In your bad dreams


Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream… – The Everly Brothers

Next to nostalgia, sleep is my favorite drug. During these long winter nights there is nothing more appealing than the cozy warmth of my bed. Prying myself out of it on subzero mornings like today takes all the willpower I can muster.

I have mentioned before that during my college years I spent a great deal of time performing field research, and experiments in lucid dreaming. OK, they were called “naps” at the time, but “field research” sounds so much more important than “dozing for an hour before dinner”. Like a diver heading to the floor of the sea of sleep, a person passes through the lucid dream state of REM sleep on both the way down, and the way back up. My previous post was about the way down, but what happens on the way back up is even more startling.

Are you aware of “Sleep Paralysis”?

No, seriously. There is such a thing. What’s even more serious is that I have been experiencing it since I was a kid. When it first happened it scared the crap out of me. Lying in bed with my eyes seemingly open, the dark room was illuminated like a sepia toned photograph. I was looking at the wall, and I couldn’t move, but I was aware that I was waking up. That’s when I saw it.

It was a mechanical bug, about the size of a football. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and it was moving up the wall. It was metallic, and seemed to be made out of sharp angular pieces of steel. It had no eyes but its legs and antenna were moving as it climbed the bedroom wall. I tried to tell myself that I was dreaming, and that I should wake up, but I couldn’t. I tried to make the bug stop crawling on the wall by willing it, but despite my realization that it was a dream, I was unable to control the movements of the bug. On it climbed as I tried to scream and move. That is when I realized I was paralyzed. Then I panicked, and in panicking I woke up.

Since that time it has happened again periodically, usually after a long day with lots of physical activity. When it does I can now realize it for what it is. The fantastical creatures that I see are usually some sort of mechanical device, or object that seems at once both familiar and foreign. At other times though, the creatures that I see take the form of veiled, shadowy figures. These are the ones that cause me to wake in a cold sweat.

Over the years I have gotten better at recognizing these dreams for what they are, and have been successful in waking myself up. Only recently have I begun to try to stay in these lucid dream states. Try as I might though, I am unable to control these dreams the same way as I can control the ones that I have on my way down into sleep. These creatures and bugs always move of their own will despite my attempts to control them.

I have never mentioned any of this to anyone, because I always assumed it was some strange and unique mental illness that I suffered from. Lord knows I have enough other issues I don’t need to be freaking people out about this kind of stuff. In doing some light internet surfing recently, I came across a reference to “sleep paralysis” as being the cause of many “legends” surrounding witches, alien abduction stories, and succubus / incubus. All of these mythological creatures share the ability to paralyze a victim while they attack, or molest them. Researchers speculate that people who make alien abduction claims are actually experiencing sleep paralysis similar to what I have described above. The same goes for legends of witches, incubus, and succubus casting spells on people while they slept.

Reading the descriptions of sleep paralysis, I am certain that this is the explanation for the black & white dreams that I have where mechanical bugs and veiled figures move about my room. At least I hope it is, because the thought of real demons and bugs crawling around while I sleep would be enough to give me insomnia for the rest of my life.

So has anyone else ever experienced anything like this? I’m curious to hear.

12 thoughts on “In your bad dreams

  1. I did once. Nothing as cool as mechanical bugs, but I was napping in the afternoon and I woke up and saw a black figure standing at the end of my bed. I couldn’t move for a minute and then I screamed. My two dogs freaked out, I’m sure it was from my scream, but I’ve seen just enough horror movies to know that dogs can see ghosts.
    I couldn’t shake the freakiness of it though. And the next day at work I was telling a friend about it. She had stayed at my house the previous month and watched the dogs for me when I’d gone out of town. She got all weird when I told her about my dream experience, and told me that the same thing had happened to her when she was there. Maybe she was just messing with me. Maybe it was a coincidence. I don’t know.

    • From what I have read on the sleep paralysis sites, your experience sounds very typical. The black figures really freak me out, especially when they start climbing into the bed. The mechanical bugs, not so much. I guess I’m too into Steampunk to get worked up about them.

      The subconscious is an amazing thing.

      • You’ve been abducted and molested by aliens testing out new mechanical bugs, just accept this and move on.
        How do you think we ended up with a Roomba sucking up the scut on every floor in America. That was an invention spawned from the mind of an alien.
        The shadowy figures are angry ghosts.
        You need to throw all this proven science right out the window and start watching more Paranormal State and Extraterrestrial Encounters.

        • I’m still waiting to hear the story of your Hudson Valley UFO sighting in 1982. When are you going to blog about it? Or are you turning it into a script for UFO Hunters?

  2. I cover a unit on consiousness in the high school psych classes I teach, and we were just talking about sleep and dreams today. I always have a few students who talk about something similar to that. One told me she had heard of sleep paralysis being called “the witch’s finger.” Creepy. But it all comes together.

    Let me go into teacher mode on you here. During REM sleep, our bodies are functionally paralyzed (probably because if they were not, we would be acting out our dreams). If we wake as we’re coming out of REM, the paralysis lingers. REM is also the sleep stage when we experience vivid dreams, and most dreams have a negative tone. So if you wake during REM, you are likely to be coming out of a dream. Put those together, and you have mechanical bugs and veiled figures.

    Or it’s time to call Ghost Hunter.

    A great video to see is NOVA’s “What Are Dreams?” It’s available for instant streaming on Netflix.

    • Cool. Thanks Ms. Science!

      Kidding! I kid, I’m a kidder! This stuff really does fascinate me.

      Now if I could just figure out what these claw marks are on my arms, and neck, and why it feels like something is swimming around down inside my stomach…

  3. Tom, I know you probably follow some of the same folks I do but I KNOW I’ve read about someone else who had this. I have vivid dreams but not where I’m paralyzed. Voices, touching, and seeing…. I have to look through my people and I’ll get back with you. I’m sure you both will have something to talk about.

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