Dark, shadowy figures enter a bedroom, standing – faceless, unmoving. They stare and they may mutter or laugh or speak. Occasionally, they approach, either slowly or with great speed. Then they’re on top of you, their hands tickling your forearms, the static electricity making your hair stand on end. It starts out almost playful, the way a lover might brush their skin against yours, but you know it’s not. There’s something darker at work.
Then, suddenly and without warning, what feels like a knee presses hard against your chest, pushing you deeper into the mattress. The silhouette puts his hands on your throat – possibly they’re gloved, maybe they’re bare – all you know is that they’re squeezing. And you try to struggle, but your arms and legs feel as though they’ve been strapped down. No, not strapped down. You’ve been injected and cement is drying in your veins. You have become immobilized as this man – this thing, this inhuman – squeezes harder. And maybe you glimpse a face, but it’s not like any you’ve seen before. It’s mangled or it’s missing key features – the things that make a human face just that: human. And you try in vain to move once more.
And then you wake up.
We’ve all heard the stories at this point. Statistics are hard to come by, but it’s been estimated that roughly 8 percent of the general population have or will experience sleep paralysis at one point in their lives. Science is still vague about the nature of the plague, though some theorize it may even be necessary to prevent us from acting out our dreams, causing potential harm. What little we know about the condition leads to some of the most terrifying stories you’ll hear. Here are just a few of the kinds of terrors one might experience.
16. “I had a cat-sized creature…”
If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’re familiar with the feeling of a feline crawling up your chest in the morning, waking you. Sometimes it gently extends its claws against your chest. Then it rubs its face against your chin and purrs. It’s a pleasant way to wake, most of the time.
Our first story comes anonymously from someone who had such an experience during paralysis, adorable factor zero.
“I had a cat-sized shadow creature on the base of my bed and it slowly crawled up to my sheets and finally up to my chest. I felt uncomfortable.”
Our anonymous contributor seemed to take the situation quite well, for if an unknown creature slowly began crawling closer and closer to my face while I was unable to move, “uncomfortable” would be the last word I’d use to describe my feelings.
15. J-Horror Comes Alive
In this modern age, our dreams are sometimes dictated or at least influenced by pop culture. This anonymous user’s story seems to come right out of a mid-2000s Japanese horror film.
The writer describes “a little girl in the corner of my room, staring at me. Then, without warning, she shrieks and runs up and starts choking me.”
The “girl” is a common sleep paralysis figure. Children, as the Japanese figured out, are generally creepy by themselves. Add a few disjointed movements, ink black hair and inappropriately timed shrieks, and they are the stuff of nightmares.
14. “Remember me?”
This contributor has become a victim of sleep paralysis so regularly that it seems more like an annoyance than anything else. They’re still terrifying, the writer says, however less than when they first began. Much like living in The Walking Dead, where ghouls and evil just become an everyday chore.
The first hallucination they experienced was a little creature on her floor, eating something. One would hazard a guess at just what the thing was consuming if one wanted to be driven to the brink of sanity. But like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story with food poisoning, within a single blink the creature was suddenly right against the victim’s face, chewing. “Remember me?” It whispered.
13. Age Before Beauty
Dreams often quickly turn to nightmares, and we’re still unsure why. Some claim that dreams are excess brain waste being ejected during periods of rest to make room for a new day. How they come out – be it like a Salvador Dali painting or a Monet, is anyone’s bet.
Our dreamer here was having a pleasant dream about a crush. Just a girl he liked very much. He slowly realized, like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, that all was too perfect. He was in a lucid dream. When he opened his eyes, his crush was still before him, but something was changing. She was aging rapidly, as though she’d chosen to drink from the wrong cup of Christ. The vivid, beautiful environment around her was also slowly turning black. She was past menopause, through her golden years, and approaching maggot stage. The woman continued to stand there and just…age at him.
12. Bubba Ho Tep’s Scarab Beetle
Don Coscarelli’s cult hit Bubba Ho Tep features Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and JFK (Ossie Davis) in quiet Texas retirement home battling a centuries old mummy. It features a prolonged, comical battle between Elvis and a large scarab beetle.
This victim had a similar experience, though bear in mind the word “paralysis” and it’ll become much less funny.
“There’s a gigantic Egyptian scarab beetle looking over me and telling me it can’t wait to eat my rotting flesh. It will go on to describe all the ways it will eat me…and then it turns into several hundred/thousand smaller versions of scarabs and buzz away into the cracks in the walls. The buzzing is very loud.”
11. The Old Hag
There are several common tropes that link all sleep paralysis victims. The shadowy figures, usually very tall, are even named Sleep Demons by those that meet them. This is the most common, however, there are variations.
Dopeaudio describes one such variation.
“Once I fell asleep on the couch watching some detective show. I woke up and sat up and I was completely out of my body. I kept trying to lay down back into my body and wake myself up. But I just stayed asleep.
I stood up and looked out of the back door, and it was completely dark. Then I went to the opposite side of the room and looked out of the front window, and it was bright and sunny and there was a little old lady sitting under a tree by the lake.
I spent the next 10 minutes laying down, then sitting back up trying to attach myself back to my body and shake myself awake. I thought if I didn’t get back in, my body would die and my soul would wander.”
10. Creature of Myth
ryan4708c4e1’s demon comes from the stuff of legend.
“I wake up and I’m in my bed. There is someone in the house. I can hear the footsteps moving around, coming up the stairs, slowly. If I stay still, maybe the person won’t come for me. I can hear him coming down the hall, and I can see his shadow: He’s a Minotaur.
He has a knife, and he’s coming for me. I scream. I wake up, relieved, except there’s someone at the bedroom door, and this time, I can’t scream.”
9. Kiss Me Deadly
Rarely do sleep paralysis victims get specific with their demons. They’re usually your stock giant silhouettes. But there are cases in which they are familiar with whatever evil is present.
Richard Prescott was with his boyfriend at the time, sleeping in a motel. After experiencing a nightmare, he turned to tell his lover of the incident but couldn’t get his attention, despite yelling loudly and violently shaking him.
Suddenly his boyfriend bolted upright turned and began strangling him until his eyes went blood red.
8. School Daze
It’s incredibly common for sleep paralysis to occur after long bouts of insomnia or oversleep (again, the science is still vague). Naturally, a lot of cases present during university years, when cramming for exams and writing papers can keep a student up for days, only to crash after they’re through. Sophiew46a577775b had such an experience.
“I awoke to see a very tall man standing by my door holding something behind his back and moving towards me very slowly. Once again I couldn’t move and couldn’t make a sound.”
7. When a Demon Attacks
Some demons just stand there, staring. Others laugh or say threatening or disgusting things. When they attack, however, fear takes on a whole new level.
LolaLola had a tall man standing in her room, the menace in the air growing thick. Then the man’s head twitched and he ran toward her, thrashing at her chest like a wild animal. He began pouncing on her chest, up and down, suffocating her. She closed her eyes and let it happen, still feeling the man’s clawed hands scratching her violently.
6. The Woman In Black, Minus Daniel Radcliffe
Another in a long line of nightmares inspired by pop culture. After a viewing of the mediocre horror/thriller Woman In Black, Samm4252df6dc “woke” with a heavy weight on his chest. From the corner of his eye, he could make out the shape of someone at the edge of his bed. The figure had a large hat, its face covered with a veil.
“It started to stamp its feet and scream at me as if to get me to look at it (I’m assuming so that I would die like in the film). I couldn’t move, I was laid on my back with my head to the side, and remember trying to move to pick up a glass to throw at the figure, but my arms wouldn’t work.
When I came round I burst into tears – one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had and I still to this day can’t sleep on my back.”
5. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…
When Emily Bergink noticed her window was open a crack. She got up to close it, then returned to the bed in her dorm room.
“It began with tactile hallucinations,” she would later say. What felt like a pair of clammy hands ran thick fingers across her face, her lips, her eyes, gently prodding around her mouth. Soon came those little pins and needles we so often describe while watching a horror film.
There was someone else in the room. Close.
She managed to force her eyes open to see a cat-like creature – hummanoid, but with claws. It was compact, squat. It sat on her chest, ever so slightly raising its pointed ears. It had pale, yellow eyes, but lacked pupils. It stayed with her until dawn.
4. Drinking and Murder
Psychologists have tried to link numerous disorders to sleep paralysis. Alcoholism is just one of the many that can potentially trigger it. An anonymous 35-year-old man who had struggled with the illness began describing the recurring nightmare to his doctor.
It began with a woman standing by his bed before attacking him. As the nights wore on, the woman got progressively more violent with him, choking him, describing the ways in which she would murder him.
Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare brought the issue of sleep paralysis to general public attention. One of the most terrifying things we learn in the excellent documentary is that, quite possibly, the condition can be transmitted to another merely by telling them about it. However, the stories in the film are far and away some of the scariest (and eerily dramatized) ever filmed.
One subject, Forest, dreamed of figures just outside his door that spoke to him in an old man voice. They would say horrid things such as, “Hey…Forrreeeeeesssst. You just won the giant insect of the month club. Insect of the month club. We’re sending your first prize up to your bedroom right now.”
2. The Elm Street Connection
As mentioned above, much of our dreamworld and fantasy world is comprised of the debris of pop culture. When the late Wes Craven was trying to come up with a film idea, he stumbled across an L.A. Times article about a boy from Cambodia who suffered horrible nightmares. This was the late 70s, early 80s, shortly after Americans left Cambodia with craters and Pol Pot was still committing genocide and forced slave labour on his people. The boy told his parents that if he went to bed one night, he would die.
Sure enough, the boy died in his sleep that night. His parents found a hidden pot of coffee under his bed, his sleeping pills untaken and left under the mattress. This became the basis for A Nightmare on Elm Street. Sleep paralysis victims felt at once a kinship with the film, feeling that someone else knew the hell they were experiencing nightly.
1. My Own Experience
I experienced sleep paralysis three times in my life, to memory. Like most people on this list have reported, I was unaware of the condition until it was given a name to the public in The Nightmare. The most frightening occurred three years ago, as I lay in bed. Earlier, I had felt some pressure on my chest, but attributed it to general exhaustion. The night crept on and I felt a presence. Whatever it was, I knew I didn’t want to see it, but I couldn’t move. So I closed my eyes (or I think I did), but still felt a shadow creeping over me.
When my eyes opened, I struggled to move, just get one glimpse at what was after me – perhaps to prove to myself that nothing was there. But my arms and legs were immobilized. Suddenly the blanket was thrown from the bed, leaving me exposed on what then felt like a metal slab. A fire broke out around me and I was surrounded by hooded, faceless figures. Their voices were deep, menacing, angry. One held in silhouette what looked like a knife and he was raising it. They began to chant. I was amidst some kind of ritual.
The one I deemed to be the leader began demanding I answer for specific sins and lies, though they were things I never did or said. I knew I had to shout yes, though I also thought no matter my answer, he would plunge the knife into my heart and cut upwards.
I awoke when the knife came down.
Good night, all!