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  • Frits Westra
    About.com News & Issues Paranormal Phenomena with Stephen Wagner http://paranormal.about.com/library/weekly/aa112000a.htm The Old Hag Syndrome (Part
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31 10:53 AM
      About.com > News & Issues > Paranormal Phenomena
      with Stephen Wagner


      The "Old Hag" Syndrome (Part 1/2)

      You wake up unable to move, barely able to breathe... you feel an
      oppressive weight on your chest... and you sense some evil presence in the
      room... The old hag strikes!

      A reader writes:

      About a year and a half ago, I was awoken in the night by a strong, warm
      breeze. I could not move and could not scream. It lasted about 30 seconds
      and was gone. I saw nothing. Last week it happened again. I was lying in
      bed and again was awoken. I felt a very strong force holding me down. I
      could not sit up. I tried to scream for my daughter and could not get any
      noise to come out. I tried to hit the wall with my arm and this force
      would not let me. It again lasted about 30 seconds and was over. I really
      don't believe in ghosts and didn't see anything at all. I am just really
      scared and confused.

      Have you ever had a similar experience? The above incident is a classic
      example of what has become known as the "old hag" syndrome and is one of
      many such letters I receive from readers each month. The victims awake to
      find that they cannot move, even though they can see, hear, feel and
      smell. There is sometimes the feeling of a great weight on the chest and
      the sense that there is a sinister or evil presence in the room. And like
      the above reader, they are often quite frightened about what is happening
      to them.

      The name of the phenomenon comes from the superstitious belief that a
      witch - or an old hag - sits or "rides" the chest of the victims,
      rendering them immobile. Although that explanation isn't taken very
      seriously nowadays, the perplexing and often very frightening nature of
      the phenomenon leads many people to believe that there are supernatural
      forces at work - ghosts or demons.

      The experience is so frightening because the victims, although paralyzed,
      seem to have full use of their senses. In fact, it is often accompanied by
      strange smells, the sound of approaching footsteps, apparitions of weird
      shadows or glowing eyes, and the oppressive weight on the chest, making
      breathing difficult if not impossible. All of the body's senses are
      telling the victims that something real and unusual is happening to them.
      The spell is broken and the victims recover often on the point of losing
      consciousness. Fully awake and well, they sit up, completely baffled by
      what just happened to them since now the room is entirely normal.

      Confronted with such a bizarre and irrational experience, it's no wonder
      that many victims fear that they have been attacked in their beds by some
      malevolent spirit, demon or, perhaps, an alien visitor.

      The phenomenon occurs to both men and women of various ages and seems to
      happen to about 15 percent of the population at least once in a lifetime.
      It can occur while the victim is sleeping during the day or night, and it
      is a worldwide phenomenon that has been documented since ancient times.

      "In the 2nd century, the Greek physician Galen attributed it to
      indigestion," according to The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by
      Rosemary Ellen Guiley. "Some individuals suffer repeated attacks over a
      limited period of time; others have repeated attacks for years."

      Another example:

      I am a 27 year old female and have been suffering for the past 12 or so
      years. It started just being unable to move, like someone was on top of
      me, pinning me down. And although I was trying with all my might to move
      or to scream, all I could do was barely wiggle my toes and faintly murmur.
      In the beginning it was very frightening and I would try with all my might
      to wake up. Upon waking I would be unable to resume sleep for at least a
      few hours. Now I have become somewhat used to them. Sometimes I even lie
      back and see how long I can take that awful, overpowering feeling. In the
      end, I always try to wake myself up. Over the years this "thing" has kind
      of metamorphosized into a dark being, something who is doing this
      deliberately to me for some reason. I guess this is something that I may
      have invented in my head to deal with it. I am not really sure. After I
      got used to it, I never really questioned it. It still occurs about every
      2 months or so. Sometimes once a night, other times it can happen several
      times in one night.

      What's going on? Is there a rational explanation for these freaky

      --[more in Part 2]------
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