This is a freaky story. I’m curious to hear your feedback (that’s my code word to encourage you [yes, YOU] to reply to this posting). I am curious if anyone has had a similar experience and how they interpreted it.

In 1999, Scott & I lived in Raleigh, NC (this was not the curious experience – however, if you’ve heard me talk of North Carolina, you might just well think it was).  It was a stressful time in my life. It was the first time I’d moved from my family and friends and I had just finished graduate school and landed my first ‘big girl’ job.  Unfortunately, Raleigh and The Mercenary Researcher were not a great fit (it felt kind of weird to refer to myself in the 3rd person).  And to say I was just stressed is the understatement of the century.  I was insanely stressed and felt like I might have been on the verge of a mental breakdown. Fun times, eh? Oh you bettcha!  Let me tell ya, stress triggers some weird shit in your brain.

Stressed Brain

Weird shit in your brain
Photo: Science Photo Library

Nude People Diagram

And I just liked this picture ~ it says “Testes” and then points at them in case you were confused or new to testes

Given the amount of change I was not coping with in a healthy manner, you can imagine how it affected my sleep patterns.  The adverb ‘severely’ comes to mind.  And then to compound the stress of my day life, I was convinced that I was the victim of a malicious spirit during the night.

Now when it comes to the supernatural world, I am of the opinion that I don’t believe or disbelieve anything and nothing surprises me.  Basically, I’m wishy-washy about the whole thing.  Sometimes I believe something might be out there; but other times I get annoyed with everyone always having to look beyond what’s in front of their face – as if the world itself is not amazing enough. I often think this saying is quite apropos:  Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

But again, I digress –

Soooo whilst we’re living in Raleigh my sleep pattern takes a nose dive. I start waking up all night long and Scott is a snorer. I can go to sleep during a hurricane, but if I’m woken up in the middle of the night, the sound of cotton balls rubbing together is apt to keep awake. So I start to migrate to the couch. I love couch sleeping – it’s a trait I inherited from my Mom.  One night I had fallen asleep on the couch and I suddenly woke up. My eyes flew open but I was completely unable to move – I was totally paralyzed. I couldn’t even YELL – and it felt like something was crushing my chest. I truly thought it was a malicious spirit.  I can’t even DESCRIBE the terror coursing through my body. I’ve had nightmares where I’m so scared about a situation that I’m unable to call for help – it felt a lot like that.

Sleep Paralysis

My experiences did not involve equines….but I’m  fond of the insane looking horse in the picture.
The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

The only thing I could do was close my eyes.  I must have fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes again, everything was normal.  I FLUNG myself from the couch and made a beeline for the bed. I crushed myself against Scott and just shook for a while.

The next day I debated with myself (and I always win) if I was going to tell Scott or not. He was already worried about me and my endless bouts of homesickness and I didn’t want to add to the inventory of his wife’s neurosis.  I decided to keep that little experience to myself and see what transpired in the days to come.  I figured it would take another encounter or two before I started calling around for an exorcism priest.

So a few weeks later the exact same thing happens again.  This time I told Scott and decided that I would NEVER sleep on the couch again.  That was the week I discovered ear plugs.   I suggest making this investment for anyone that sleeps with a snorer – it’s much easier if you can just block out the sound than expect them to not snore – especially since they will deny snoring until the bitter end.

It ended up happening one more time after that – when we were staying in Pinehurst, NC with my in-laws. Since it happened at a hotel and not in our apartment, I was convinced then and there that maybe I was possessed.  That added a whole new layer of stress on my stressed out brain.  Homesick and possessed – what’s a girl to do?

Well, watching PBS might help.

As with all coincidences in my world, I was in the right place at the right time. During that trip to Pinehurst (so within the week of the most recent ‘possession’) I happened to catch a documentary on PBS about a phenomena called “Sleep Paralysis”. It seems that I was NOT possessed – but many people over the centuries had experienced what I had and they, too, thought themselves the victim of a malicious spirit.  Turns out we were wrong. What was really happening was rooted in science – not fairies at the bottom of the garden.  It was described thusly on WebMD:

Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking.

Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an “evil” presence: unseen night demons in ancient times, the old hag in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and alien abductors. Almost every culture throughout history has had stories of shadowy evil creatures that terrify helpless humans at night. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the accompanying feelings of terror.

Can you imagine my relief? I wasn’t possessed! I was so stressed my brain freaked out and woke me up before for my body knew I was awake.  Luckily that was the last time I had that weirdness happen and we moved from Raleigh the day after Thanksgiving in the year of our lord, 1999.  I lasted 10 months in the South.

And that’s my story…

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
This entry was posted in Aversions, Coincidence, Humor, Random Thoughts, Sleeping, Story, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to Possessed

  1. I’ve heard about this sleep paralysis thing… sounds WELL scary. I’ve decided I suffer from voluntary sleep paralysis: that phenomenon upon waking in the morning where you decide you will not, under any circumstances, move your body out of bed. I get that a lot. Not so much frightening as inconvenient.
    Anyway, I’m delighted you are not possessed, because then I would have to say things on exorcism, and I’m not sure I’d be up for that….

  2. djmatticus says:

    Sleep paralysis… that explains the things that happen at night, when I was asleep. What about the unset of terror, the glimpses of movement, the darkening shadows, the cold spots that I experience while I’m already/still awake? (Other than the obvious, of course, that I should probably just go get my head checked.)

  3. MissFourEyes says:

    Yikes! That sounds terrifying! Good to know what it is now. I would have googled ‘how to get rid of invisible chest-crushing spirits’ the next second otherwise.

  4. Rohan 7 Things says:

    I’ve heard of this, but thankfully never experienced it! At least if it happens I know what it is, still I reckon I’d still be pretty freaked out!

    That must have been terrifying!


  5. Elyse says:

    Sleep paralysis sounds terrifying.

    I had one terrifying sleep experience. All the evil in the world was somehow contained in a silver broach with a jade center stone. I’d never seen it before. When I woke the next morning, it was on my dresser. Nobody knew where it had come from. Nobody had seen it before, and it wasn’t on my dresser when I’d gone to bed. I was afraid to throw it out. In fact, I still have it.

  6. Kylie says:

    The sound of cotton balls rubbing together!!!

    Such a funny post, Denise.

    Once when I was about four, I saw a ghostly hand next to my bed (it was the top bunk) but my brother wasn’t the culprit (he was asleep on the bottom bunk) and it turned out my parents were not trickin’ me either. Hmmm.

    How do explain *that*, modern science?

    • I’ve seen weird stuff too – once walked into the living room from the kitchen when I was about 16 to see my cat being held up in the air as if someone as sitting on the love seat and holding him up (the couch was against the breakfast bar)…yet no one was on the couch or in the house… I back out of the kitchen into the laundry room and then about 10 min later got up enough nerve to go back into the kitchen and the cat was on the floor….

      I don’t if they do or do not exist – but I’d rather NOT be seeing them!

  7. Reblogged this on The Mercenary Researcher and commented:

    Thought this would be a nice follow up to Rohan’s ghastly tale.

  8. Jillian says:

    I luckily never experienced this, but it used to happen to my ex. The way he described it, just like you did, always sounded awful!

  9. I live in North Carolina- not all the food is bad!!! I promise. It is totally culturally mind-bending here, though. Especially in the rural parts (like where I live now… It’s seriously like one gigantic redneck stereotype in real life). I can see how that would cause a person all kinds of stress. I grew up in Charlotte and it’s so loaded with transplanted people from elsewhere (my parents included) that I had no idea NC was so weird until I moved out here. My sister lives in Asheville- it’s basically amazing. But my opinion on the sleep paralysis thing is that it could be both scientific and supernatural. I don’t subscribe to the either/or philosophy on much. It’s all gray for me. My boyfriend had this happen in a house he used to live in when he was in his teens. So did his brother and step-dad (in the same house but on seperate occasions). Were they all sleep-paralyzed? Oh! And before I forget– I actually came here with the express purpose of letting you know that I moved the hosting for Sugar Dish Me so it won’t appear in your wp.com reader anymore. The address is still the same http://www.sugardishme.com/ , and I’d love it if you’d re-subscribe through email or rss feed. I just read like half of all your posts and am so thoroughly entertained!! Seriously I’ve been lost on your blog for like 45 minutes, so thanks for that.

    • Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher says:

      WOW! Thanks
      I think I was more homesick which made me see NC in a negative light. But I LOVED Chapel Hill and Asheville.

      I will definitely resubscribe. I didn’t see the option to follow when I looked at your peppermint brownie recipe – I’l try it again!
      I love chocolate and mint.. I found a really good recipe for the York Peppermint Patty filling in a book that gave recipes for favorite candy bars.

      I will admit I did love Moonpies – I love anything with marshmallow…

      I heard a lot of good things about Charlotte, NC and we liked the coastal areas. The beauty of the state was amazing!! Thanks for reading

      With the possessed story – I think for me, it was totally stress.

      • Heather @ SugarDish(Me) says:

        I have a dark chocolate mint
        cupcake recipe that needs to be posted (and needs me to eat it)and york pepperminf filling would be nothing short of awesome, I think. Any idea what book that was? I love moonpies, but my kids hate them. Sometimes I wonder if they belong to me. Thanks so much for reading!!

        • Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher says:

          I can’t remember the book – it was years ago when I was a baker at at a restaurant – but I have the recipe …
          14 oz sweetened condensed milk
          1 Tbl Peppermint extract
          6 cups (or so) of powdered sugar

          Beat all those ingredients together to get the consistency that you want.

          I like to use it as filling for dark chocolate cake – but you can also make them into mint patty shapes or truffle shapes and dip them in melted chocolate to make candy.

          I think I ate myself 20# of moonpies in 10 months!

  10. Brigitte says:

    Ruta, this has happened to me as well and it’s very scary. It seems to happen when I’m very stressed or haven’t had enough sleep. I hate it. I miss the South so much sometimes. And yeah, the houses are gorgeous and affordable. And stuff is new and modern. I loved Asheville — have you been? sigh.

    • Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher says:

      I did get to see Asheville – it’s GORGEOUS! I also like Chapel Hill a lot and think that might have been a better fit than Raleigh!

      It is definitely stress-related. I hadn’t thought about sleep deprivation – but i could easily understand that!

  11. runningonsober says:

    It’s happened a few times. Only in periods when I’ve been extremely sleep deprived or if I had taken a sleeping aid. Yes, the exhaustion and stress was high then- prob what brought it on. Maybe there is a natural sleep state where this is normal, but most of us sleep through it unless we have sleeping or stress issues. Maybe waking in a strange or different environment and not recognizing it? Who knows.

    I do know to not mix wine and ambien and Paxil because then you will swear your house, body and soul are possessed.

    I was going to suggest those pink squeezie earplugs and a glass of sleepytime tea before bed. But sounds like you got all that covered.

    But all this is just me running my mouth. You may very well have been possessed. Who knows?

    • I would rather be stressed than possessed – I think!
      I do love my pink squeezie earplugs (I still use them to this day).
      I took an Ambien once and almost fell down some stairs b/c I didn’t realize how quickly it plunged your body into ‘sleep’.
      I will definitely avoid the chemical cocktails – I can’t imagine they do a body good.

  12. The Waiting says:

    That sounds horrible! I occasionally have night terrors, which are absolutely no picnic, but this sounds worse. I’m glad you don’t have them anymore. In my experience, there are few things worse than waking terrified and defenseless in the middle of the night.

  13. Gretchen Cole says:

    I lived in Alice Springs, Australia for 4 years. As part of my company’s overseas package, they provided me with a 2-bedroom, furnished flat in town. I remain convinced that someone was murdered in the master bedroom! I absolutely could not sleep in that room; as a result, for over 3 of those years, I slept downstairs on the couch. I finally decided to do a little furniture moving. There was a sleeper sofa in the extra bedroom, so I moved it out and put the master bedroom furniture in the extra bedroom. I then turned the master bedroom into an office/study and moved my computer from the dining table to the master bedroom. I had no trouble being in the master bedroom when I was awake and no trouble sleeping on the master bedroom bed when it was in another room. I’ve never had an issue like that anywhere else, which is why I think something bad happened in that room. I also had a very vivid dream as a 4- or 5-year old that I remember to this day (55 or so years later).

  14. unfetteredbs says:

    mmm i have never had this happen. I don’t think I fall asleep enough to be paralyzed. I would not give up couch sleeping for anything. Somehow right now I am craving biscuits and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy…
    Scary and anxious stuff– glad you are over that! (librarians rock)

  15. Maryann Graziano says:

    Wow. Thank God you saw that show. I’ll bet it’s similar to sleep walking, also caused by stress.

  16. lolabees says:

    I’ve never heard of this before. It sounds pretty unpleasant. In fact, it sounds worse than my peeing dreams 😉 Glad you got to the bottom of things. No demons is a good thing!

    • It WAS! I’ve had the ‘peeing’ dream and wake up just in time…
      I have been having a dream (reoccuring) where I can’t remember where my classes are, what my locker combo is and if I’ve done my homework – it puts me in a panic…my head needs a colonic

  17. I’ve had sleep paralysis a few times and it truly is terrifying. Being awake but being unable to move or speak is just one of the creepiest things ever. I can see why you might have thought you were possessed.

  18. becca3416 says:

    This happened to me once my freshman year of college. Absolutely terrifying. That was around the time I had watched the movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and I most certainly thought I had experienced a close call.

  19. Kim says:

    Yikes! That painting you included gives me the creeps! I haven’t had anything like that happen, thankfully. I admire that you didn’t wake your hubby…I would have been all over mine. I used to dream all the time that people were chasing me and trying to kill me. I had to fight and do Matrix-style tricks to stay alive. It all stopped when I started taking aikido.

  20. I’m too busy flying or doing magic in my sleep to be paralyzed. I have woken up to an extremely painful calf cramp, though.

  21. Ooooh creeeeeepy! I had severe night terrors for many years and although I never felt that crushing sensation, I did think that a dark entity was causes them at one point. I even tried smudging our yard with burning sage and sleeping with a giant crystal under my pillow. Coincidentally, it helped a little, I think because I felt like I was doing something. Sleep deprivation and stress are horrible mind f*cks.

    • Luckily I didn’t move any heavy furniture or tear down posters during these events! I was so relieved with I saw that documentary – I think it’s one the reasons I stopped having that weirdness happen — oh and moving away from microwavable porkrinds and back to my family & friends…

      I agree doing ‘something’ probably has a positive affect on your brain and its night-time adventures.

  22. hahah! “…in the year of our lord, 1999.”

    I’ve never had that happen, thankfully. What a nightmare! But now that you’ve suggested it, I’ll probably experience it. That’s just the way my brain and bod rolls. My neighbor got diagnosed with all kinds of spinal issues, next thing I know I’m getting an MRI, and lo and behold, I have the same lower back afflictions. Tell me you have the flu, I’ll get it.

    I came very close to moving to Raleigh. The thing I love about the south are the houses. They really do houses the right way. Gorgeous. Oh, and the food is incredibly delicious, too. Isn’t it funny how certain places can just give you the wrong vibe? I’m very sensitive to geographical vibes.

    • I loved the houses in Raleigh – I had a harder time with the food – but I think i was so homesick, that nothing would have appeased me (and I did go to a restaurant with fried baloney & pig brains on the menu….).
      So if you get my sympathy affliction – are you going with sleep paralysis or possession?

      That’s pretty funny (but not for you) about the MRI story!

      • My body is like a sponge of affliction. The sleep paralysis still sounds so medieval to me. Very spooky.
        I guess I’m thinking of the food that’s covered in gravy, namely the potatoes. Oh, and the cornbread and biscuits, too. As you can see, I don’t like carbs.

        • hee hee.. .I love them too – but I’m not a meat/pork eater (chicken? I’m all over that). I found it weird that I couldn’t get honey at a lot of restuarants and hashbrowns were not to be found –
          I had some funny food encounters in Raleigh that I should post about but I don’t want to insult anyone. It was just such a culture shock form the Southwest – but funny in hindsight. I’m sure a lot of people come to the desert and think WTF??

        • I’ve lived all over this country of ours and I can say that I look forward to the specialty of each particular area when I’m visiting.
          My husband liked the red hot – hot dogs in Raleigh. In fact we almost moved there because of them. haha! Yes, I’m a total foodie.

        • That’s AWESOME. We did find the most amazing pizza place that opened on Hillsboro street across from NCSU…my husband & I ate there almost daily. The Italian guy there used to ask me why I was “goin’ with a maynaise face’ – that made my German whiteboy husband LAUGH and LAUGH…(I’m all WOP).

        • The Pacific NW calls my name and I love DC (if I didn’t have to drive or worry about money).

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