Old Hag Syndrome

Discussion in 'UFOs, Ghosts and Monsters' started by Magical Realist, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I once awoke in a paralysis state sensing a demonic presence in my room. After yelling "get out" a few times and coming to full consciousness, I heard the bush outside my bedroom window thrash about for a few seconds and it was gone. Strange...I now sleep better with a polished snowflake obsidian stone on my window sill. It absorbs negative energies supposedly..
    "It happens when all dark and evil things happen — the middle of the night.

    What had been a peaceful sleep turns into a waking nightmare as you find yourself pinned and unable to move, shocked awake and paralyzed by an overwhelming sense of evil.

    The old hag has paid you visit.

    While this sounds like a run-of-the-mill urban legend, the curious thing about the “Old Hag Syndrome” is that it is a highly reported phenomenon.

    People around the world have claimed, at one time or another, to have woken up in terror, paralyzed.

    But this isn’t simply sleep paralysis, they say — they often report seeing or hearing strange things, such as eyes in the darkness or the heavy sound of footsteps. A dark figure looming over their bodies.

    Just Doing What A Wicked Witch Does

    The story of the Old Hag finds its origins in folklore, particularly in Newfoundland, though variations of the story are present throughout the world.

    Tales told of an old witch maliciously sitting on the chests of her victims while they lay in bed, or curses placed upon unsuspecting individuals causing them to meet this terror in the night.

    The global pervasiveness of these experiences, however, has elevated the Old Hag Syndrome to something beyond urban legend.

    Of course, the “Old Hag” could still be a case of sleep paralysis, which typically occurs when entering or coming out of REM sleep. A person may become “caught” in a state between sleep and consciousness, during which they remain aware of their surroundings, but are unable to move.

    The sense of evil, or the noises, that accompany the “Old Hag” could be nothing more than hallucinations occurring in that state of half-dreaming.

    But then, how do you explain the people who have reported similar experiences without the paralysis? The commonality of every reporting? And why, of all the possible hallucinations we could experience, do we sense evil?

    Scientists and paranormal enthusiasts may be at odds about what causes the Old Hag Syndrome, but one simple truth may be enough to keep you up at night:

    Whatever the cause, it does exist."====http://www.strangerdimensions.com/2011/1...-syndrome/

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  3. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "Recorded cases of vampire attacks in Eastern Europe sometimes feature Old Hag characteristics. For example, a case cited by both Montague Summers and occultist Dr. Franz Hartmann features, as Summers notes, "typical instances of vampirism" and strongly resembles the Old Hag encounter:

    "A miller at D--- had a healthy servant-boy, who soon after entering his service began to fail. He acquired a ravenous appetite, but nevertheless grew daily more feeble and emaciated. Being interrogated, he at last confessed that a thing which he could no see, but which he could plainly feel, came to him every night about twelve o'clock and settled upon his chest, drawing all the life out of him, so that he became paralised [sic] for the time being, and neither could move nor cry out. Thereupon the miller agreed to share the bed with the boy, and made him promise that he should give a certain sign when the vampire arrived. This was done, and when the signal was made the miller putting out his hands grasped an invisible but very tangible substance that rested upon the boy's chest. He described it as apparently elliptical in shape, and to the touch feeling like gelatine [sic], properties which suggest an ectoplasmic formation. The thing writhed and fiercely struggled to escape, but he gripped it firmly and threw it on the fire. After that the boy recovered, and there was an end of these visits."=====http://www.visionaryliving.com/articles/oldhag.php
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  5. Kristoffer Giant Hyrax Valued Senior Member

    In the very first sentence the paranormal got debunked.

    Hint: it was sleep paralysis.
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  7. Bells Staff Member

    It is actually psychological.

    I have had several family members actually suffer this. I did once when I was in my very early 20's.

    My grandmother and my father's sisters were very much into voodoo bullshit and they used to take us to see all sorts of stuff when we were small and before we migrated to Australia. Our parents had no idea this was going on and when they found out, well, all shit broke loose in the family... They would take us, my grandmother especially, when we would stay there on weekends and such. Two of my older cousins were sexually molested when they were in their early teens by the man my grandmother took us to see, they were too afraid to say anything about it at the time, we found out many years later, after my grandmother had passed away. Suffice to say, we saw some batshit crazy and terrifying things at these sessions.

    The eldest who had been molested.. Well she started to see things after she was married and after she had her two children. It started when her son was about 15 months old. She started to have the nightmares, of a figure in the room with her and pressing on her chest and then touching her. Because of all the stuff my grandmother had put into our heads, and a lot of it stuck with the older ones (myself and two of my cousins who were around the same are did not suffer from it as much and we did get past it in a lot of ways). But she started to see and feel things, she had the night terrors as well. She descended into a deep depression. Her younger sister, who had also been molested, started to suffer the same things. I suspect talking with her sister, brought back a lot of things from our childhood and she also started to suffer from the night terrors. I know it did for me and for my other cousins, who also had nightmares about it. The eldest one though, it got pretty bad. She became delusional, and deeply deeply religious. She went to priests for help, and they could do nothing for her. They prayed on her, she thought this was supposed to cure her. And she lost her mind. After a few years of this and she became a shell of her former self, she descended further into religious ideology, talking in tongues and hearing Jesus speak to her. As I said, it got pretty bad.

    We had taken her to see a psychiatrist, well several, during this time, but she refused to believe them, that this was in her head. They prescribed medication, which she refused to take, because God heals all apparently.

    Sadly her husband enabled her delusions and started to tell her he believe they were real. It was all pervasive. It had consumed her and in some sense, her younger sister. The nightly attacks on her got worse and more frequent. She stopped sleeping at night. And her husband, instead of insisting she get more help, maintained her delusion that it was demonic. I don't know if he believed this or not, but it was something we had to battle with as we tried to get her the help she desperately needed, because by this point, what she was describing.. well.. she was describing being raped. The stories and what she experienced at night was rape. And we started to suspect that things were not as they seemed. Each time we would try to discuss it with her, she'd break into prayer, talking in tongues and start crying.

    Eventually, she and her husband found a priest in Lakes Entrance in Victoria, who apparently was known for performing exorcisms in the Catholic Church. He took one look at her and her younger sister, spoke to them for an hour, and then told her that she needed to go and see a psychiatrist. Her symptoms, the things she said she experienced, the pressing down on her chest, feeling paralysed, the feelings of the hands mauling her breasts and the sexual molestation and assault was not a demon as she thought. She was reliving her sexual assault. Her younger sister was told the same thing. The thing we had grown up to laugh about because of the kooky beliefs my grandmother and aunts were into were much more evil for the older ones. My grandmother never lived to hear that her grand daughters had been molested by this man and he had long passed away. But the damage was done. It took over 10 years of extensive therapy to get her through it. Her younger sister's abuse was less frequent and she was able to get past it and the help she got for it was brilliant. The rest of us all had nightmares about what we experienced. She and her sister are still deeply religious. Both got into the born again ideology and well, it was one insanity for another.
    It wasn't a hag or demon. It was probably akin to PTSD.

    I don't laugh when I hear stories like this. Because it reeks of something terrible in the past or present.
  8. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    /\ Pretty well explains a common cause of it.

    Another is a little less troubling (well, at least once you know what it is).
    Information cited from here - http://web.mst.edu/~psyworld/sleep_stages.htm

    Typically, the human body enters a paralyzed state as part of Rapid Eye Movement - essentially what is happening is that you are becoming conscious before your brain fully leaves the super-stimulated state that dreaming entails. Additionally, upon waking and finding yourself unable to move, the fight-or-flight response kicks into overdrive for most people - as a result, the midbrain ramps up, resulting in extremely over-astute pattern recognition and sensory capacity - essentially, the "demons" and "voices" people hear and the presences they "sense" are their senses being overly sensitized due to a combination of the alpha/beta waves AND the paralysis induced fear and subsequent adrenaline rush.

    I've had this happen a handful of times - it's known as isolated sleep paralysis. The first time it was utterly and absolutely terrifying, and yes - I did "feel" as though I was not only not alone in the room, but a sense of deep dread and unfathomable danger. After it passed, I did what my rational mind said was the logical thing, and researched the hell out of it. Subsequent events have not been nearly as terrifying thanks to knowing what was going on. When it happens now (and it's exceedingly rare - I haven't had it happen yet this year, and I can only recall two instances last year), I am able to recognize what is going on and calm myself - once the fight-or-flight response subsides, it typically does not take long for me to regain mobility.

    It is worth noting that as far as I can tell, this has only ever happened to me upon suddenly waking from an intense dream - it can be a nightmare or a pleasant one, it just has to be incredibly vivid. My guess is that the mind is simply unprepared for the sudden assault of the senses while it is in "garbage collection" mode (dream state) and, as a result, flounders in its attempt to bring everything back under control.
    Kristoffer likes this.
  9. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    It have had sleep paralysis a few times. The best one was when I was just exhausted and parked my car by the side of the road and tried to go to sleep and all of the sudden I could see these frightening people fishing in a stream by the car and they all looked at the car and then got up in unison and surrounded the car. scared the hell out of me, I knew it was sleep paralysis and I was trying to move to wake up and the people are leaning in closer to the car and finally I woke up. Even though I knew what it was it was really scary. If someone is not aware of sleep paralysis or if they believe in magical crap that would really shake you up. I feel sorry for people who believe in things you can't understand, you suffer; superstition ain't the way. Makes you wonder...
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    In his fascinating book Alternative Realities: The Paranormal, the Mystic and the Transcendent in Human Experience (1995 Facts on File), clinical psychologist Leonard George discusses what he calls 'Old Hag experiences'. (MR really should find a copy of this book, he'd totally love it. It's about the stranger corners of human experience, which are far more common than many Sciforums-type people imagine.)

    A definitive source on old hag experiences is Hufford D.J. The Terror that Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (1982, U. Pennsylvania Press). Hufford reports that about 15% of the US and Canadian population has experienced old hag experiences. Henry James (William James' father) wrote abut having one in 1844.

    They seem to consist of total abject terror, a temporary paralysis, and the feeling of a malevolent evil presence. Occasionally they are accompanied by hallucinations of terrifying forms, shuffling sounds, and musty odors.

    It's interesting to speculate about the relevance of this Old Hag phenomenon to traditional belief in ghosts, demons, malevolent spirits and more recently, to alien-abduction folklore.

    The name 'Old Hag' experiences comes from Newfoundland folklore. In Newfoundland, people who experience such things are said to have been visited by the Hag. Hufford seems to have been the one who generalized this local term to the phenomenon as a whole.

    George thinks that they are associated with the hypnogogic states, the transition between wakefulness and sleep, and may occur when a person dozes off in a chair or something. Hypnogogic states can produce the feelings of paralysis and the intrusion of dreamlike imagery into the waking state.

    I have to say that I experience hypnogogic states all the time, but don't experience the terror (or the paralysis). So my speculation is that Old Hag Experiences might be a conjunction of the hypnogogic state and the occurrance of whatever is reponsible for Night Terrors. Hufford makes this connection too.

    Night Terrors are just what the name suggests, a sudden onset of overwhelming terror at night that typically wakes a sleeping individual up and takes a while to subside. This isn't the same thing as nightmares, since night terrors aren't associated with dream imagery and don't occur during REM sleep like dreams do.

    Night terrors are very common and most people experience them occasionally. (I have had them two or three times.) Some people experience them recurringly. About 4% of children between 4 and 12 suffer from recurrent night terrors. Recurrent night terrors afflict some adults too, and even found their way into the DSM-IV as "Sleep Terror Disorder". The cause isn't known.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  11. Bells Staff Member

    My youngest has had a few night terrors when he was little and he was still asleep through it all. He had no idea about it afterwards and I remember we were told by our doctor to not try to wake him during it. Suffice to say, it was bloody awful and absolutely terrifying and it isn't something I would wish on anyone.

    He would sit up and just scream in terror, his eyes would be wide open and he would not even see us. And it would go on and on and on, sometimes up to 20 minutes+. We would have to sit there and hold him until it would subside.
  12. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    When I sleep with the windows open, birds wake me up.
  13. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

  14. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "I was awakened by a screaming girlfriend. She had her arms up, as if she was pushing on something. Her eyes were open, as if she was awake. I called her name a few times and tried to shake her awake. Then her eyes closed and she went back to sleep. When I woke her up again, she told me she was fighting an old lady that was trying to strangle her.

    Last night I was awakened by something.

    I had no idea what it was, but I had this strong feeling telling me I should turn around and look at my girlfriend. As I turned around , I saw what looked like an old person's face moving away from me. At that exact moment, my girlfriend let out a small scream and went back to sleep. So did I. This morning when we woke up, the first thing my girlfriend told me was, "I had a dream about that old lady again last night." What are the odds that both of us would see the same person or spirit? Why did it move away from me? - by-stander


    In December, 2007, my wife and I were sleeping in bed when I knew or felt my wife was being attacked. I woke to find a shadow person on top of her, choking her! I jumped out of bed and shared several French profanities with it. As I moved toward it to confront it, it moved away into the wall. I turned to see my wife still choking and woke her. She stated that she dreamed that she was being choked by a person on top of her. Normally, you would dismiss it, but how do two people have a simultaneous experiences?

    She would later have a similar experience in the Army where her roommate woke to see a person choking her! - diesel1276


    I have had various experiences of sleep paralysis. I've seen my bed covers pushed down onto my face, unable to move or shout. A female voice has hissed in my ear, bringing feelings of terror. Once I saw the old woman looking at me through my bed covers. She was gray and had an menacing grin. I started hitting the covers where this misty gray face was staring from. My wife woke up at this point and screamed, saying she saw the woman's face, too. I think there's more to it than just the scientific explanation. I think it's part physical and part supernatural. I think our brains pick up a more expansive signal when we are between sleep and an awake state. - Matt

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "My advise and what I know. Yes, you ARE asleep. Yes, it IS sleep paralysis. It is the perfect time for an evil entity to attack. Do not be afraid. God is your weapon. Tell IT to go back to hell where it belongs.

    —Guest Susan Deluca

    Me... Not my kid
    I frantically looked for answers. Yes, he was asleep. Yes, he was in a dream (rem) state, yes, he was paralyzed. But, evil found its way in on those many nights. I too was told that he was innocent, young, and very approachable. On the final night, I said to IT, I am not afraid of you. God lives in this house. If you are such a coward that you need to torment a little boy, come TRY and torment ME. I saw it, this THING my poor baby had been seeing for years. It left his bed and came near me...laughing. I had such hatred and anger for it. I said, here I am. Your not so big now,are you? Again, I repeated that God lived in our house. Amazing how fearless we become when evil messes with our children. After a few minutes of laughing at me, IT was gone. My Son has blocked this from his memory."

    —Guest Susan Deluca

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I'm pretty sure sleep paralysis is a natural part of REM sleep. What ISN'T so natural is half-waking up to find an evil creature floating over you in that state. Suppose there were these energy beings out there that fed off the fear energy of paralyzed sleepers. That exploited this natural function in the brain that switches off motor movement so we don't act out our dreams and hurt ourselves? It would explain simultaneous sightings as well as sightings even where you aren't paralyzed:

    I was staying at a hotel right on Cannon Beach last year one night and was in that hypnagogic state of being awake and asleep at the same time. Something tapped me on my back while I was lying in bed on my side and when I turned to look it was what I can only describe as a witch crow. (Crone?).. It was the size of a raven, had spread out black wings, but had a little witches head.. Amazingly I was not scared about this. But I instantly came to full consciousness to see there was nothing there in bed with me. Strange...
    Here's a new film about this phenomenon:

    "Conveying the surreal power of dreams is nearly impossible, whether onscreen or in conversation. They have their own logic, of course, plus inexplicable time and hazy details that are difficult to recall, let alone relay. Rodney Ascher confronts this challenge in The Nightmare, his new documentary about sleep paralysis. Several interviewees recount their experiences with the condition, which is hard to diagnose and harder to treat.

    Every story in the film describes a phenomenon far more unsettling than just the temporary inability to move upon waking up; The Nightmare’s subjects describe feeling as if there’s a malevolent presence in the room with them. It’s like a personal ghost, demon or alien who haunts them and them alone. Whether that’s selection bias or an effect of the condition as a whole, there’s no denying the trauma of being so afflicted.

    As in Room 237, Ascher’s film about wild interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the filmmaker displays a talent for inventive visualizations. He shows shadowy figures drifting into bedrooms as half-awake dreamers sit paralyzed, unable to stop or comprehend what’s happening to them. Describing these occurrences seems therapeutic for several interviewees, as though they’ve been searching for just such an outlet for years, or even decades. But it slowly becomes clear that few of them expect to be cured.

    More experiential than insightful, the film at its worst feels like a series of poorly staged re-enactments. Ascher never succeeds in creating a fully immersive experience. Too often he cuts to footage of his subjects talking instead of committing to said re-enactments. “You can’t apply logic to a liminal situation,” one interviewee says, which is advice that Ascher might have taken to heart. His approach is too literal, and there’s something lost in the telling.

    It was easy, if inaccurate, to peg Room 237 as merely a soapbox for obsessives to share their over-the-top analyses of a cult horror movie; it was really about the power of art and our own responses to it. It takes longer for The Nightmare’s larger point to emerge. When it does, it’s chilling: A man says that something actually happening to him—even something horrific, like a demonic entity breathing down his neck as he lays motionless in bed—would be preferable to being crazy. Perhaps there’s nothing in the real world as terrifying as the monsters we’re capable of imagining."

    Critic’s Grade: B-
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Thanks..I read an Amazon review of the book and it said it had explanations for all the phenomena. I'm not really interested in attempts to explain away such experiences. I am more interested in the phenomenology of the experience, its nature, and its part in an overall pattern of other anomalous states. I think transcendental states should be studied much as Cambell and Jung studied them, as expressions of an archetypally-structured unconscious psyche. Here in fact is an interesting account by Jung himself while staying in a haunted house. At one point, after several nights of bangings, footsteps, rustlings, sounds of water dripping, stuffy atmospheres, and rank smells, the experience climaxed in him finding an old hag lying next to him in bed!

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  18. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Relatively rare but natural.
  19. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    What? Eeewwww. Well different strokes for different folks I guess....
  20. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    I think I can safely say were it an "evil spirit" causing this, I'd have dealt with it a long time ago

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  21. Bells Staff Member

    Not natural how?

    Why do you believe what your brain manufactures while you sleep is not natural?

    It isn't supernatural. It is an awful experience some people suffer through while stuck in sleep.

    If you look at the folklore definitions or explanations of the 'old hag', you will see that it pretty much describes sleep paralysis. But in many cultures, sleep paralysis and nightmares in general, were once thought to be demonic attacks (my own cousin thought it was a demon attacking her). There are some who even connect or view the old hag with Lilith, the witch, succubus who people believed preyed on children while they slept and who also seduced men (even wet dreams were attributed to Lilith or her mythical daughter).

    The belief in the old hag or connecting an old hag with sleep paralysis is a way to explain the terror or fear that people experience during sleep paralysis. The belief that it is an old hag harks back to our more religious days and I would suspect, is somewhat connected to Lilith. Certainly, a search on old hag syndrome and Lilith brought back many interesting results, with many in the supernatural belief quarter attributing her with being the old hag.

    Even your description of the hag or 'witch crow', describes Lilith. Biblical and old Hebrew descriptions and names for Lilith were "night hag" and "screech owl".

    In turn, Lamashtu is like another demonized female called Lamia, a Libyan serpent goddess, whose name is probably a Greek variant of Lamashtu. Like Lamashtu, Lamia also killed children. In the guise of a beautiful woman, she also seduced young men. In the Latin Vulgate Bible, Lamia is given as the translation of the Hebrew Lilith (and in other translations it is given as "screech owl" and "night monster").

    It needs to be remembered that these demonic "women" are essentially personifications of unseen forces invented to account for otherwise inexplicable events and phenomena which occur in the real world. Lilith, Lamashtu, Lamia and other female demons like them are all associated with the death of children and especially with the death of newborn infants.


    Lilith is referred to only once in the Old Testament. In the Darby translation of Isaiah 34:14 the original Hebrew word is rendered as "lilith"; according to Isaiah, when God's vengeance has turned the land into a wilderness, "there shall the beasts of the desert meet with the jackals, and the wild goat shall cry to his fellow; the lilith also shall settle there, and find for herself a place of rest." The same word is translated elsewhere, however, as "screech owl, "night creatures," "night monsters," and "night hag."

    Although it has been suggested that the association with night stems from a similarity between the Sumero-Babylonian demon Lilitu and the Hebrew word laylah meaning "night," Lilith nonetheless seems to have been otherwise associated with darkness and night as a time of fear, vulnerability, and evil.

    In her demonized form, Lilith is a frightening and threatening creature. Much more so than Eve, she personifies the real (sexual) power women exercise over men.

    I actually wrote a paper about this while I was at university many years ago.

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    The Lilith myth is a really interesting one, and I do strongly suspect that many do associate the old hag or "night hag" with sleep paralysis because of what her Biblical legend entailed.
  22. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


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