Open Your Eyes: A Chilling Tale of Sleep Paralysis

It was late.  We were hanging out in the basement of my family home, the usual dark and private place for teenagers to dwell.  My then boyfriend and I were squished into one lay-z-boy chair watching a movie, which was the norm when you worked at a video store and got all the new ones free.

photo courtesy

I must’ve fallen asleep.  I don’t remember what I was doing before…lights.  Round, amber flashes before my eyes and the startling cry of a lost child.  Someone or something was pushing down on me, pressing the air from my lungs and I couldn’t move to stop it.  I had lost all control of my body.  I thought I was shaking, but I couldn’t make my arms push the monster on top of me away.  I couldn’t even open my eyes.  Only darkness.  And the increasing panic that I was being punished, or worse killed.  Open your eyes!  I commanded.  Open your eyes!  

When I woke from the blackness I sobbed audibly.  It was only a minute or two, but it felt like a full nightmare.  My boyfriend was holding my arms, terrified.  What just happened?  I thought you were having a seizure!  What’s wrong?!  I didn’t know what to say, or what happened, only how I felt.  No matter how I tried, I couldn’t move.  Was it a sign?  Was something after me?  Had I gone too far into the paranormal world and now one of them was after me?  I couldn’t say anything.  Who would believe me anyway?

Several weeks earlier, my family celebrated Christmas and both my sister and I received Sylvia Browne’s Book of Dreams.  Browne, a world renowned psychic, was an author my sister had turned me onto, and we’d been reading several of her books about the afterlife, haunted locations, and totem spirits.  I’d been slowly making my way through this book, which was more an educational book than a paranormal or spiritual read like her others.  The Book of Dreams dealt with archetypes and dream symbology, common images that represent the changes or people in our lives.  You know, like how we all have dreams about flying or falling or showing up naked to class.

A week after my scary episode, I was in the living room, stretched out on the couch reading through my Book of Dreams.  On sleep disorders, actually.  I bolted upright.  Sleep paralysis.  A condition where your state of sleep is interrupted and your conscious mind “awakes” before your body does.  Seriously, check out WebMD.  The symptoms include feeling an evil presence, stiffness of the body, flashing lights, loud noises, hallucinations, a weight upon one’s chest, and/or a sense of choking.

So I’m not crazy after all.  Or possessed, which was quite a relief.  And sleep paralysis is not a chronic condition, it’s rather rare.  It only happens if your body goes in and out of a state of sleep and consciousness too quickly.  I’ve never experienced it since, thankfully.  What I do find odd is the fact that I read about my experience one week after going through it.  Was I meant to get that book to help me understand what happened?  Was someone watching over me?  Or am I just really that superstitious and gullible?  Something tells me I wouldn’t be asking these questions if I just dreamed about showing up naked to school.

Have you ever heard of experienced sleep paralysis?  What do you think about it being a medical physical condition that attaches negative emotions to its occurrence?  It has a paranormal ring to it, don’t you think?  Sweet dreams, my ghoulies.

21 responses

  1. I’ve had my share of sleep paralysis incidents, and they never fail to terrify me!

    1. You’ve had it multiple times! *shudder* I’ve read they are very rare, and I’ve never had it again. I never want to either. I hope you don’t have to experience them ever again!

  2. Something not quite as bad as that happens to me a couple of times a year. I am asleep and then sort of wake up but I can’t move. I actually have to grunt or try to make a noise in order to wake myself up. And it always works. I wake myself up and all is well. But at the time I am literally paralyzed and cannot move and I’m half awake and it’s scary.

    1. I totally understand that. It is really freaky. And when you’re just waking up as it is, you don’t have the ability to rationalize what’s happening. At least for me it’s like…INSTANT PANIC! This is why I’m the one who always talks everybody into walking into the haunted house, and once we’re inside, I’m the one hiding in the middle, quiet as a mouse, and not attracting attention to myself. But I know they can smell my fear! OOOOOOoh, it’s so scary and awesome all at once!

  3. I don’t know if I have ever experienced this phenomenon, but I think my hubby has. He concurs that it IS terrifying. Good post for the Halloween Holidays, Jess. 😉

  4. I have experienced waking up and not being able to move for a couple of minutes, but nothing this terrifying. However, one night I was just falling asleep when it felt like someone urgently said “Ryan!” into my ear. I bolted awake terrified, no one was there but I distinctly remember the voice and a feel of someone’s breath on my ear. Needless to say I didn’t sleep well the rest of that night.

    1. I wonder what they were trying to tell you. Somebody clearly wanted your attention.

  5. I have experienced sleep paralysis on and off throughout my life. It’s terrifying. I don’t sleep very soundly, so I’m awake on and off all night. I guess it makes sense that a few of those times my mind wakes up faster than my body. Thanks for the explanation. I knew what I was experiencing, but I never understood why. 😀

    1. Ugh, that’s scary sounding to me. I can’t imagine you and Laura dealing with this multiple times and not having a name for it. I was terrified! I think it’s creepy and a blessing that I at least had a name for what I experienced. Hopefully you don’t have to experience this anymore.

    2. P.S. I totally watched The House of the Devil tonight. Nothing happened for like an hour and I was terrified! LOL

      P.P.S. Grandma is ONE freaky looking demon troll!

  6. Brett James Irvine | Reply

    I’ve never experienced sleep paralysis, but I have heard of it. It’s sometimes accompanied by what’s called “The Old Hag”, which can either be a dark figure or (you guess it!) an old witch, so where you feel something pushing you down onto your bed or whatever, some people actually see a figure.

    It’s supposedly all in your head, as a result of your body crossing between wakefulness and sleep (so the figure would be part of a dream, I guess). I can only imagine how terrifying it must be, and I’m glad I’ve never experienced it for myself!

    1. But…what a good story it would make. 😉

  7. […] Jess Witkins offers an interesting post on Sleep Paralysis. Pretty scary, actually. My husband has this happen sometimes. […]

  8. I’ve never experienced it before, but have heard of the phenomenon. You intrigue me so much with your tales of the paranormal – definitely one more thing we have in common!

    1. Yah this one was totally creepy. Especially the sounds. I really thought I was hearing a child scream for help. Frightening!

  9. Oh, Jess, that frightening! I’ve never heard of or experienced it and hope I never do! Glad you’re okay. Yes, it would make a great story or would be an interesting quirk to add to a character.

    1. I like this idea. Heck it may come in handy for the piece I’m working on! We’ll see…. I hope you don’t have to experience it either Marcia, that wasn’t fun.

  10. I’ve had episodes of sleep paralysis before. Terrifying. it happened quite a few times when I was in college but hasn’t happened in several years. Thank goodness. Not a fun experience. That first pic is so scary! *shudder*

    1. Yah, that pic startled me a few times. That’s I knew it was perfect! *evil grin*

  11. Something similar happened to me — some kind of out-of-body experience. I couldn’t move my arms or legs, and I could swear I was wide awake. (Apparently, during some parts of the night, your muscles really are paralyzed, which I imagine is why we don’t get up and walk around the house while we’re asleep.) It only happened that one time.

    That is a strange coincidence that you read about sleep paralysis a week later. But then, if it hadn’t actually happened, you might not have paid as much attention to the book. I’ll sometimes hear a word or an expression that I don’t remember ever hearing in my life, and then I’ll hear it again two days later.

    1. I like things like that. Coincidences? Fate? Intriguing either way? YES!

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