Halloween Week Ghost Stories: Paralyzed Terror


I saved this story for last because unlike the other stories this week Tara’s story is not one that is open to opinion of its reality. With stories of moving shadows, ghost, and haunted houses people can dispute or disbelieve for Tara it’s not paranormal but a terrifying medical condition. Tara has been diagnosed with Sleep Paralysis, a disorder that prevents the person from moving that occurs as they are falling asleep or waking up. Though not life threatening the disorder can be terrifying as it often includes hallucinations and the inability to wake up out of it. People who suffer from it describe it as waking up dead, the mind is awake but the body is unable to move.

For Tara this means nights where she is in a paralyzed dream state that she is unable to wake up from. When I announced on social media I was looking for stories for Halloween, Tara wrote me and shared with me her story. After reading her story I felt it was probably the most frightening of the stories because it something that can be qualified and proven;

For years, almost every year of my life, I’ve been haunted in my sleep. I have a condition known as Sleep Paralysis, known to many, but so far unexplained by science. Basically, you’re asleep and awake at the same time, body completely paralyzed, mind running rampant between two realities. It starts with the feeling of something sitting on your chest, suffocating you, which often leads to a panic attack, which convinces your brain that you’re dying. If that’s not terrifying enough, these episodes are usually accompanied by vivid and horrifying hallucinations, or waking dreams. You are perfectly aware of the real world. You can feel your bed, you know your location, you can hear the sound of your fan, or refrigerator, or a dog barking in the distance, but dream land has broken into this world. I typically have to lay frozen, struggling to breathe as my nightmares manifest around me. Someone crawls into my bed and pins me down. A shadow stands over me, whispering. The dead congregate around me, screaming my name. A faceless child grabs my ankles and growls. My television gives me sinister warnings. An angry spirit runs through my home tearing through my belongings, wailing, and glowering down at me in my bed. Once, it flicked me in my face repeatedly. Sometimes I feel is though my body is being ripped out of my bed into other worlds, that could only be described as Hell itself. The things I’ve seen in those visions would put Pet Semetary to shame. The one episode I’ll remember the most, is hearing my bedroom door open, footsteps approaching my bedside. The next thing I knew, someone was breathing on my face, telling me that locking my door was useless, because they’d always find a way in. I refused to open my eyes, but I found enough strength to reach my hand up, and find a face. At that point, whoever this was opened it’s mouth and bit down on my fingers, hard. I reached up my other hand and tried to pry it’s mouth open. I succeeded, but I felt it’s mouth stretch out to grotesque proportions, as if it’s jaw was entirely unhinged. It laughed, and I used every ounce of energy to violently shake myself out of this state. I didn’t rest the remainder of the night, afraid it would come back. As stated above, I’ve been living with this for as long as I can remember, and though I’m used to it, it’s never any less terrifying. The film Insidious resonates with me, because those are the kind of things that come into my world regularly, when I’m just trying to sleep. So, almost every night, I get to live inside of a horror film, as the main character.

How I Created This Image

I wanted to show Tara paralyzed in bed with a small streak of light coming through a cracked doorway. To simulate a night time feel I placed two strobes in the room in opposite corners with blue gels. These were reflected off walls and ceilings to cast a blue tint over the entire scene. In the doorway outside the room I placed a third strobe with a full CTO gel. I closed the door to just a crack to shape the light into a thinner stream.