Dream On

The number one reason people give for why they believe in the supernatural is because of some form of personal experience. What could be more baffling than the bizarre episodes that take place each night in our heads when we are deep in REM sleep?

Yesterday I posted an item on UFO’s and mentioned that many “abductees” often believe they have been probed. Where could such a weird sexual belief come from? It transpires that belief in nightmare sexual encounters has a long history. nightmare_largeFor example, Henry Fuseli’s (1782), “The Nightmare” is a depiction of a malevolent creature known as an ‘incubus’ that was believed to visit female victims in the night and have their evil way. It was typically reported as a cat-like creature that sits on the sleeper’s chest making it difficult for them to breathe while the victim feels paralyzed. The most likely explanation is that this experience occurs when sleepers become conscious while they are still immobilized by the sleep mechanisms that temporarily paralyze our bodies every night.

In medieval times, the incubus (Latin: ‘the one lying above’) was believed to torment women while the succubus (Latin: ‘the one that lies below’) had their evil sexual way with men. I think that these little sleep demons are also responsible for alien probing, the modern version of the incubi and succubi.

However, such physiological explanations have little impact on how people interpret their dream experiences. In a recent study of students in the US, India and S. Korea, researchers found that most believed that dreams revealed hidden truths about themselves and the world.

Moreover, people follow their dreams. When asked to imagine one of four scenarios, a national terrorist alert, a report of an airline crash on the same route, dreaming about a plane crash or simply imaging a plane crash, it was the dream that was the most likely factor to deter people from flying!

Dr Carey Morewedge of Carnegie Mellon University also reported that people who believe in God were likely to consider any dream in which God spoke to them to be meaningful; agnostics, however, considered dreams in which God spoke to be more meaningful when God commanded them to take a pleasant vacation than when God commanded them to engage in self-sacrifice.”

Sweet dreams!


Filed under General Thoughts, Research

13 responses to “Dream On

  1. Clearly, in the Middle Ages they had a very different idea of what ‘torment’ means. I do not think that sex with a being of superhuman abilities comes close to the top of the list of what people would think of if they were asked for examples these days.

  2. Arno

    Konrad, keep in mind that usually, the attack was sudden, and people tended to panic when they noticed they were paralysed and ‘something’ was watching them. Also, the ‘lover’ tends to change shape constantly, due to the fact that the person is basically dreaming. So it isn’t just sex, it’s more proper to describe it as rape by an attacker who is your own husband one moment, the other a rotting corpse, the next a green monstrous giant, the next a huge eye covered in tentacles, a shadow, a relative, a hideously deformed stranger and so on.

    So to the person who experienced it, it was more like a rape with special effects added in.

  3. I had a dream about a ferry sinking the day before the Herald of Free Enterprise went down. When I recounted this tale, I generally forgot to mention that this was a dream I had been having, on and off, for around three years.
    I’ve had relationships with several incubi over the years t0 whom sleep was no hurdle to sexual activity.

    • Maarten Van Hoof

      The night the H.O.F.E. went down my mom dreamt about it as well, vividly. She told us her dream at breakfast and freaked out while watching the news later on. A couple of years later I saw an interview with a UK woman who also dreamt about it that same night.

  4. Talking of incubi – I was once on the Herald of Free Enterprise.

    Luckily though, it didn’t go down on me.

    (sorry to lower the tone…. but WIB started the smutty innuendo)

  5. poietes

    No incubi for me; however, I tend to be of the school that dreams are usually our mind’s way of sifting the detritus from what we want to store in long-term memory, otherwise, we would have a definite storage problem.

    But once in a while my dreams are very unnerving, and I just cannot seem to shake them. In those situations, I don’t necessarily believe that they are predictors of future events, but I do pay attention to where I think they are leading me. I’m a big believer in signs and portents.

    As I’ve said before, I probably was burned as a witch at least once or twice before, which is what gives me my sparkling personality now . . .

  6. The sleep paralysis that you describe happens frequently to those who suffer from Narcolepsy and Cataplexy, and is thought to be responsible for “old Hag Syndrome”.


    These experiences, often one of the first signs of N & C, are so real and terrifying that many sufferers are referred to psychiatrists concerned for their mental health until they find out the cause is a physical one.

    This has led to ‘Sleep Disorder’ clinics throughout the UK being run by different specialists, most commonly Neurologists, Psychiatrists and even Anaesthetists.

  7. brucehood

    Thank you for the link, Nosey Cow… Yes, it is the same phenomenon though I have never heard it called, the “old hag” syndrome which seems a much more colorful term.

    No doubt I expect some follow up comments from those who complain that they sleep with an old hag!

  8. I remember reading about an Amazonian tribe who bring all of their dreams into everyday life by discussing them each morning. What I thought was unique about this method is that it was more related to improved communication within the tribe, rather than seeing the dreams as foretelling the future. An example I recall is, if a child dreamt that their parents were cruel, the parents would be extra kind and attentive the child. It didn’t act as replacement for reality, but as a kind of subtext.

    Still not something I would personally want to rely on, but I suppose I can’t always help being influenced by my dreams in ‘waking’ life.

    (I think the tribe is the “Achuar” that I found when I searched for it, but can’t tell if it’s the same one that I read about.)

  9. That’s a cool idea about bringing dreams to the tribe every morning. Although the majority of my dreams fall into that flotsam and jetsam category, they often provide insights and something like a Road Map for what should become a personal priority. Dreams are fun.

  10. purestrange

    Again we are in sync. I wish you lived close, I think we would be good friends. Keep up the good work!

  11. when I dream about God I’m usually advising him to get a beard trim or try a new pair of bifocals

  12. I was being flip about what must have very frightening experiences for the people who went through them. Still, there was a twisted sense to my point. That is, why is it that these experiences were interpreted by those people as sexual whereas the same physiological states are often interpreted these days as medical, i.e. what is it that made demon lovers the plausible explanation in the middle ages as opposed to the currently favoured twisted medical examination/experimentation by aliens? Is it simply the lack of relevant medical experiences among the populace? I guess that is a plausible explanation in that sometimes the sufferers imagine the aliens impregnated them.

    On a related note, there’s a Jewish story from eastern Poland about a man who uses these kinds of stories to seduce a widow who is either rather naive or, actually, simply willing to go along with the ruse.

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