Sleep Paralysis Interview

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I was recently contacted by a journalism student at the University of Lincoln, England, a young woman by the name of Amber Jacques. As she’s currently writing an article about SP, she asked me if I’d care to answer some interview questions.

1) What inspired your studies into SP?

I started having SP experiences at the age of about seventeen. Back then, of course, I had no idea there was such a thing as SP, and naturally assumed that these frightening nocturnal encounters were specific to me. I became informed about SP when, in my early-twenties, I came across an article about the condition on the internet. In an attempt to shed as much light on the matter as possible, I began researching SP, reading other people’s accounts of SP and comparing them to my own, as well as scouring the internet for articles and scientific papers on SP and related topics. Books like David Hufford’s The Terror That Comes in the Night were an important part of this research. So, to answer your question, my own SP episodes were what inspired me to study the phenomenon.

2) How did you feel after you had your first experience of SP?

I can’t remember my very first SP experience. However, I do remember some of my earliest ones. Today, having lived with the condition for many years, I’m not as frightened by these experiences as I used to be. Sure, they still scare me, but not nearly as much as they did when they first started happening. I recall, during those early days, feeling as though I’d become a target for evil spirits and demons that wanted to “steal my soul” or “take over my mind and body.” I felt an overwhelming sense of persecution, like I’d become the victim of a powerful curse. There were nights when I was too scared to go to sleep for fear that I might get “attacked” again, or that these evil entities might finally succeed in “taking me over.” Of course, when I tried to talk to people about these experiences – such as my mother – little of what I said was taken seriously. They assumed these experiences of mine to be the product of paranoia and an overactive imagination. With no one to talk to about the problem, I felt very alone and isolated. The possibility that I was losing my grip on reality did enter my mind.

3) What was the most shocking discovery you made during your research into SP?

When I first started researching SP, I expected to come across more variety in terms of what was being reported by SP suffers. I was surprised to notice that the opposite is true – that there is a great deal of consistency among accounts of SP. I found this very shocking. As I read account after account, I kept coming across the same themes. And I’m not referring to general themes, either, like the sense of a presence in the room or the sensation of a heavy weight on the chest, all of which are well-established. Rather, I’m referring to very specific themes.

Let me give you an example. Many years ago, while living in Melbourne, I had a SP episode in which I became aware of a presence at the foot of the bed. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call this presence evil, I could tell it had very negative intentions. In an effort to frighten or torment me, the presence – or entity – started making the bed rock back and forth, almost as if it were standing there pushing the bed with its arms. It kept this up for what seemed like hours. (Whether the bed moved physically is difficult to say. I certainly received the impression that it did.) Later, to my surprise, I came across an account of SP (in Hufford’s The Terror That Comes in the Night, if I remember correctly) in which the exact same “bed rocking” phenomenon was mentioned. Now if, as the “experts” say, what is experienced during SP is only hallucinatory, then why the amazing consistency between SP accounts, with the same specific themes popping up again and again? You would expect dream-related hallucinations to consist of almost anything. Yet I’m not aware of SP suffers encountering cigar-smoking crocodiles, for example, or talking beetroot sandwiches.

4) What was your reason for writing the book?

In early-2007, I wrote an article about SP for New Dawn magazine, the title of which, “Mind Parasites and the World of Invisible Spirits,” I now find overly sensational. The article describes some of my own SP experiences, and links SP to a wide range of paranormal phenomena. (By that time I had made up my mind that there is a great deal more to SP than is accounted for by orthodox science.) Not long after the article was published, I received a number of emails from readers describing their own SP experiences. One woman, a school teacher in Australia, told me of an SP episode she had where she “popped out” of her physical body and began floating around the bedroom; in other words, what started off as a SP episode suddenly transformed into an out-of-body experience (OBE). The more I discovered about SP the more I became fascinated by the phenomenon and the more I began to realise that SP represents a kind of doorway into the realm of the paranormal. Poltergeist disturbances, OBEs, mediumship, vampire encounters, spirit possession – all of these phenomena are closely linked to SP. I wanted to explore these connections more deeply, so I set about writing a book on the subject. The result was Dark Intrusions. Working on the book was a cathartic experience in that it helped me better come to terms with what I’d undergone as a result of being a SP sufferer.

5) Do you personally know anybody who suffers from SP?

I don’t personally know anyone who has regular SP episodes, though I have corresponded via email with plenty of people who do. However, I personally know a number of people who’ve experienced SP at least a few times in their life. One such person is my sister. Many years ago a close friend of hers – whom I shall call “Mark” – committed suicide after suffering a broken heart as a result of breaking up with his girlfriend. Not long after this tragic event, my sister was asleep in bed when she became aware of Mark’s presence – more correctly, his spirit or consciousness. As she lay there in the SP state, her body entirely paralysed, she felt Mark sit down beside her on the bed. During this brief visitation, he communicated with her in a mind-to-mind fashion, basically saying goodbye and wishing her well.

6) What advice would you give to someone suffering from it?

This all depends on the nature of the experiences they’re having and the state of their mental health. Ever since I started writing about and researching SP – and especially since the publication of Dark Intrusions in 2009 – I’ve received, and continue to receive, a steady trickle of emails from people wanting to tell me about their SP experiences. Some of the stories I hear are absolutely mind-blowing, and very much support the notion that we share our reality with a host of other life forms – beings that aren’t physical in the conventional sense of the term and which we cannot normally perceive, only becoming perceptible to us when we’re in altered states of consciousness like SP. To have SP is to be aware of a whole other side to reality.

The vast majority of SP sufferers I hear from are completely normal and honest people, with jobs and families like everybody else. While they differ in many respects – some of them German, others American, some of them wives with children, others teenagers, etc. – they all share one thing in common: They’ve had these amazing experiences that have left them frightened and confused and which they’re desperately struggling to understand. Often they look to me for answers, as though my having written a book on the topic makes me some kind of expert. The fact is, I’m not an expert on SP and I don’t pretend to be one. I am, like those who contact me, simply looking for answers as to what these strange experiences mean, albeit with the knowledge that the orthodox explanation for SP doesn’t hold water.

I consider SP a profound mystery. While it’s true I’ve come to believe that some cases of SP involved contact and communication with non-human entities – what I sometimes refer to as “spirits” – this is not a belief to which I’m firmly attached or which I feel the need to defend. Nor do I try and push this belief on others. If someone wants to believe that their SP experiences are entirely physiological in nature, and that science has all the answers regarding these experiences, they’re more than welcome to do so. I wouldn’t try and dissuade them from this belief.

7) Are you still conducting research on this and other sleeping disorders?

No, not really. In the last couple of years I’ve drifted away from the SP field, though I still welcome emails from SP sufferers who wish to share with me their experiences and thoughts. I think of this area of research as concerning “inner space.” Having spent a few years exploring inner space, I’ve now turned my attention to outer space – specifically, the Moon. My new book, The Secret Influence of the Moon, is due to be released by Inner Traditions in November 2013.

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One Response to Sleep Paralysis Interview

  1. pemcalpine says:

    I’ve had sleep paralysis infrequently since I was a teen. I’m now 67. My mother who was diagnosed as narcoleptic also had sleep paralysis, but she would go into the state from an awake state. It is possible my mother was not really narcoleptic, but an amphetamine abuser. She began using amphetamines during WWII when my father was in the Navy. She began using the benzadrine he was given to be alert “on watch” on the sea wall of an East Coast naval installation.

    There doesn’t seem much of a pattern to my sleep paralysis. It is too infrequent for me to become very familiar with it. Some instances are terrifying, others fun, some sexual. I float through the air or fly sometimes, but never see my body beneath me. Sometimes there are monsters and/or intruding criminals. Sometimes I am very conscious, others less so. When very conscious, I don’t believe what I see and hear, but “play” with it like a movie.

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