Have You Been Held Down and Menaced By Demons?

by Bonnie

Once in a while, right as I wake up, my body feels paralyzed for a few moments, and I experience an overwhelming sensation of being in the presence of evil. Sometimes I feel a demon holding me down. Or say, several vicious demons who intend to do unspeakable things to me.

When I asked about ghosts yesterday, this very same phenomena was brought up by several commenters. MollyculeTheory wrote:

This happened to me once, and there was a part of my mind that was thinking “hmm, I drank Theraflu earlier, did I take anything that would be contraindicated and might make me temporarily paralyzed?” and the rest of my brain was like “NO NO DEMONGHOST OMGGGGGG.” The brain is weird!

Exactly. Demon is not a word I ever use in earnest when I’m awake. I’m not at all religious, and (Edith, vouch for me?) not even that creepy of a person.

From another commenter, Jana:

The thing about being held down.. yikes. I read a LOT about sleep paralysis but the idea is still terrifying. One of the accounts I’d read said how they’d wake up, and feel the corner of their bed sink as though someone had sat on it, and they’d feel that weight move over them. It’s all very scientific!! Your mind is awake but your body’s asleep, and there’s a center in your brain that causes the weight to be felt and even the idea of a negative entity in the room. All in the brain. But still. Yikes.

I read about the science behind this whenever I find some. Predictably, some researchers feel that the amygdala, or lizard brain, is to blame. Apparently that is the part of our brain that is responsible for feeling “mortal fear.” And perhaps the rise in blood pressure that occurs upon waking can overstimulate our ancient, terrified reptilian self, which also triggers auditory and visual hallucinations.

Hypnopompic hallucination, that feeling of evil, specifically of being menaced by demons, is not uncommon. I’ve read that researchers are able to stimulate the area of the brain active in the moments between sleep and wakefulness, and induce in their subjects that same horrible dread. But is that really less scary? Your bedroom isn’t haunted, just your brain! You are haunted.

The Sleep Paralysis Wikipedia page is like a horror novel, a complete demonology, to be illustrated by Edward Gorey. Various cultures identify the heavy, pressing, malevolent presence variously as an Old Hag, a goblin, and in more intense moments of menace, an incubus or succubus. Turks know the sleep visitor as The Dark Presser. In Korea, the feeling is known as “being pressed down by a scissor.” In Japanese, kanashibari translates roughly as “to be bound down in metal”. In New Guinea’s dark fairy tale of an explanation, trees come at night to feed on human souls. Some of us have simply woken up during a feeding.

If you understand the science behind this better than I do, please tell us. Or for more information, watch this trailer for The Entity (1982), starring Barbara Hershey.

Supposedly based partially on a true story, a woman is tormented and sexually molested by an invisible demon.