Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Sleep Paralysis...Or Paranormal Encounter by Michelle Harrison.

Today on the blog, I have one of my favourite authors, Michelle Harrison, who is sharing the most frightening things to ever happen to her. 
The two most frightening things that have ever happened to me are similar experiences, and both occurred when I was in a place where I should have felt safest: at home in bed. 
The first was when I was aged twenty, at college and living away from home for the first time. I'd just moved into a new flat with a couple of friends with whom I worked at a local nightclub, and the flat happened to be the upstairs of an old pub – The Bear and Pheasant in Stafford. I'd only been there a week when I was woken one morning by the feeling of something hitting the end of the bed repeatedly. As I was sleeping alone and there should have been no one else in the room, I was instantly struck with fear and the thought that this had to be a supernatural presence. I can only describe it as being like the weight of a fist pounding the bedclothes by my feet. It went on for about twenty seconds, during which I kept my eyes tightly closed, too frightened to move, but convinced I was awake. When I finally plucked up the courage to move my foot the tiniest amount, the pounding stopped. Convinced the place was haunted, I got dressed and stayed out of the flat for the entire day, eventually moving out the following week. I later heard a story that the room had once belonged to an elderly couple who ran the pub. The woman had been very ill for a while, and supposedly her husband used to go in and wake her every morning to make sure she hadn't died in her sleep. Whether this part is true, I'm unsure, as I only heard it from one (dubious) source . . . 

The second time it happened was in a different bed and a different house, more than ten years later. This time was more terrifying than the first. Again, I was alone, and stirred from sleep by the sound of footsteps – like an old person wearing slippers shuffling slowly round the bed away from me. And again, I was instantly afraid, knowing that there was no one in the house but me. I became even more terrified when I realised I was paralysed with fear (or so I thought) and couldn't move a muscle. It was at this point the footsteps paused halfway round the bed, then came running back round to me at a crazy speed, then whoomph! The side of the bed sank down with a heavy weight, like a person had thrown themselves next to me. When I finally managed to wake up properly I was screaming, but once I'd calmed down the sense of terror didn't last. 

The reason for this was that in between these two experiences, I'd written a book called Unrest, based on my sister's experiences which were similar to the two I've just described. In the book, the main character, Elliott, has frequent bouts of what's called sleep paralysis, or sleep apnea, during which he believes ghosts are making contact with him. Having done some research into sleep paralysis, I'd learned that it's surprisingly common, and most people experience it at least once. 

It takes place during REM sleep, when the body's muscles naturally go into paralysis (to stop us acting out our dreams and harming ourselves) but when our minds are in the dreaming phase. Sometimes, the mind partially wakes up, projecting our dreams into our everyday surroundings, but because our bodies are still paralysed, we go into panic mode and the dream hallucinations turn threatening. Most often, this takes the form of a malevolent figure approaching us, with many accounts of the victim feeling a crushing weight on their chest and struggling to breathe. Because of this, sleep paralysis is believed to be responsible for the vast number of supernatural/alien/ghostly encounters that people experience, as it feels so incredibly real and scary – even when you understand what's happening, as I did the second time round. 

What research fails to explain is why this hallucinated threat so consistently manifests as a shadowy, human-like figure or presence . . . 
Happy Halloween!
Published by Simon & Schuster
Summary
What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . . 
Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and ‒ most of all ‒ stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.
When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.
But every tale has its villains ‒ and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all ...
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To find out more about Michelle Harrison:

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