Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Have You Been Held Down and Menaced By Demons?

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.

55 Comments / Post A Comment


This happened to me ONCE and only after I spent the night at a friend's apt. She said she thought her apt was haunted but only after it was too late for me to leave (what a bitch! we no longer speak). Anyway, it was in my dorm and I woke up in the middle of the night and my head was off of the pillow but I couldn't move it or my body. I felt a distinct pressure on my chest. I looked at my roommate and tried to squeal out CINDY! to wake her up but I couldn't utter a peep. It lasted about 30 seconds then I fell back asleep. It better not happen again, esp. since I am writing about it and acknowledging it and fully respecting IT.


I quite often wake up in the middle of the night shivering and shaking (and not in a fun way, STC) but I have never woken up feeling something is pressing down on me.

I also, except for three times in my life (and two were at the same place) have never felt in the least bit that anything was haunted.


And omg, Edith has a blog! But it looks dead.

Edith Zimmerman

Ha, I asked her to take out that part. Sorry/thank you, Bonnie!


I always just have horrible hypnic jerks when falling asleep (because AAAAAAH FALLLLING feeling), and it's really annoying, and occasionally I hit things or people.


Yeah, I usually utter a terrified yelp simultaneously. Not a fan, but not as bad as waking up crying. Slumber party, anyone?

Vera Knoop

For me, it's always stepping stones. I'm walking from one to another and then I slip.


Oh also my one friend who has experienced and therefore explained this sensation to me is convinced it's aliens, not ghosts. Thoughts?


Maybe both. Working together as a team.


I haven't seen it, but there's a movie called The Fourth Kind that discusses this as an explanation for abductions?? I only know about it because Milla Jovovich is in it and MILLA JOVOVICH <3!!


I totally have sleep paralysis. I had the most episodes as a kid and teenager. The first time it happened I thought it was aliens, then after a few more episodes demons. I'm going to blame (not for the disease, but for the specific hallucinations) Geraldo Rivera. That summer I was staying with my dad who lived in the middle of nowhere and worked all day. My sister and I would just watch way too much day time TV, and he had lots of shows about that kind of scary crap. It hardly happens anymore, and usually isn't accompanied by hallucinations. My dog could always tell, she would come up and sniff my face every time. My doctors never seemed concerned at all.

vivian darkbloom

AAAHHHH I had this happen to me like twice. Well, kind of. I didn't have the demon thing, but I woke up, my eyes were open, my mind was thinking, but I couldn't move my body or talk. I tried to hit my boyfriend so he could wake me up or shake me or something and I couldn't move my arm. I started to panic, but I couldn't move! Or talk! Seriously the scariest shit ever. I also dated a guy convinced his bedroom was haunted. He always talked about the ghost pushing down on his chest until I made him read about sleep paralysis and convinced him that was the issue. This shit is seriously traumatizing though!

Tom Blunt

Bonnie are you ok? Between the sleep paralysis and the ghosts (separate, but definitely related!) and the tiny man fetish, I'm starting to wonder.

Also wondering if you can please start vlogging these posts so we can hear you shrieking and laughing.


Also, what about that picture!!!!!

Bonnie Downing

If I vlog you'll just see me staring stonefaced into your eyes, unblinking. Then when it fades to black, an evil cackle.

Bonnie Downing

I'm fine, thanks. Just...I need that little man to stand watch at night and fight the demons.


Yes this definitely happens from time to time. I think I've even heard voices. Also, the past couple of times I feel like I've been aware that it's sleep paralysis and you'd think that means your awake enough to sit up or stop it. But it's not...


I've heard voices too! Once, while living in the creapiest scariest apartment that I have ever lived in, I felt that heavy pressure, the sheets pulling down off of me towards my feet, and the sound of a child whimpering and crying outside my bedroom door. Another time, I felt the same things, but something screamed "GOD!!" into my right ear! Also, a black (like abscence of color) crouching figure at the foot of my bed has sometimes accompanied the sleep paralysis. Also, more mundane things like robberies and such.

Hot Doom

Oh muh gaaaaaahd, yes! I have also gotten the paralysis feeling after waking up, but usually it turns out that I just have to pee and when I tell myself this, it breaks the demons' curse. BUT! One time I did wake up with the paralysis/ohshitI'mtooscaredtomoveanyway feeling, felt pressure at the end of the bed and said "Balcky, go pee you're losing your mind..AGAIN" but when I got moving, the pressure kept happening and when it lifted, I looked to the end of my bed and saw a ghost lady standing at the foot of the bed til she drifted off and disappeared. After that, there was no way in hell I could go back to sleep after that. Paralysis problem solved….? unfun.


When I have to pee, I just dream that I am peeing. Like, I'll be at a department store and all of a sudden there is a toilet right there in the coat department! How fortunate, because I kind of have to go! And so I pee right there in the middle of the store. Then I get embarrassed because there are people walking around me.

Also lola, your ghost story makes me scurrred.

Hot Doom

Don't be scurred, gurl. I was at a hotel when ghost lady gave me the what's what, and then the next day, the front desk asked if we saw anything weird because other guests in that room had also had similar experiences. I'm more creeped out by the crouching figure by your bed! I still get the paralysis every now and then, but it's the usual pee-urge. As an aside though, my cat keeps sitting on the tv remote and each time it registers as "666". Maybe she's the demon!


Aah! The last part of my phone number at the creepiest scariest apartment was 666!


And the idea that it is my brain acting slightly haywire is more comforting than demons/ghosts/insanity. I also remembering reading a while back (in the atlantic maybe?) about how when scientists stimulate a certain part of the brain, subjects feel like they are in the presence of god.


Our whole world is just our brain processing a bunch of stuff, right? So I'm positive that despite all this science, "waking" up to this stuff? AHHH. This is such fun! (HEY remember the Who lizardmen episode!?!? It wasn't very good!)

Bonnie Downing

Jana! I used you as a source, ha.


I have the paralysis but even worse I also have these episodes where I'm TRAPPED inside the sleep, like I know I'm asleep and I want to wake up but can't open my eyes or sometimes I do but barely and it's intertwined in the dream. The DREAM! Yeah, that's even better. I'm not just trapped inside the sleep, then I dream that I do wake up and see there has been a ghost around, i.e. candles are lit, windows are open, etc. etc.
But do you really think it's inside our brain or the demons just know how to be detectable by some and invisible to others?!?!


I used to have sleep paralysis and hypnopompic hallucination every night for two yeas, sometimes multiple times during the night. Although the shapes of my hallucinations were different, the terrors always began with waking up, being totally aware of my surroundings, but being utterly paralyzed. When I tried to yell, either nothing would come out or profanities would spill out in a voice other than my own.

It's been years since I got my last one, but I still can't watch any horror films. It still hits too close to home.


AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! Two years?!?! Whenever I try to yell, I can't initially, but then my voice comes out as mwoooaaaar, like a tiny, little baby lion roar...That's when I wake up.


Mwoooaaarr! Haha! You make menacing nightmarish incidents sound so cuuute :3c


Ohhh that sense of someone sitting on the bed has definitely happened to me a few times, and when i was younger it was once accompanied by the sound of giggling. i just got chills thinking about it again!


Whenever I am being menaced by demons I call my 2 sisters and we conjure up the power of 3 and vanquish them.


Oh god I watched so much Charmed in college ))):


I wonder if I'm the only one who's experienced it like this, but I used to experience sleep paralysis fairly frequently (2-5 times a month) in junior high and high school. I never felt any evil presence but I would be paralyzed to the extent that I could not draw breath, and would have to fight for what felt like an eternity to move a toe or a finger before my body would 'wake up' and my lungs could move.


That's how I always experienced it; fighting to move something to release it and breathe. However, I also feel like someone has entered the room that wants to hurt me, but that someone is never physically on me, they just get very close to me and I know they are about to hurt me.
It happened most around the same time for me. Often several times in a row.


OKAY so, this has happened to me a few times, but I'll be having a dream within my dream that I'm being choked by someone, only to "wake up" from that dream-in-a-dream to discover someone is actually choking me– and it's always a wild lady on top of me just choking the craaaap out of me, really going for it. She reminds me a bit of Mrs. Rochester, to be honest. (I have Jane Eyre nightmares! Be jealous!) Eventually I really wake up, rocked with adrenaline and fear and relief that she's not real, but feeling very much like I was just nearly suffocated. Sleep! It's an adventure!


I experienced sleep paralysis on and off during college, and it was never accompanied by hallucinations, only paralysis. The first time it happened I did think I was dead or dying, but I think that was due to panic, not hallucination. Some people do experience only paralysis. After I researched it, it was more annoying than frightening.


My people!


Yay I am going to put "used as a scientific source for the existence of sleepdemons in a Hairpin post" on my CV!


Sleep paralysis is actually a kind of self preservation mechanism. During REM sleep your brain activity is similar to what it would be if you were awake. Physicians and sleep technicians hypothesize that the brain naturally and purposely prevents motor activity during REM sleep to ensure restful, inactive sleep during the most electrically active stage of sleep.
There is actually a disorder called 'Rapid eye movement behavior disorder' where people do not become paralyzed and physically act out their dreams.

Hero of the Beach

Yeah, I always think of sleep paralysis as a kind of software glitch. I don't know if that makes it less creepy or more.

Also, I imagine most here have heard it, since it was his breakthrough story and was on This American Life, etc., etc., but Mike Birbiglia's sleepwalking stories (he has that REM behavior disorder) are outstanding and worth listening to.


This is actually very common. It means you're not doing enough sex with Kneetoe. And so by common I mean COMMON.


i have been undergoing sleep paralysis off and on for over 3 years now, it's extremely frightening. a few times, at my boyfriends old house, i swore a dark figure would lay next to me, i could not breathe or move, it's the most frantic feeling in the entire world. sometimes i think i am dying, my brain gets tingly and my body gets super heavy and of course i cannot move. my doctor friend tells me it's stressed induced and told me not to watch tv late night before bed time. so far so good.


I used to get night terrors that Freddy Krueger was in my room, offering me a chance to live with him in the world of dreams. He could look however he wanted (say, like Corey Haim, who I liked at the time), and we would rule the land of nightmares, scaring kids to death.

This was before I saw any of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I still think I should have taken him up on the offer.


None of this is worse than proctalgia fugax. That there is a demon IN YOUR ASS.


This happens to me every other month or so. If I'm lucky, it happens more than once in the same night. Wheeeee! Usually I feel someone sit on my bed, and then they lean in and whisper my name in my ear. So my brain is haunting me with....me? Great choice, brain. Thanks.


This used to happen to me all the time from when I was a child of about 7 until I was about 18. It still does happen (I'm 21) but rarely.
I always feel totally stuck, but I know if I can just move a finger I'll be able to move again. I also cannot breathe when it is happening which is the worst part. It also usually happens a few times in a row if I don't get up and get myself out of it.
I usually feel like someone is in the room and approaching me, but I try to be as rational as possible and convince myself they aren't!
I found out what it was when I was about 15 and felt so. much. relief!

gabba gabba hey

I had night terrors as a little kid, which is another sort of awful unending dream sitch, but probably unrelated.

My one brush with sleep paralysis happened in my freshman dorm room, waking up, I think, from a nap (damn you nap dreams!). I have really crappy eyes, so when I wake up things don't quite make sense anyway, but I woke up, and opened my eyes, and for what felt like 15 minutes (but was probably about 5) was pinned to my bed in abject terror of what I imagined to be a giant baby head staring at me from my ceiling. It wasn't pressing down on me, but I was just too afraid to move, somehow. Eventually, I realized that what I imagined to be the giant evil baby was just the room's round light fixture, the terror slipped away, but that's probably the closest to complete insane fear that I've felt since I was little.

My favorite sleep paralysis story, though, is from that late night Coast to Coast show. A trucker was napping in his little trucker berth in the cab, and woke up, and felt like a ghostly lady was sitting on him and caressing him in some inappropriate ways. He has returned to the same truck stop, he said, but never to encounter his ghost lover again.

amy wins again

I have a sort of sleep paralysis like this, with the feeling of pressure, rather often, but for me it isn't malevolent for whatever reason. Instead, I frequently feel as if, in the state between dreaming and waking up, a cat is walking on my back. Whenever I wake up fully, I'm always disappointed that my cat still actually lives on the opposite coast, with my parents.


This used to happen to me all the time in my 20s, and still happens from time to time. Looking back, I think it was a function of stress and poor sleep habits. It's the most horrible feeling in the world--can't scream, can't move. Not only did I feel someone was on top of me, I could hear someone laughing in my ear.

Redd Delicious

Ugh, sockiboos, I have that too, it's the worst! All I want to do is wake up, and if I can just move enough, or alert somebody, then I'll be able to. Of course, I can't move, and when I try to say something or scream, the most that comes out is a sad little whimper. Sometimes I even manage to open my eyes briefly before getting drawn back into being asleep/trapped.


That used to happen to me all the time at my old apartment, I would be half-asleep and think that something big and black was hovering on the ceiling, or hanging in front of my face. I frequently woke myself up screaming. I think I was seeing the ceiling fan, but it sure as hell felt like aliens, or ghosts.

Jeff Flip Fralich@facebook

This happened to me a couple of times in my childhood home in Duluth, Mn (Of which my parents still live in to this day). The most VIVID of which was when I was 17, a strapping high school senior playing varsity baseball :) I was in the basement lifting weights and went to bed up to go to sleep at 3:00am. I was laying on my side and at 3:33am still trying to go to sleep and from the corner of my waterbed (I know....who has a waterbed anymore? lol) a weight pushed the pressure up so it waved and then from my tips of my toes all the way up to my back of my shoulder went "TINGLY" and I was not able to move as I was forced down into the waterbed.....the scariest part was I couldn't yell for help to my parents in the next room... It felt like I was helpless forever, but it couldn't have been more than 30 seconds and then it was GONE! (All that was 3 small scratches in my shoulder which were gone by the next day)...I freaked out and ran into my parents room going ape-shit and they didn't believe a word I said. My older sister had similar experiences and she believed me so that was good enough for me :) Its nice, but FREAKY that there are sooooo many people that have had this happen to them. Just a side-note, my sister looked into the history of our childhood home and there are many reasons why it MIGHT be haunted, which lead me to believe it was ALMOST certainly haunted...until I just recently went home to MN to see my family from Miami, FL and as I left my sister took a picture of me standing outside in our entryway of our home with my arms around my mom and dad. I didn't really think anything of it and we went back to my bro-in-law/sisters house in Hermantown and were looking at the photos on the computer and in THAT photo you can clearly see an old woman standing in my old childhood bedroom window with a man & a little boy.......yikes! For those of you that think I am bullshitting, I am not, and for those of you who believe me, I am sure you have had something similar happen to you and you accepted it....shit it still traumatizing though :)~ lol OK, said my peace...BE WELL!



I've been trying to make sense of some things that have been happening to me and having a hard time finding a place to get information. I've been woken up at 2:49 AM by strange things happening. One night a very heavy plant of mine flew off the stand and spilled onto the ground, my dog was so freaked out he sat on top of me. Last night at 2:49 AM I was woken up by one very loud high pitched single beep that sounded like a fire alarm. Once I was fully awake It was gone and again my dog ran out of my room and wouldn't go back in. I have two dogs, but the same one is the one that keeps getting freaked out. Also, on multiple occasions I have woken up out of a dead sleep gasping for air or choking. And one night I had a nightmare that something was pulling me off of the end of my bed, I felt like I was fighting to wake up and when I finally did my legs were hanging off of the end of my bed. I was really freaked out. Has anyone heard of this stuff happening to anyone else and if so, the significance of it?

Erinn Migliara@facebook

This is very serious and i know exactly what is happening to you. I have experienced the same situations. i want to talk to you because i can help and this will stop. my only intention is to show you how and why this occurs..then i will give you the tools to stop this forever. i never give my # out but i feel it is urgent you call me. please 949-527-8449

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