sleep paralysis and old ghosts

Megan Bidmead
Silly Thoughts
Published in
5 min readOct 31, 2021

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Been binge-listening to This Paranormal Life (which is excellent, you should listen to it too) and, off the back of that, thinking about sleep paralysis. I used to get sleep paralysis a LOT. It happened one day in the bungalow we used to live in. I woke up, but my body wouldn’t move. There was buzzing in my ears. Like an angry bee smacking against the walls of my brain. I tried banging on the wall to wake up my parents. Tried to cry out. Tried to roll over. Tried to twitch my fingertips. Nothing. No movement. It felt like an eternity but it was probably only a few seconds.

I told my parents. They couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t either until I Googled it, years later (along with Exploding Head Syndrome which is a legitimate thing and not something out of Two Point Hospital).

Chris and I have always been interested in dreams, way before we met each other. When I was a teenager, I kept a dream diary. You were supposed to wake up and immediately write in it, which is a totally ridiculous concept to me now, as my wake-up routine involves:

  1. Be woken up by child calling ‘Mummeeeeee I need yooooou’
  2. Collect child, bring into bed
  3. Spend the next 15 minutes fruitlessly trying to sleep whilst said child rolls around, elbows me in the boob, whispers ‘is it time to wake up yet’ and ‘I’m quite hungry’ every 30 seconds or so
  4. Give up, get out of bed, put dressing gown on backwards in confusion

The thought of rolling over and merrily writing down my dreams in a journal seems luxurious to me on the scale of deciding to holiday on a whim in Cancun. The extent of my own dream recording is me saying to Chris ‘I had a weird dream last night’ and him saying ‘oh yeah, what happened?’ and me saying ‘I dunno.’

Anyway, it’s got me thinking. Why don’t I get sleep paralysis anymore? What happened? I mean I don’t want it, obviously. But I do find the dream part quite interesting. After that initial bee-brain incident, I started to see things too (along with the buzzing, and not being able to move). One time, during the very early days of our marriage, I had sleep paralysis, but I was more asleep than awake, and I dreamed that a huge spider was climbing slowly up my leg while I just laid there, unable to move, unable to scream, desperately trying to wake Chris up as he snored next to me.

Fun.

For me, sleep paralysis is an interesting exploration of the transition between waking and dreaming. A blurring of boundaries. And as much as it sounds quite cool, it’s actually horrible and I hate it and it makes me feel exhausted all day.

But it’s not paranormal.

It’s just a weird brain thing.

What about ghosts, though? When I was little, I thought I heard my Nan calling to us after she died. We were taking the last of her things to the car after sorting through all her possessions, and my job was to hold the door open for my Mum and auntie to carry boxes through. And at the moment that they both reached the car, leaving me in the doorway, I heard a sad voice say ‘don’t leave me.’ In terror, I forgot about holding the door open and ran full-pelt down the path.

They both believed me. They didn’t even question it. My Mum still remembers it now. My pale little face as I pelted towards her.

Years later, we moved into a very old (and very spidery) cottage, and I used to wake up in the night to the bed shaking violently around me (it wasn’t someone playing a horrible prank, there was literally no-one there). I used to lay there stiff as a board, terrified to move or make a sound. One time, exhausted and fed up, I sat upright and yelled ‘STOP IT!’ and then it never happened again.

Feel like those two things can be explained away, maybe. I was a kid in the first one, a small, grieving kid. I could have just been longing to hear her voice one more time, feeling desperately sad that she wasn’t there to have her house anymore. The second one — I don’t know. Was I actually asleep when these things happened? Was I imagining it, and then the moment I was brave enough to shout, some sort of shift happened in my brain, and that’s why it never happened again?

There is one thing I can’t explain though. And it’s not something I talk about very much in case it makes me sound absolutely insane.

I was with a friend and we were walking in the grounds of an old church near our house. We spotted a curiously dressed couple ahead of us. On closer inspection, they were wearing very old clothes. The man walked ahead of the woman. They walked silently, heads down. They each carried a rope in the shape of a noose.

We followed them (in the manner of stupid people in a horror movie) around the corner only to find they weren’t there.

What was THAT about? Joint hallucination?

I’ve been thinking about this after getting in touch with said friend recently. I went for a walk to the same church (with my children and my parents — safety in numbers) and I messaged my friend to see if she remembered this monumental life event.

Did she remember it?

No. No, she did not. Not even in the slightest bit did she remember it.

So, the chances are, ghosts aren’t real, and I am actually just going a bit mad instead.

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