I’m not sure what demon convinced me watching a documentary about sleep paralysis within hours of going to sleep was a good idea. Maybe it’s the same one that makes us fascinated by things that terrify us.
Whoever was in my brain encouraging me to see this nightmare succeeded. And of course it was horrifying. The visuals themselves weren’t so bad (except when they showed footage from A Nightmare on Elm Street, which I can’t handle because the concept is so beyond frightening to me). But the ideas behind them–that there are all these people out there experiencing extremely similar sleep terrors where they can’t move and evil beings visit them–were plenty to make an already suggestible person quiver in fear.
On the one hand, one woman’s explanation, that we are all human beings, so it makes sense for us to have nightmares that act the same, makes sense to me. After all, it’s well-documented that certain tropes repeatedly appear in our dreams–falling, nakedness, etc.
On the other, more sinister, hand, however, one man’s theory that during these sleep paralysis episodes, people are actually seeing a glimpse of what is always there, either within our own universe or slightly beyond, also feels possible. And if that’s the case, or if it’s even actual, real demons, which is what one woman claimed since they stopped appearing to her once she invoked Jesus’ name, I don’t want to live in that world.
I’m perfectly capable of understanding there are things out there we don’t understand and can’t control. But once those things start visiting us in the night and terrorizing us with no clear end in sight, I want no part of that. I’d rather live in ignorance. I’d rather have the regular recurring nightmare I had as a child where I tried to scoop out my little brother’s eyes with a mayonnaise knife.
The scariest part of the documentary was that at no point were any scientists interviewed. Not once were we provided with a glimmer of…is it hope? I don’t know, but something to show us the possibility that all of these creatures are definitely just in these people’s heads, and they’re all a result of overactive neurons, and the paralysis is simply imagined.
I guess in the end it doesn’t matter, since whether they’re real or not, they’re real to the people experiencing them. I mainly wanted a scientist to come on the screen and say directly to me, “Don’t worry; this isn’t going to happen to you tonight.”
I’m sure that’s intentional, that the filmmaker didn’t give us any comfort, that he’s trying to mimic the horror and helplessness the victims in the movie feel. But knowing that didn’t make it any easier to fall asleep last night.