The following is an excerpt from the book Anatomy of a Ghost; A Guide to Analyzing the Dead pgs. 93-97
by Robin M. Strom-Mackey
I include this story not because I'm fully certain whether the event was normal (and just weird) or paranormal, but because it demonstrates how widely opinions can vary between expert paranormal investigators. On the one hand, look how very far out on a limb one investigator goes in order to explain the situation in rational terms. Then again, another seems to accept it as paranormal out of hand. My husband and I who experienced it have never been able to make up our minds about the event one way or another. For me, honestly, it remains an unsolved mystery.
CRITTERS THAT FOLLOW YOU HOME
I was getting ready for an investigation. I’d done the phone interview with the client, and then did an initial walk through. It’s a fairly mundane procedure, done during daylight hours when I determine whether there is enough reported activity to actually warrant a full investigation. It also allows me to figure out where the activity is occurring and where I will need to have my team set up equipment. I was comfortable with the client, Lindsey, who honestly seemed more curious than frightened.
The Thursday night after the walk-through was serene, I did the walk-through after work. There were no problems that night. Friday was a normal workday with no untoward stress. Friday night, however, was one of the most bizarre of my career. When I woke the next morning, while memories were still sharp I recorded what had happened. Here is what I wrote:
October 10, 2014: Around nine pm we were putting my son to sleep. He has a small sugar bear [glider] named Hiccup. We had Hiccup out and we were playing with him. Sugar gliders are like tiny flying squirrels. He’ll run up your arm or leg and then leap to another person and land on their head or back, run around, jump to someone else... My husband, son and I were all in on the little adventure. Eventually we put Hiccup back in his cage, tucked my son into bed, and went to bed ourselves.
It was around 11:30 – midnight. I had been sleeping, but then I noticed that my husband had come up to the foot of the bed. We were talking about something, but as soon as we stopped talking about it I seemed to forget what the conversation had been. I thought this odd at the time. I wondered to myself, “Why can’t I remember what we were just talking about?” I didn’t have time for further reflection because I realized that my husband, had brought Hiccup in with him. The little creature leaped off Gene and was running around on the bed. I followed his movements, because I didn’t want him to get loose and lost. Hiccup ran up the furrow in the covers close to me and I cupped my hands around him in preparation of gently lifting him up and containing him. As I was cupping him my husband put his headlamp on [he keeps a small flashlight, head-lamp by the bed at all times]. As the light beamed down on my hands Hiccup seemed to disappear. I thought he had burrowed deeper into the sheets so I was ruffling the covers trying desperately to find him when my husband asked me in a very bewildered voice, “What are you doing?”
Slightly exasperated I replied, “What do you mean what am I doing? I’m trying to find Hiccup.”
“Hiccup isn’t in here. He’s in his cage,” Gene said.
“No he’s not, he’s right here. I just had him in my hands,” I explained starting to get confused and still talking to my husband at the foot of the bed. “You were the one that let him loose. Help me find him.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve been here asleep the whole time, I haven’t been playing with Hiccup.”
At this point I may have been struggling to wake up fully, because it slowly dawned on me that Gene was in fact beside me in bed, and that I was playing with an imaginary Hiccup, and sitting up in bed conversing with…no one. “If you’ve been asleep the whole time, then who was I talking to?” I asked.
“ That was your son, he got up to go to the bathroom,” my husband explained. “I just saw the bathroom light turn on.”
“It was not our son. He’s not been out of his bed.” How I knew this fact so adamantly I cannot explain. After all I'd just been playing with an imaginary critter. But somehow I felt absolutely sure that our son was tucked up in his bed fast asleep.
My husband didn’t agree. “I’m pretty sure it was your son. I saw a dark figure at the foot of the bed when I woke up, and saw him turn around and head down the hall to the bathroom.”
We discussed this possibility a little further, until my husband finally got out of bed and went to my son’s room. Our son was predictably in his bed sound asleep, and no one was in the bathroom. Gene did note that the light was still on in the bathroom. Not an alarmist, he came back to bed wryly pointing out, “I think you brought something home from your walk-through.” With that said, he turned over and went back to sleep. Gene is not easily rattled, as you can see.
It was hot in the room, however, and I realized that I was too warm to sleep comfortably without opening a window. In order to open the window, I needed to get up and turn my back to the bed and doorway. There are two reasons I didn't want to do this. The first I just mentioned; the idea of turning my back to whatever might be in the house was unnerving. The second was because we have a large four-poster bed that stands about 2 feet off the ground. It’s easily high enough for an adult to crawl under. Eventually I realized that I was being paranoid, and opened the window.
The cool air helped, and I fell back asleep. But this time I had a distinct dream that the blanket I was sleeping under was slowly being pulled off me by a force from underneath my bed. I jerked awake. I’m now realized, quite vividly, that whatever was playing with me was reading my thoughts. Somehow, I’d conveyed my worries about what could be under the bed, and it had used that information, just as it had fabricated the incident with the imaginary sugar glider.
I managed to go to back to sleep again. Once again, I had a very vivid dream that felt like it was being manipulated from outside myself. This time I got the cliché’ haunting experience, the feeling of being held down in bed. I know it to be a dream and I also recognize my own sleep paralysis as something separate from the sensation. Groggily I finally woke up enough and told the entity verbally to, “Get off, get off me.” I was no longer panicked so much as exasperated at that point. I was annoyed because I had started to understand that something was toying with me, perhaps trying to scare me, but that the creature was a bit of a buffoon.
That was the third time I’d been awoken that night by crazily vivid dreams. I was annoyed, worried and wide awake. As I was lying in bed I heard the creaky step outside in the hall squeak as if someone was on the step. Then I heard another small noise I couldn't identify. I nudged my husband awake again, and asked him if he had his handgun with him [lest we had a human invader]. He assured me he did. This was the final experience I had that evening. Each successive incident seemed like it was losing energy.
We did ask my son in the morning if he had heard or seen anything, or been out of bed that night. He said no to all three. He did remind me of the time he himself had a dream that Hiccup was loose on his bed. His calls had awoken me and I had gone into his room and woke him up. He, like I, had been adamant that Hiccup was loose. I had forgotten that incident.
*** End of Account ***
Being a paranormal investigator, I find this story extraordinary on so many levels. And I can say that I can pick it apart now, only because of the amount of time that has gone by, without any further re-occurences. It’s much easier to be critical when you’re not actually emotionally involved. But let me start with the easier answers.
The third occurrence, when I felt like an entity was holding me down on my chest and arms is probably the most easily answered. Indeed, I answered it at the time I wrote it, chalking it down to sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is something that occurs naturally in mammals. It’s a type of protective tendency that sets in when an organism is in its deepest sleep, causing a temporary paralysis of the limbs. In this way if I dream I’m fleeing from an assailant, I don’t actually start flailing in bed. In the same vein if my poodle, Uther, is dreaming that he is chasing a squirrel he doesn’t actually take off running and throw himself inadvertently off the balcony. Its nature’s way of keeping our bodies safe when we’re in our deepest, most vulnerable stages of sleep.
Sleep paralysis (SP) is a physiological response, quite natural. Coupled with this I apparently had the “Old Hag” syndrome experience – old hag meaning a witch. The Old Hag was known for visiting victims at night and sitting on their chest. What actually happens is that because my chest and arms were paralyzed it felt as if something was holding me down. Because I was only partially awake, my body was still not responding, instead feeling like it was under spectral attack. SP is a fairly common phenomenon. I might also have experienced a hypnogogic or hypnopompic hallucination which are also common with SP. Such acute episodes can be caused by stress, fear, being overtired. They also occur more regularly if someone is sleeping on their back or on their stomach.
The second dream as well is easily dismissed as a nightmare. I was already emotionally distressed, and probably had a bad dream because of it. I didn’t for instance actually see the sheets being pulled down.
That leaves the first incident. Obviously, the night left me bewildered and I sought the advice of two experts I knew in the field. Greg Pocha, Director of Parapsychology, Afterlife and Paranormal Studies for the Eidolon Project Canada (eidolonproject.org) theorized that I had experienced a somewhat rare sleep anomaly called a False Awakening (FA). An FA is the polar opposite of an SP in that the person is not paralyzed but moving about freely, acting out their dream. They feel like they’re awake, but they’re sound asleep. In my FA I was sitting up in bed, conversing with my husband and chasing an imaginary critter. I didn’t actually wake up until my husband turned on his headlamp and started asking me questions.
Pocha speculated that I had a Type 2 FA which is accompanied by sensations of confusion, tension, stress, apprehension, feelings of foreboding, feelings of heightened expectancy and feelings of ominous oppression. Apparently Type 2 FA’s can also produce hallucinations, such as seeing people that are not there; husbands standing at the foot of the bed, for example, or imaginary sugar
gliders running around on the covers. FA’s are more common in lucid dreamers as are SP’s. Until that night I’d never experienced either an SP or an FA.
Pocha pointed out that I likely have a telepathic connection with my son, which he speculated was common among mothers and their children. Note that my son had had a similar dream about his sugar glider getting out. This is one of his first pets, and required specialized care. Hence, especially when the animal was new to the house, my son would often suffer bouts of anxiety. I’ve always considered myself about as sensitive as a rock, so this suggestion surprised me. And then he spent a night away at a friend’s house. He left me to take care of his pet, which I did. However, I awoke in the middle of the night in a panic over whether I had fed Hiccup his nightly apple slice. I was so concerned that I went down stairs and got him another, just in case. Hiccup ate well that night. When my son came home the next day I asked him how his night away had been. He said it had been fine, except in the middle of the night he had awoke in a panic, thinking he’d forgotten to get Hiccup his apple. Had his panic over his pet radiated to me?
Pocha’s answer seemed to tie up the experiences I had in a nice, neat scientific bundle. I might have been subconsciously anxious about the upcoming investigation and that anxiety created not one, not two, but three lucid dreams resulting in an SP and an FA experience – all in one wild ride of a night. I didn’t know I was feeling terribly worried about the investigation, but that’s why we call it subconscious or below consciousness.
For skeptics this appears explanation enough, except for two minor details…. First my husband saw a similar dark figure at the foot of the bed, which in a stretch we might say was a shared telepathic hallucination. Second, the dark figure we saw at the foot of the bed turned around, walked out of the room, down the hall and tripped the motion sensor night light in the bathroom. Pocha’s response, “I will have to agree with your husband’s first, and most logical conclusion, that it was indeed your son that was seen at the foot of the bed. Why? It must be fairly obvious that you were suffering from episodes of sleepwalking. Thanks to chromosome 20 (the exact gene is still unknown) there is a genetic link passed down, so the likelihood of your son suffering the same noctambulistic fate is better than average. I can safely surmise that the chances are excellent that your son was indeed sleepwalking, being silhouetted from the light of the motion detector that he had just set off. In your words the figure turned around and headed back down the hall. Apparitions tend to take the easy route and just fade out. As well you state that you were struggling to wake up, apparently your husband was in the same state, as apparently you woke him up. This gave plenty of time for a sleepwalking boy to return to his bed and be asleep - because he was never awake.”
This is not to say that Pocha dismissed the idea that a spirit could follow someone home. In fact he vehemently warned me to take some precautions against such a fate. He just felt it unlikely that on an initial walk-through I would have caught the attention of something that would be so interested in me as to follow me home. I wasn’t doing anything provocative enough to garner attention. Incidentally, I also asked another acquaintance who had studied parapsychology about this particular incident. His explanation was more to the point. Heck, he could have tweeted it to me. “Yup,” he said, “it sounds like something followed you home. “
Before this incident neither my husband or I had ever witnessed our son sleep walking. However, sometime after the incident my husband decided to check on our son late one night and found him standing behind the door of his room, fully asleep.