When I was younger, my family and I moved to an old Wisconsin home. Since I was the only girl, I got a room of my own. I remember it was a hot summer night and I was very thirsty so I got up to go get a drink of water. I came back to my bed and I started to fall back to sleep again. Tiredly, I looked at the clock and the clock read 3:00 a.m. All of a sudden the my bedroom door opened slowly by itself. I noticed that there was a black figure walking into my room. Next thing I knew, the black figure jumped on top of me and held me down. I started to breath heavy and I tried to move my legs and arms but I couldn't. I screamed for my mother and father to help me. I screamed so loud that I swore I could have woken up my whole family but no one came to help me. I started to cry. I felt the black figure breathing on me. It then smiled and I saw its teeth. They were pointy and sharp. The black figure started to move its face closer to mine. It opened its mouth wide and it was trying to eat me. All of sudden, I remembered my mother telling me that if I ever experienced anything scary in my life I should pray to God and ask God to help me. So I prayed. I remember praying "Heavenly father, oh lord almighty, please give me strength to defeat this demon lord. Help me God. In the name of your holy son, Jesus Christ, Amen." After saying the prayer in my head, the black figure jumped off and disappeared. I gain control of my body again and I got up and ran to my parents room.
I told my parents what happened that night. I asked them if they heard me screaming for help and they both said that they didn't hear anything. They explained to me that it was nothing to be scared about. They told me that I was only dreaming and that I experienced sleep paralysis which is a strange experience of being unable to move just after falling asleep or right before waking up. I finally convinced myself that I was only dreaming and that I should let it go. The strange thing is that a few months later, my brothers and I decided to trade rooms. On the first night of sleeping in my old room, both of my brother experienced the same exact phenomenon. I then thought to myself that it couldn't have been sleep paralysis if more than two people saw the same thing. Was it a ghostly encounter? Or was it sleep paralysis?
Newfoundland legend has it that an old hag visits us when we sleep at night. The hag sits on top of the sleeping person to draw out their energy life force. The picture above ,The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, is the artist's interpretation of what an old hag might look like.
Sleep paralysis has existed in the history of mankind for centuries. Throughout history, there have been reports of people who have awakened to a paralysis sensation throughout the whole body and having a sense of weight upon them. People who have experienced this phenomena also describe the event as being in fear even after the paralysis of the body has faded. There are cultural difference on how people interpret sleep paralysis.
In Thailand, people believe that sleep paralysis is caused by ghost. Thailand people refer to being Phi um (ghost covered) and phi kau (ghost possessed), and these experiences include a feeling of pressure, paralysis, and something black covering the body. In the Hmong culture, we also interpret sleep paralysis as a ghostly encounter. Mag tsuam (Mhah Chu-ah) is the word that we use to name this phenomenon. The direct translation of the Hmong word Mag tsuam to English is to be suffocated. Usually when we tell ghost stories in our culture they are often associated to symptoms of sleep paralysis. When it comes to telling ghost stories, most of the stories are quiet similar, they occur while their asleep, waking up, or falling asleep.
According to Susan Blackmore (2004), the latest sleep paralysis myth may be alien abduction.
The physiological explanation of sleep paralysis is that as a person wakes up from the deeper sleep cycle, specific hormone will take a few moments to wear off and release the muscles tension of the arms and legs, which causing a brief period where the paralysis of the limbs still lingers. In general, it only takes a few seconds for this to period fade, but even this brief period can cause fear and panic in many people. Being scared or being dreadful accompanies this sensation. One of the major reason that give rise to sleep paralysis is extreme stress in one's life.
Logically, I would say that I experienced sleep paralysis that night, but the fact that both of my brothers experienced the ghostly encounter makes me think otherwise. So could it have been a ghostly encounter or sleep paralysis? The answer to that question may still be unknown.