The horror of sleep paralysis is very real. While science can explain the biological phenomenon, what it cannot explain is why so many experiencers see eerily similar figures of shadowy human forms. A new documentary, The Nightmare (Watch Trailer), explores the terror through the eyes of eight sufferers. The film’s director, Rodney Ascher, joined Connie Willis (email) to discuss this mysterious condition.
Ascher reported on one of his own sleep paralysis experiences in which he awakened to find himself unable to move and aware of something evil in the woods outside of his window. "I could sense that it was looking at me, and after a minute it was in the room," he recalled, noting how a jet black silhouette of a man slowly made its way toward him. He also described seeing what appeared to be aliens similar to those in the 1989 movie Communion during another sleep paralysis experience.
According to Ascher, more than 20 percent of people who have attended screenings of his documentary claim to have experienced sleep paralysis. Other studies suggest 8 percent of the general population goes through this phenomenon, he explained, pointing out that research has been unable to quantify why people are aware of their surroundings and see what they do in this state. Ascher wondered if his experiences were projected from within or caused by something outside of his body, which he had become sensitive to while in that state of consciousness. "I know that I was seeing it and that it wasn't just another dream," he said.
During the first 90 minutes of the program, Forrest Borie revealed his own horrifying experiences with sleep paralysis. Borie, who is a featured interviewee in The Nightmare, described how he awakens from a dream and cannot move, breathe, or speak. "You want to scream because there's terrifying things going on around you," he said. Borie recounted his first sleep paralysis experience as a toddler, when he saw at the foot of his bed two anthropomorphic creatures with giant creepy grins, large inky eyes, and skin that looked like TV static.
Later experiences featured a man he could not see in the darkness, saying terrifying things to him as he lie paralyzed in bed. Borie suggested sleep paralysis places one in an in-between state where it is possible to tune into other dimensions. He also shared his roll technique for coming out of sleep paralysis, as well as a positive experience in which a blue being encouraged him to no longer fear the demons he sees during sleep paralysis episodes.