t move nor can you wake yourself from this state of horror.
The American Sleep Association defines sleep paralysis as a state in which the subject is physically immobile, but fully conscious.
I was a sophomore in college the first time I experienced the Waking Dead Sleep. I was awake. I knew I was. I heard people talk. I heard sirens. Saw the blinking lights. I was lying on a stretcher near the ambulance. People discussed whether or not I was still alive. I heard everything they said. I tried to talk, to move, to tell them, I am alive. But I couldn’t make my body move. Not even my lips to utter one terrifying, I’m here. Help me.
Every night, I woke my poor roommate with my screams. An entire semester passed before my roommate and I discovered that a girl had killed herself in our room. Upon discovery, my WDS ended.
In my WDS, I am awake but powerless to say a word or move a finger. My body is overwhelmed with the knowledge that if I can not break free, if I can not scream or move, I will die. I struggle, and in the struggle I manage to scream. With the scream, the people, the ambulance, the stretcher, or recently, the demon disappear. My screams resurrect every sleeping soul in the household—dogs, cats, husband, and kids.
Still a Mystery
Though nearly half of the world’s population has experienced some form of WDS at least once in their lives, it still remains a mystery to scientists. They have hypotheses, but no definite answer. One of the most common explanations is the dysfunctional overlap of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and waking stages of sleep. Other explanations include: stress, genetics, and mental health issues.
If you have experienced WDS, then you know none of the explanations are correct, because you don’t have a sleep disorder, you are not stressed (any more than usual), no one else in your family wakes up screaming, and you are not crazy—well, at least not in the scientific sense of the word.
Waking Dead sufferers report a deep sense of terror—an evil presence in their room—which is terrifying in itself, but then the victim is also paralyzed, unable to defend herself/himself, unable to even run.
The evil presence has been called The Intruder, or in the instances of suffocation, Incubus.
The online website Reddit is full of comments by those who have experienced the Waking Dead Sleep phenomenon. Here are a few:
“I’ve only experienced it three times but my first time was the worst. I’ve never had any visual encounters but when it happened the first time I was laying on my left side and started to feel that pressure on my chest. When I realized I was paralyzed and started panicking, something whispered in my ear “Just coming in to say goodnight.” That’s when I felt like something was pushing me towards the edge of my bed. Terrifying.”
“This is word for word what I experience two-three times a month. Except it’s obviously feminine voice telling me,”Go back to sleep” or, “Goodnight, baby” and, I can see her face and body.She’s draped in black clothing that seems wet. Skeleton hands but, a very soft, feminine, young face. Eyes like black holes. She’s always sitting on my chest. I like to refer to her as bitch. When she leaves me alone I go flying through infinity.”
“I actually have it fairly often, so much now that I realize when it’s occurring. These days I just close my eyes and won’t open them no matter what I feel or hear.
Doing this though doesn’t force me to wake up and I still have to wait for it to end. I still feel and hear everything. Sometimes I feel like I’m being dragged somewhere or just constantly feel like something is touching me along with muffled voices.
Before I learned to cope with it I’ve seen quite a few awful things. Horror films don’t really do anything for me anymore because I’ve already seen the most terrifying things I already could. Here’s a few things I remember off the top of my head:
- A little girl in the corner of my room staring at me. Then, without notice, she shrieks and runs up and starts choking me.
- A large dark figure, kind of a human silhouette, emerging from the foot of my bed and staring down at me…