Monday, October 12, 2009

Of nightmares, ghosts, UFOs, and pythons

Over on the CFZ blog, Neil Arnold has an interesting post on some sort of ophidian nightmare. The story's pretty neat, and not altogether unlike the experiences that take place in a hypnagogic or hypnapompic state with the crushing sensations. Sure, there are differences (for instance, Neil reports the ability to move) and I find it very interesting that while Neil's girlfriend didn't see the apparition, she experienced the same phenomenon.

In the past, I've done a lot of thinking on these hallucinatory states and how they may account for a lot of the stranger creature sightings out there. For those who aren't familiar with the terms, they refer to a type of hallucination that is sometimes experienced either when falling asleep (hypnagogic) or immediately upon waking (hypnapompic). These nearly always occur in conjunction with sleep paralysis, where a person's mind and body don't "sync up" in their states of wakefulness which results in an inability of the muscles to move although the surroundings can be perceived normally. This state of neither sleep nor wakefulness results in imagery from dreams being seen in normal surroundings. Through means not necessarily explained, the hallucinations can occur in conjunction with sensory phenomena, such as a feeling of being pricked by needles. Obviously, some researchers have connected this phenomena with many of the ghost sightings and UFO abduction stories out there.

I myself have had experiences at least twice with similar states. Once, in about 1995, I awoke quite late at night to find myself unable to move, with a black silhouette of a man, his arms held rigidly at his sides, standing in a corner of my bedroom. After a few moments, he vanished. On another occasion, as I lay waking up, I distinctly felt someone sit on my bed and place their arms on my shoulders.

This phenomena, I can vouch, is indeed very disturbing and frightening.

These states aren't fully understood. Personally, I would not at all doubt there could be variants of the phenomena where the individual is fully mobile. Likewise, given the physical sensations sometimes associated with the hallucinations, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that through some psychosomatic mechanism the marks associated could manifest on the body.

Perhaps these hallucinatory states don't even necessarily occur with sleep, perhaps it's possible to have them during waking hours, as well. To bring this to a more Fortean context, perhaps through some unknown mechanism the hallucinations can manifest physically and lead others to have experiences with an image ripped from someone else's dream.

Who knows?

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post! I have to admit that I've had this happen many times, most often with a large gray face up against my face--only inches away, studying me. I wake up after being paralyzed to scream and thrash, my heart beating frantically. It's truly horrifying. As a ghost hunter, I automatically dismiss any sightings that occur while napping or in bed. There's just not way to tell truly if someone was awake or, as you stated, in a state of falling asleep or waking up which is an iffy alpha state. The part of the brain that paralyzes you for dream state sometimes wakes up in a way causing you to sleep walk or thrash wildly and as well you can move from dream state and still be in the paralytic state and that can be horrifying. The worst ones are when you open your eyes and see something that is not there--like I usually see thousands of giant spiders on my ceiling. As soon as something lucid in me says it can't be real, I truly wake up. What intrigues me is accessing that part of your mind when you're fully awake and functioning. It certainly can happen. Does that mean we can hallucinate? Sure. We see that in schizoaffective disorders. We see involuntary movement in people with Parkinson's. The brain has so many variations. In fact, the part of your mind that holds the god concept is a part that makes you feel as if someone is with you, over your shoulder. When my son had meningitis as a teen, he thought he was losing his mind because he was feeling like someone was over his right shoulder and he backed himself up against the wall and said he heard whispering. He thought he was insane. He was getting over the flu and had been not sleeping or eating and going to school, work, and out with friends nonstop without any rest. I took his temperature and it was 105 and his head was killing him, his neck was stiff. I was like "we need to get you to the hospital" (luckily I work in healthcare and knew the signs). He fell into a seizure right away and when he recovered in the hospital and woke up from the antiseizure medicines, he had absolutely no symptoms of it anymore, but he never forgot how real that felt. That's the power of the mind. Great post. Keep them coming!