One of the more common experiences that people have is hearing a voice or a loud noise just when they’re about to fall asleep. Those are the lucky ones. Others across multiple countries have reported what Hufford calls the Night Hag. These experiences include seeing, feeling, or hearing a presence when waking, and often feeling paralyzed or smothered. Are these experiences paranormal?
Hufford, a folklorist, was one of the first researchers to tackle this phenomenon. He discovered that people who had these terrifying experiences often knew nothing about myths of the Night Hag, Succubus, or other Paranormal Entities associated with these experiences. From his results, he brought forth the experiential source hypothesis, a claim that there are core genuine experiences associated with different types of paranormal phenomena.
Is there an explanation for this kind of night time attack? Yes, there is. Psychologists have studied hypnogogic episodes for several decades now. Believe it or not, in our early stages of sleep, we are capable of being both in awake and dream states. The result is that in severe cases, we can fully hallucinate visual auditory and touch sensations. Worse yet, we often don’t know were hallucinating! When added with sleep paralysis, a condition where the brain has not turned the part of our brain that allows us to voluntarily move, we end up with a night hag episode.
Psychological or not, many people have been terrified by these experiences. Researchers estimate that anywhere from 10 to 20% of the American population will have at least one hypnogogic experience. Sleep well.
Submitted by: Brian Laythe
Hufford, D. J. (1982). The terror that comes in the night. An experience-centered study of supernatural assault traditions. Philadelphia: University of Pennslyvania Press.