Sleep Paralysis: A Haunting Space between Reality and REM

By: Erika Shevchek

“It feels like only in my nightmares will I see my own body, dead and still. But when sleep paralysis cross-pollinates what is dreaming and what is real, the fears of seeing my own body frozen and corpse like is unfortunately so realistic.” My nightmare showed my body in the exact position it was in my bed, and it was all from a birds-eye view. However, I wasn’t breathing in this image, my body was lifeless and I wasn’t asleep –– I have now seen what I will look like when I die.

Sleep paralysis can be briefly described as a moment when the body cannot move in an attempt to wake up. As someone who suffered from chronic sleep paralysis, and after hours and hours of research, I finally have a decent explanation for what’s happening in my body during sleep paralysis. And it’s hauntingly fascinating.

For more scientific info, click here (also includes the same image Gina put on the class syllabus titled “The Nightmare”!).

My anxiety comes from many places, but lack of sleep is the main catalyst for my anxiety, and of course, for sleep paralysis. I lie in bed, unable to move and usually unable to speak, but there is the window with light and sound of the cars rushing by outside. It’s all there (my reality) but my muscles and senses that are under voluntary control, like getting up out of bed, are not available. I’ve woken up before REM is over; I’m paralyzed and it’s freaking terrifying.

I’ve suffered from sleep paralysis quite a few times in my life, starting in my adolescence and going into high school. But with the social, academic, and emotional stress of college, and my anxiety, sleep paralysis has found a relevant place in my life. Last semester, I had about 5 major episodes. Since then, I’ve learned how to tame my anxiety, prioritize my sleep schedule, and prevent myself from having these hellacious episodes.

Like the opening passage, the following passages were written immediately after my worst episode. The language may sound funny, and the grammar might be totally off, but hey, I just woke up from sleep paralysis and my mind was tired and confused.

“Flashes of black and white light, strobe and seizure-like lights came where my left eye began to twitch (or once again, felt like twitching. Forever unsure of what is really happening on my body and what my mind is telling me is happening to my body). Both eyes begin to flutter, seeing fake and real images … combining both of those gives me the raw fear that I don’t know what is reality, or if my reality is now a wrapped package of all my REM cycle sleep paralysis dreams. Finally, a huge gasp with almost a dog like whimper comes out of my mouth, body shooting upward in an exorcism-like action, my body slowly regains feeling, like feeding water into a tube of what all I could feel were pins and needles. The water –– my blood –– moving around in my veins from my toes where I can feel it in my fucking eyelashes, my body becomes ‘feelable’ again but my eyes are so blurry because they have worked so hard they want to rest again but the little part of my conscious knows that that is too scary and we worked too hard to get out of that so we cannot close our eyes again…

“So now it is time to find my feet to the floor, go to the bathroom, sit down to pee while the sink and the towels move and shift like seeing them when you are high. I look in the reflection of the doorknob where suddenly I see a “Scream”- like figure move from the shower, past the toilet, and stand to my right. I looked to my right where I saw only a toiletry shelf full of girls’ bathroom items … I have officially hallucinated.”

To be quite honest, I thought the death nightmare was the worst part of it all, but man was I wrong. The moment I woke up from the paralysis and hallucinated a daunting black figure in my bathroom was something I had never experienced before.

The scariest thing about all of this is the utter lack of control that you have. Every day, we live in control of our minds and our bodies; every choice we make, every motion we do … that’s all up to us. And the instant we lose that ability to be an autonomous human is a fear that many, if not all of us, would not want to encounter.

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Northville Horror Story: Asylum

By: Nikola Jaksic

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My hometown, Northville, is steeped in horror lore. It is Victorian, so it has the old family cemetery, creepy houses, etc., but what really sets it apart is the old psychiatric hospital, on Seven Mile Rd. This place is something out of AHS, if half the stories were to be believed. Tales of underground tunnels, malpractice on patients, and escapees were all too common. Northville is a relatively popular town, but some of the area across from the place remains barren, a “land for lease” sign that will likely be there indefinitely. And growing up there, you hear tales. As an elementary schooler, about the brave 8th graders who ventured there, and as a middle schoolers about the high school seniors who would throw beers off of the roof. As you grew up you became a little more skeptical and wary of the place, and by the time I was a sophomore in high school I scarcely believed that there were tunnels, not matter what my older friends told me.

In a mythology class, one of these friends and I were assigned to come up with a ghost story, and we decided to do it on the hospital, which has been something of a local legend. We got our hands on some original documents, and articles about its closure, but eventually she talked me into going there for myself, at least just to see what all of the fuss was about. It was no big deal, she had been there before, she said. She could get us in and out without an issue. So we made a plan for one night and went.

Now I know I know, night at an asylum, what are you thinking? The issue is that there are some pretty steep trespassing fines, and I have seen cops parked there multiple times to find would-be adventurers. So we went one night and parked the car down the road further, stalking through the dirt road neighborhood, and to an area where there was a break in the woods. To me, this entire part was just baited breath and following the leader, hoping not to get caught.

Eventually, miraculously, we made it to the main ground itself. One of the wings shielded us from view, and up close I could see how decrepit and destroyed the place really was. You would be hard pressed to find one window on the thing that was not shattered. The closure of the hospital was notoriously messy, with reports that needles had simply been buried in pits, or strewn around the hospital itself. We got in through one of the windows and started walking around. Our flashlights illuminated in front of us, but my heart was in my stomach the whole time. I will never be able to describe what that felt like. Beyond your floodlight, darkness, pieces of ceiling floating down, the crunch of your feet on the glass, ceramic tile. Everything there seemed like people had abandoned it without care and in a hurry. We went through some of the hallways, which were covered in graffiti of all kinds, and eventually made our way up the stairs to one of the patient wings. The sound of boots on the metal staircases echoed, and when we got to the wing, we could look into rooms with strapped beds and clinicians desks.

Being there felt wrong. The thing that haunted me though, was the total absence of sound beyond us. The closest I have come to that feeling is walking down a middle school hallway at night when no one is there. And even there you have comforting pictures and notes on lockers and walls. Here, in their place, was peeling paint, broken glass and the inescapable feeling that this place had been abandoned for a reason. This continued throughout the visit, as the slightest sound or movement set us on edge. I will never forget walking through the gymnasium and theatre, relics of a different way of approaching mental illness. Throughout the visit it was impossible to shake the feeling that it, the building, did not want us there. Thankfully, we left our visit with our sanity intact, and plenty of material for our project.

Nevertheless, since then, every once in a while I am reminded to the eerie building, and my visit. When watching It Follows, the shots of the abandoned building come from that place, reminding me of my walks in the halls. Horror podcasts like Lore talk about the fears of asylums, a boss at a pizza place used to tell me how he delivered there, with doors that locked from the inside. That building is wrong, and because I ventured in once, I doubt I will ever fully shake it off.

Monkey

By: Alexis Low

Horror isn’t just on the screen or a written account. While its in every part of life, we probably don’t recognize it, because we have suppressed our feeling or simply ignored the problem and held no significance at the time. It takes one instance for us to be reminded something happened, and when we remember the unexplainable horror, we no longer know what to do. We come up with an unfathomable amount of logical reasons, working with one theory after the next, then we give up. This feeling is similar to the anime Erased, which tells of a man with powers to go back in time.

One day, the main character’s mother was watching the news of a child abduction, she asked him if he remembered that happening when he was younger. All it took was a simple horrific newsfeed, and he remembered a classmate who went missing and found later in a trash bag. He tries again and again to prevent it from happening, going from theory to theory, attempting to erase that event from happening. However, we don’t have that power, we only have theories of why horrific things happen, especially if they contain a hint of the supernatural.

I didn’t have the power to fix a past horror that occurred when I was younger. I recently watched a commercial about stuffed animals, and it reminded me of the strange occurrences of my imaginary friend, Monkey.

Before the event with my grandmother’s doll and The Twilight Zone, there was Monkey. He was my first imaginary friend, he fit in my hand, I talked to him constantly, and he even had his own place in the car. My imaginary Monkey and stuffed monkey looked like a combination of Curious George and the lemur from Zoboomafoo. He was my only friend, and since he was in my mind, I would always have him. However, in some type of crack-pot-theory, my parents gave me a physical version of my imaginary friend, in order to physically take him away from me (making the separation permanent); to my parents, I shouldn’t have had an imaginary friend.

imgMoreover, once Monkey got a ‘physical’ form, in the next couple of days, my sister’s hamster would be dead in its cage, the smell was horrid; I will never forget it. In the next few days Monkey was stolen from me, I asked my parents where my monkey had gone. They told me that Monkey needed to go, while the cranky garbage truck groaned and went on to the next house. I cried, but I had to ‘grow up’.

After the incident with my grandmother’s doll, I ran to my cousin’s house, to which I found my stuffed Monkey, he came back to me. I thought, ‘Why would my cousins have Monkey, they are too old for him?’, ‘Did my parents give him to them?’, but I quickly dismissed the thoughts. I was excited and overjoyed, however, when I went back home, my parents were dismayed and had a look of contempt at Monkey.

However, I didn’t understand why. Until, two weeks later, I started smelling a strange odor, a similar odor, from a while ago, it was death. I thought it was a dead neighborhood possum, dog, or squirrel. The bird I used to feed was dead, on the ground, by the birdfeeder. I thought it was the bird, but it was something else. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I was woken up by sirens and dogs barking; next door, in an abandoned house, a body was found, six feet deep.

Monkey was by the window, his back to me. I tried to reason why Monkey was turned that way, maybe I had rolled over too much in bed, but I laid all night in the same position.

Was it a coincidence? Did Monkey have something to do with this? The smell of death isn’t easily forgotten. Did my parents realize this before me, or was it just a brief response to end the conversation? Did he do something else? Was this really just a coincidence? To me, there are no coincidences. Monkey needed to go.

A (Very) Haunted Homeland

By: Azalea Hinojosa

The following stories were first narrated to me around the age of 7 or 8. They belong to my mom and dad. Both took place during a visit in Mexico. If I ever think about what they told me for too long, the fear I felt more than a decade ago begins to rush back.

(Note: My mom was reluctant to go into too many details. To this day, she still gets chills.)

MOM:

“The house I stayed at in Mexico belonged to my brother-in-law’s mother, who had passed away prior to our visit. There weren’t enough rooms for all of us, so they set up a bed for my sister and I in this hallway area that connected to the kitchen.

In the middle of the night, I got woken up by my sister. She shook me awake and hysterically asked “Do you hear that?!”

It was raining outside but that didn’t matter. I could clearly hear what sounded like someone washing dishes in the middle of the night and in the dark.

On another night, when we were sleeping in an actual room, we heard someone knock on our door. We said “come in”, but no one ever did.

DAD:

“December, 1991. I was 15. That Christmas break, we drove down to Leon, Mexico. We stayed there for one week. It was in Leon, while staying at my stepfather’s parent’s house, that I had the most frightening experience of my life.

Like most other houses in that neighborhood, this one was old, cold, long and narrow; cold because it was December and all of the houses were made out of concrete with no insulation.

This is an example of what the house looked like.

This is an example of what the house looked like.

The room in which Rick (my brother) and I slept in was dark and windowless. We shared a queen size bed with thick, heavy Mexican cobijas (blankets) to keep us warm.

The first night there we were fatigued from the long drive and I slept like a baby. But the second night was the night I will never forget.

I will admit that we were warned by my stepfather’s parents about strange sounds coming from the kitchen and how others have experienced a strong presence of an unnatural being in that house. My stepdad’s nephew mentioned that once he thought he felt someone sitting next to him and quickly jumped in fear because he knew he was home alone.

Despite the fact that these stories were now in my subconscious, what I experienced was 100% genuine.

After touring the city on the second day, we walked back to the house. It was now time for bed. We all went to our rooms and fell asleep. I have no clue what time it was, but that night I randomly woke up. I was very cold and tried adjusting the blanket. As l did so, I looked up and at the foot of my bed there stood a woman I didn’t know. It was a very distinct image.

She was glowing due to a beam of light that was coming from a top corner of the room. She didn’t appear threatening but this strange woman scared me beyond belief! I tried waking up Rick but he didn’t budge. So I closed my eyes and prayed endlessly for her to go away. I eventually prayed myself to sleep.

Then morning came.

I told my family what I had seen. Suddenly, I noticed that I had a super high fever. I had to spend the rest of the week in bed, recovering.

Years after my stepdad’s parents passed away, the house was sold. The new owners uncovered a nice surprise when doing some construction in the kitchen. They found gold coins. They were specifically centenarios which are Mexican coins from the 1800’s. I don’t know how much it was but enough for it to be big news.

In Mexican culture it is believed that if a ghost of some type appears to you it is for a reason. Now, I don’t know why that woman appeared to me, but I will never forget her.”

 

 

A (Haunted) Cinderella Story

By: Sally Nagia

When I was younger, getting me to brush my teeth was like pulling teeth out. I hated the feeling of the toothbrush against my teeth and I especially hated the way the toothpaste foam felt and tasted in my mouth. For a while, my parents had to literally hold me in place and brush my teeth for me. Around the time that I turned five years old, my parents decided that they had had enough of this daily struggle. They knew that I loved Disney princesses, so they bought me a Disney character themed toothbrush in hopes that I would brush my own teeth. I remember it was a princess Belle spinning toothbrush and I just couldn’t wait until it was time to brush my teeth so that I could use it. Every few months I would get bored of my old princess toothbrush and move on to a new one. Most of the princess toothbrushes that I had have blurred together in my memory, but I clearly remember one in particular; it was the last princess toothbrush I ever used, the Cinderella toothbrush.

Cinderella has always been my favorite Disney character. Since the moment I got the princess Belle toothbrush I had been on the hunt for the Cinderella version. However, she was so popular that it was always sold out. After a few months, I finally got my hands I one and it was just about the happiest day of my five year old life. When I got her out of the packaging, I distinctly remember a chill running down my spine. I couldn’t explain why, but for some reason my Cinderella toothbrush was different than the other princess toothbrushes. She felt different. She appeared more vivid, more lifelike somehow. I ignored that feeling and placed her in my special toothbrush spot that was on my bathroom counter. I was very particular about the positioning of my princess toothbrushes. Since they had flat bottoms and could stand on their own, I liked for them to be facing straight at me if I was standing in front of my sink. This particular positioning was how I became certain that something was wrong with my Cinderella toothbrush.

One night, I got out of the shower to find my Cinderella toothbrush swiveled 90 degrees to her right. She had moved from her spot and was staring right at me in my towel. I calmed myself down by reasoning that my brother must have accidentally moved her while he was reaching for his own toothbrush. However, after intense questioning my brother assured me that he never bumped into my toothbrush. For an entire week Cinderella was turned to face me every time I came out of the shower. All I could do was turn her back into the correct position and run out of the bathroom as fast as possible. Unfortunately, she had another trick up her sleeve.

As a child, I was a very messy sleeper. I typically woke up in the morning to find my sheets and pillows all tangled up with each other and sometimes thrown off of my bed. I remember waking up one morning and realizing that I was laying on my back with my hands by my sides staring straight up at the ceiling, which never happened. I looked down at my feet to see my bed was perfectly made and the sheets were tucked under the mattress hotel-style, which also never happened. In an attempt to figure out what was going on, I turned my head to my left only to realize that next to me in my bed was my Cinderella toothbrush! She was lying on her back and was tucked under the perfect covers just like me! I couldn’t figure out what was going on but I was so horrified that I picked her up, sprinted outside, and threw her in the trash. Needless to say, I’ve used an ordinary grown-up toothbrush ever since.

I’m Not Crazy; I Just See Things Before They Happen

By: Jessica Jung

Call it an extreme case of déjà vu, or maybe even question my mental state for a second, but I am not crazy and I don’t believe in psychics.  For over a decade now, I’ve been very inaccurately trying to explain whatever it is that’s been happening to me.  My go-to explanation is usually that it’s a feeling of déjà vu because that’s most relatable to others and makes me seem less creepy and psychotic.

While this type of experience doesn’t happen often enough for me to joke that I’m psychic (I promise, I’m not weird), when it does occur, it creeps me out every time.  If you’ve ever seen the Disney Channel show, That’s So Raven, you’d know that the eponymous character is indeed psychic and has frequent visions; she’d foresee an event, and surely enough, at some point in the episode, that premonition would become a reality.  Well, that’s the closest that I can ever get to accurately describing what happens to me, just on a much less intense level.

It primarily happens in my dreams.  For example, I’ll dream (or foresee) that a conversation or an event will happen that doesn’t usually occur in my daily routine.  The moment will make sense in the dream and typically involve people I know, but will also be unique enough that it couldn’t happen in just any moment.  The creepiest part is that I never know when these dreams will become realities, and sometimes I don’t even get full moments—I’ll get snippets or just a line of a conversation and need to wait for them to happen.  There are times when these events don’t happen until weeks later, while some occur the next day.

I can’t always think of examples when people ask for them, which, of course, only lends to the argument that I’m insane.  (I’m not!)  But like I noted earlier, it’s almost like a sense of déjà vu, which is why I can’t remember them after they happen.  Once that moment passes, the experience and feelings pass along with it, so I can no longer recall which moments of my life were initially parts of dreams.  All I know is that these experiences typically occur when I’m interacting with or talking to others because I always end up pointing out how the moment feels like it’s happened before.  That’s usually when the other person gives me a funny look and questions my mental stability.

However, after doing some research, it turns out I’m not the only one who experiences these feelings of déjà vu. (I always thought my mom was lying to make me feel better when she “understood” what I was trying to explain.)  According to this site, precognition is not completely odd in nature, and it frequently occurs in one’s dreams!  Even better, the site claims that we all have psychic abilities.  It just happens that some peoples’ abilities are heightened.  See, I told you I wasn’t insane.  Maybe you just need to learn how to better tap into your abilities so that we can foresee the future together.

TV’s Grand Event

By: Kelsey Mannarino

Trigger Warning: Mention of suicide

My dad celebrated his 50th birthday this past March. A week later, we celebrated his birthday at TV’S Grand Event. This former hotel and now banquet center, is in Trenton, Michigan, which is about an hour from Ann Arbor. I was home that weekend because I had to work the Tigers opening day block party for my job with a Detroit’s sports radio station. Needless to say, my parents forced me to go to the party, so I could be the designated driver. I was really bored and tried to entertain myself, so as a joke I decided to ask the waitress if the place was haunted and she told me that it was. She told me a story of a little boy (ghost) named Charlie who lives in the basement of the building. I don’t remember his story or how he ended up there. Apparently the workers weren’t supposed to let visitors down there but somehow she convinced her boss to let us and my cousin Tony and I were able to look around. In the basement there was a tricycle that they left for him to ride around on which was kind of creepy and cute at the same time. Workers said that the bike will move all the time, they will look away and then look back and it will be in a different spot.

The workers told a bunch of my relatives that we could go upstairs and look around on the second floor, which is now another ballroom type area. The same waitress told us that this area used to be a hotel and tried to describe where each room was. One room in particular had an eerie past. In that room a man had hung himself (I don’t remember why). My cousin Mark can be kind of obnoxious. He thought it would be funny to mock the man who killed himself. While he was mocking the ghost, my cousin Jackie was using the burst camera function on her phone. We didn’t notice anything until we looked at the pictures the next day. It is hard to see what is in the picture unless you have your brightness up very high. What appeared to be in the picture was some sort of shadow thing. It wasn’t any of us because it was pitch black upstairs. Who knows if it actually is anything, but we had a lot of fun thinking that it is something and scaring ourselves.

imgA local ghost-hunting group called The Motor City Ghost Hunters did a tour of this place and documented their findings. Here is a link to their site.