Sleep paralysis, if you’ve experienced it, can be terrifying. I had it once years ago, something that I’ll come back to shortly. As for what the cause is: it’s provoked by the human mind or by an external phenomenon of the paranormal kind. For the down to earth explanation, here’s a good description from WebMD: “Sleep researchers conclude that, in most cases, sleep paralysis is simply a sign that your body is not moving smoothly through the stages of sleep. Rarely is sleep paralysis linked to deep underlying psychiatric problems. Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an ‘evil’ presence: unseen night demons in ancient times, the old hag in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and alien abductors. Almost every culture throughout history has had stories of shadowy evil creatures that terrify helpless humans at night. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the accompanying feelings of terror.” Then, there’s the paranormal angle.
The reason why I think there is more to this than just the brain playing “tricks” is simple: so many people see the very same things. If it was all down to the mind, I would say that, yes, we’re talking about something wholly internal. However, the fact that people all around the world see identical phenomena makes me think there’s far more going on. For example, there’s the “Hat Man.” It’s an entity that pops up time and time again. Sometimes it appears in the form of a shadow. On other occasions, it looks just like us. There’s just one difference: the Hat Man – as its title suggests – wears a hat. Always. And it’s almost always of the Fedora type. I’ve written about the Hat Man in a number of my books and I’ve receivedt a lot of feedback in relation to the phenomenon. People who have had no preexisting knowledge of the Hat Man have seen it while in a state of sleep paralysis. The same goes for the “Old Hag.”
In an excellent article for NUVO magazine, Allie Turner says of the Old Hag: “She is described as a witch-like, wrinkled, and withered old woman with long hair. She can appear in doorways, be next to the bed, or even crawl on top of people and sit on them or pin them down. The legend is so pervasive that locals have turned to using her name as a verb to describe their experience: ‘I was hagged last night,’ ‘the hagging happened two nights ago,’ or ‘I got hag-ridden.'” Haylee Freake says at The Muse: “Most Newfoundlanders are very familiar with this terrifying phenomena. Whether they’ve experienced it themselves or they’ve heard the tale from a friend, the Old Hag is a common supernatural experience.” This is an important point, as it may explain why more people see the Old Hag in Newfoundland than elsewhere. But, I still think there’s something else going on.
Now, let’s take a look at the werewolf angle. I once experienced something that fits the sleep paralysis phenomenon. One night in August 2002, after my ex-wife and I had gone to bed, I had an extremely curious encounter. It was around 4.00 a.m. and I was awake and yet not awake. And I couldn’t move. I was suddenly aware that something was slowly heading down the corridor of my duplex that linked the bedroom to the living room. That something was a humanoid figure with the head of a wolf. It was attired in a long, flowing black cape. It emitted strange and rapid growling noises that seemed to be an unintelligible language. And the creature, whatever its origin was, seemed mightily pissed off about something. As it closed in on the room, I made a supreme effort to move my rigid, paralyzed form and finally succeeded, just as the beast entered the bedroom. In an instant it was gone and I was wide-awake.
I’ve mentioned this werewolf angle to sleep paralysis on a number of occasions. And, it’s clear that it is everywhere. Here’s one example of many: In Monsters Among Us, author Linda Godfrey tells the story of a man named Paul who, in October 2012, shared with her an intriguing story. Paul states that at the time he was 21 and, one week before his traumatic encounter, he read Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby novel. That Paul thought it relevant to even raise that issue is interesting. According to Paul, he was asleep in the front bedroom of his girlfriend’s house when he quickly woke up – to a smoke-like odor. In an instant, Paul saw at the foot of the bed what he described as a Dogman. He added: “It was very dark in color, like a German shepherd without the saddle colors but more black, and the presentiment of its intellect was very scary.” That was very much like my experience. And here’s one more example:
Imagine the scene: it’s 1972 and two young boys, playing in their back-garden in the old northern England town of Hexham, unearth a pair of creepy-looking stone heads. Believed by some to have ancient Celtic origins, the heads seemingly provoke a wide and unsettling range of paranormal phenomena, including the manifestation of a bizarre beast in the area. Then, when an expert in Celtic history gets involved in the saga, a monstrous werewolf-like creature materializes in her home in the dead of night. Over time, the heads provoke yet more mystery and mayhem, finally vanishing under strange circumstances, but never forgotten by those obsessed with, and intrigued by, such terrible things. This is the saga of what have become known as “The Hexham Heads.” Yet another example of a werewolf-like thing appearing in the early hours of the morning. That there are certain, specific archetypes (werewolves, the old hag, and the Hat-Man) that seem to attach themselves to us makes me conclude this phenomenon is not of the mind.