In 1984, a film came out that would viscerally impact the horror and slasher genre for decades to come. Directed by horror-meister, the late Wes Craven, it was called A Nightmare on Elm Street. Its razor-tipped glove-wielding protagonist Freddy Krueger became a pop culture icon during the Reagan Years; also, for a short period thereafter.
Freddy was a horribly burned sort-of ghost, in a frayed red and green sweater and fedora, who tormented, and then finally murdered, the "Elm Street Children," a group of teens whose parents essentially lynched the living Freddy after he was let off for molesting and murdering local children. In other words: Freddy was a serial child killer, one who continued his reign of terror in the surreal world of his victims' DREAMS.
His fedora (also his sweater, of course) added a distinctive look that was, unmistakably, Freddy. In the original film (which starred Robert Englund as Freddy, Heather Langenkamp as Nancy, as well as veteran actor John Saxon and a young Johnny Depp), Nancy and her friends drive away in a car that has a rag top with the distinctive red and green coloring of Freddy's sweater. This is right before Nancy's mother (actress Ronnee Lee Blakely) is pulled through the fanlight of her front door as if she were a cheap blow-up doll. Pulled, of course, by the razor-tipped, gloved hand of Freddy.
But all that is just a movie, isn't it?
Hold up. There really is a fedora-wearing "dream demon," and he haunts the dark. Although, according to those who have seen him, his prominent hat (hence, some call him, the "Hat Man" Entity) and glowing red eyes are the only thing about him that can be discerned. The only thing, that is according to those afflicted with a strange condition called "sleep paralysis," or, as it is also known, the "Night Hag."
Sleep paralysis is a condition wherein the sufferer; hovering, it is supposed in a hypnogogic state between wakefulness and sleep; comes to consciousness feeling as if they are paralyzed, or alternately, as if a great weight is sitting on their chest. They may smell a bizarre smell, hear strange sounds, and they may visualize or hallucinate the presence of a monstrous entity or phantom. This is sometimes an "old hag," or old woman. Sometimes it is a hideous, cloaked, and hooded phantom with the aforementioned glowing red eyes.
And sometimes, it is the fedora-wearing "Hat Man." These "Shadow People" are the terrifying nightmare phantasms torturing those afflicted with sleep paralysis (or, as they are sometimes referred to, people who are "hag ridden") as if they had gone to sleep, and slipped into Hell.
One additional phantom that should be mentioned, by the way, and one seen at times in the company of the Hooded Entity, is an extraterrestrial... thing, with a Grey Alien head and eyes, and the lean, pale, distorted body of a preying mantis. I have come upon one or two of these sightings attested to by witnesses on the internet. I have seen an illustration of these two horrors in a Batman graphic novel, of all things. And I have experienced this duo, myself.
It must have been the late 1980s, a time when Freddy, the "Dream Demon," was, incidentally, pretty hot that I first began to experience the ill-effects of being singled out for some special "purpose" by... other forces. At the very least, I became, as an adolescent, their focus of attention.
And it was not only that I sometimes awoke with a vision of it "snowing" weird, bird-like "hands" coming down from the ceiling. There was an incident, one strange night, when, as I lie in bed, I could feel something begin to "press" down upon me, moving the bed up and down while I watched from a window mysterious pinpoints of light in the sky that seemed to be like stars with a consciousness all their own.
But this innocent and wondrous (albeit weird) experience did not long remain so childlike. I could feel an intense sensation (I'll leave it at that) begin to course through me, as the invisible being seemed to press upon me, harder and harder, as I lay, terror-stricken, in the dark.
I cannot say what, exactly, possessed me to get up from my bed and go screaming to my mother—perhaps it was the too-intense feeling of being attacked; raped, really. And by something I COULD NOT SEE, but, whose presence was merely felt, especially in the movement of the bed.
(Of course, many readers will also remember the old supernatural horror thriller, The Entity (1982), which was based on a novel byFrank De Felitta; which, in turn, was based loosely on an actual poltergeist case in California. A woman claimed she was being sexually molested by a ghostly presence. The resultant investigation offered up some unique images, including a photograph allegedly of the spirit or ghost moving through the room as a beam of light. The picture is exceptional in that, since a photographic expert attests to the fact that the beam of light does NOT bend, as it should since it is photographed at the corner between two walls, it is most definitely not being projected from a flashlight or light source held secretly by anyone in the room. Thus, an authentic image of a ghost.)
I don't really want to go into the rest of this, how I bolted up from bed, fled to my mother's room crying. How I was shuttled off to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, still crying and trembling, only to have a fat, stupid doctor poke at me a few times and pronounced it "pleurisy." Yes. I'm sure that was the explanation.
That was just the harbinger of things to come.
My next visitation would involve me actually seeing the terrible, phantasmal presence, and feeling the cold, abysmal horror of that presence deep, deep within my bones. Within my soul.
The "Hooded Man"
The next time I saw the Night Hag, the "Dream Demon," it was waking up from slumber. It was only later that I became aware that I had seen him before.
Always, he is a massive presence of shadow, blacker than the darkness around him, with immense, long arms, glowing red eyes inside the cowl of a hood in which no face is apparent, and long, skeletal, branch-like fingers that almost seem pointed at the tips, like gloved talons. He will reach out to you, as he did me, to point those fingers in your frozen face, as if to touch you; threatening to touch you.
It was an immense presence; distinct, yet, in the way of specters, it could also be seen through. It looked the very image of the classical Reaper. I bounded up in bed, began to scream as my mother ran into the room, "Can't you see it? Can't you see it? Can't you?" I was hysterical, but, slowly, the vision faded, leaving only the weird moaning that it made ringing in my ears.
But there were to be other encounters afterward.
As a child I experienced depression, the first manifestation of my personal demons. This necessitated, eventually, a stay at a hospital for teenagers. Larue Carter Memorial Hospital, the adolescent unit, to be specific, which is long gone now.
It was the first or second night that I was there that I awoke, noticing the terrible odor of sulfur. And I was not the only one, as an orderly making rounds came in with an aerosol can of disinfectant spray, commenting to himself about the awful stench of what seemed like rotten egg and sewage. Paranormal writer, the late John Keel who authored The Mothman Prophecies, likewise noted that, in the presence of these "others," these dimensional outsiders, the stench of sulfur and other bizarre smells seems to permeate the room.
The Devil, of course, is said to stink of brimstone.
I fell fast asleep. I seemed to visit a stark, barren place, the surface of an alien world that was grey, cold; it seemed wet and rocky and lifeless, and the tress were barren of leaves. I opened my eyes thinking that, perhaps, I had fallen asleep under one of those trees in an alternate space where the body floats in dreams.
But those were not tree branches. They were the Hooded Man's long, black, talon-like fingers. It was immense, darker than shadow, as tall as the ceiling and as wide as two men, perhaps. Hooded like a medieval monk, moaning and standing beside me, a nightmare abomination from a science fiction horror film jerked and swayed in hideous life.
It had the lean, starved body of a greyhound dog, with prominent ribs sticking through its white skin. The legs were folded back, suggesting an insect, and the arms were folded as well above long, white or grey skeletal fingers, suggesting a preying mantis. The head was immense, coming down to a pointed chin. The eyes were monstrous, teardrop-shaped, and solid black. The mouth was a savage, mocking, slit-like grin. In other words, it had the features of an entity reported during UFO abduction memories.
This was years before I had even read any UFO abduction literature, and long, long before I had ever even heard of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis.
I was frozen stiff with terror, trembling but immobilized. My mind fought to process what it was seeing. It lost the fight. I bolted upright in bed, seeming to see myself from some place beyond, some place seriously outside of myself. My mind must have cracked at that point. I screamed, but I never heard my own scream before I fainted.
The last thing I remember, there were staff members running into the room with flashlights. One of them said, before I passed out, "Oh, he's just having a bad dream."
No. She got that backwards. The bad dream was, as a matter of fact, having ME.
Communion with... What?
The 1989 film of Whitley Strieber's classic UFO abduction account Communion, which was published in 1988, features a scene in which actor Christopher Walken, playing Strieber, gets on a bus, only to find that he is riding the bus with a bunch of preying mantis aliens. He, understandably, begins to freak out.
Stories of UFO abductions, although they seem to go far back into history, begin with the "interrupted journey" of Betty and Barney Hill. They were a New Hampshire couple who, in 1961, claimed they had been stopped and abducted by the non-human pilots of a UFO who gave them a bizarre medical examination before returning them to their car, their memories wiped clean by some sort of amnesia.
Though the Hills' encounter runs counter to the idea of sleep paralysis or the Night Hag syndrome, it arguably opened the door to the coming forth of others with claims. Unlike the Hills (who had been driving home when they had their UFO abduction encounter), they had been innocently sleeping in their own bedrooms when they were kidnapped by grey, big-headed, almond-eyed "aliens."
Whitley Strieber popularized this notion with his bestselling book Communion, whose aliens bear a resemblance in some ways to the Hooded Man and the Preying Mantis entities: The hooded men in Communion are dwarfs straight out of the old movie Phantasm (1979), and, of course, there is the scene in the movie of the book wherein Walken's character (a sort-of take on Strieber. Strieber has said, "Walken was playing someone, but it definitely wasn't me.") sees a city bus full of preying mantises.
Strieber's claim is that mysterious entities invaded his bedroom, took him to a UFO, and subjected him to tortuous physical examinations before returning him with the same foggy amnesia about the incident as most others experience.
Those who make the claim of being alien abductees very often speak of a sleep paralysis-type event, wherein they wake up with the same deep feelings of fear and loathing. They may dimly see shapes or skinny, silent figures moving around their bed. The feeling is, perhaps, not exactly the same: The sufferer of sleep paralysis may have a feeling of literal suffocation, or of a heavy weight pressing the chest down. The abductees seem not to report this. So, could the two phenomena be related?
Likewise, those that experience both phenomena are quite likely to experience other, poltergeist-like effects: The bed may shake (I went through this personally), there may be objects flying at odd and sundry times off the shelves, with no discernible force to propel them. They may receive strange phone calls, psychic dreams, nightmares and feelings of great anxiety.
The Incubus and the Succubus
During the Middle Ages, in Europe, the cloistered nuns and priests of various orders reported a strange, demoniacal visitation from what they believed were evil spirits. In the night, they would awake, and, seeing a weird, malevolent shape at their bedsides, would thus be assaulted sexually by this infernal visitant; in other words, a rapist ghost.
These came both in the form of handsome males and desirable females, finally assuming shape in the accounts. The sexually repressed ascetics may well have been experiencing a form of hysteria (after all, what is repressed in one form, will be given manifestation in another), but, the heads of many religious orders, naturally of course, assumed that it must be the work of the Author of EVIL: SATAN Himself.
Some (such as the wonderfully-named medieval write "Sinistrari") theorized that demons may "borrow" a dead body to perform the sexual act upon the respective nun or priest, taking semen with which to breed, perhaps, the "changeling," the demonic child. Centuries later, the popular film Rosemary's Baby (1967) would play on the theme of the Antichrist being born of the union between a human female and a reptilian demon.
(The above, perhaps, lends a new and interesting angle to the accounts of those who have robbed graves, or stolen the bodies of their deceased paramours, so as to "reanimate" them in some obscure form. Both Victor Ardisson, the "Vampire of Muy," and most especially Carl von Cosel, who stole and patiently reconstructed the body of Elena de Hoyas over five years, come immediately to mind. Couldn't these men have been, in some form, "possessed?" How could they not be?)
According to the site RationalWiki, in the ancient Hebrew mythology of the Kabbalah, the first Incubus was born of Adam's first wife, Lilith, who having betrayed Adam, was sent forth by an angry Jehova to mate with the demon Samael. The rotten fruit of this unholy union was a vampiric creature that visited and impregnated unsuspecting women in their sleep.
In Arabic myth, the Jinn are said, often, to transform themselves into an alluring sexual partner, the better to assault their unsuspecting victim in their sleep. Medieval peasant folklore from Europe sees the "Wee Folk," or fairies, stealing into the bed chambers of young couples to steal away the infant, replacing it with one formulated through... an incubus? I am not certain. However, sexual reproduction of humans seems to be of paramount concern to ghosts, Greys, fairies, demon, Jinn, etc. One is uncertain why. (Perhaps, as per the theological underpinnings of Christian faith, Satan, sorrowful and wrathful and forever cursed from being denied what he felt was rightfully his place as "King of Humanity" seeks to create the counterfeit "man" as a hybrid between the angelic/demonic, and the fleshly two-legged "dust of the earth;" the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, as it were. Genesis 6:5 details that "Nephilim" (fallen angels, perhaps) saw that the daughters of men were "comely," and so did lie with them.)
The Salvonic Mora is, likewise, said to be the reanimating spirit of a dead body, and is further claimed to visit men in their sleep, seduce them with pleasant, if not erotic dreams, and then attempt to suffocate them. This is most often the reanimated body of a young, salacious or sexually insatiable female.
So on his nightmare, through the evening fog,
Flits the squat fiend, o'er fen, lake and bog;
Seeks some love-wildered maid with sleep oppressed,
Alights, and grinning sits upon her breast...
Back o'er her pillow sinks her blushing head,
Her snow-white limbs hang helpless from the bed;
While with quick sighs and suffocative breath
Her interrupted heart-pulse swims in death.
—Erasmus Darwin, quoted in The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Rossell Hope Robbins
"Komm Raster und Knaster mie!"
Such was the rather comic imprecation, related in Robbins' Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, of an unrepentant young nun to her demon lover, her personal incubus, heard through the partition of her cell by her fellow mendicant. We'll leave the translation of the German alone.
The female form of the incubus, the succubus, battened on the sexual repressions of the cloistered brothers, coming to them in the night in the form of beautiful maidens; perhaps, as it is said, vampire-like, reanimating the corpses of the condemned. Here, like the "alien abductors" of later centuries, they would steal the semen, spiriting off the seed to hybridize and create the half-human and half-demon monstrosities; so that, as it says in Dracula, "The Devil and his children... still walk with earthly feet."
Today's UFO experience of bedroom invasions relates the seeing of hybridized fetuses and even children; the changeling story updated for a new, technological generation.
None other an authority than Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, pontificates to the bisexual nature of the demonic invader:
"Nevertheless, if sometimes children are said to be born from intercourse with demons, this is not because of the semen emitted by them, or from the bodies they have assumed, but through the semen taken from some man for this purpose, seeing that the same demon who acts as a succubus for a man becomes an incubus for a woman."
The devils were said to be able to accomplish this in the form of a crow, goat, rooster, cat, as well as accomplishing sexual congress through the manipulation of a body stolen from the gallows. Sex with the demon incubus or succubus, or sex with any devil is described thusly:
"But on this point, those who have told us of copulation with demons, whether in male or female form, all with one voice say that nothing could be imagined as more cold and unpleasant. Petronius Armentarius confessed that as soon as he embraced his "Abrahel," all his limbs became rigid; and Hennezel proclaimed it was like putting his instrument into an ice-cold cavity [speculum], and that he had to leave his "Shwartzburg" without having an orgasm—these odd names were what the sucubi were really called."—Remy, Demonolatreia, 1595
Mark of the Vampire
Of course, the classical "bedroom invader" of all time is the legendary vampire; the dark love, undead and thirsting eternally; for human blood. Reborn from his cold, sepulchral berth, he may come; dream-like, as a mist; into the sleeping chamber of his chosen victim. A black shadow bending over the sleeping figure, to take the blood from the throat of the, most often, young damsel, before stealing away, back into the cold, dreary night.
This fictional scenario has been repeated again and again, countless times, in novels, movies, radio dramas, comic books, and games, even cartoons, ad infinitum. It will never disappear, we think, as it is as old as man's fear of the "terror that comes in the night" (to use the title of a book-length study of sleep paralysis by author David Hufford); man's fear of the dark, of the dead; of the shadow that seems a part of us, yet, is malevolent, distinct; sadistic and mocking; cruel.
Vampire accounts in the Medieval period of Europe, literal "vampire epidemics" abound. One of our favorites is the story that was dramatized in Mario Bava's film Black Sabbath, starring Boris Karloff. This is the tale of a soldier whose name is given, in some accounts, as "Joachim Huebner." He was returning from the Turkic wars on the Austro-Hungarian border when, stopping at a small hovel to break bread with a peasant family, he is shocked to note that the repast is interrupted by a mysterious old man.
The family seems terrified as the old man comes in silently, eats nothing, sits, then gets up again, touching the man of the house on the shoulder as he goes. The next morning, the soldier, having bunked down for the night in the cottage, is shocked again to find the man of the house has died. The family, in mourning, confess that the old man who visited the night before was, in point of fact, the man's DEAD FATHER, returned from his grave after 10 long years, to pronounce the impending doom of the son.
To confirm this, the soldier (or, Joachim, if you like), goes to the grave of the old man, and, upon opening it, is shocked and amazed to find that the corpse is not decayed; more over, that it looks as if it is bloated... with fresh blood. The story ends, of course, with Joachim or his fellow soldiers performing the ritual decapitation and staking that assure a vampire will stay in its grave.
The story of the Breslau Vampire features elements of the Old Hag as well. In this account, dated from Breslau Germany in September of 1591, a suicidal shoemaker (sometimes he is said to have been a butcher), slices his own throat in a particularly grisly fashion. His grieving widow, knowing he cannot be buried in consecrated ground if he is known to have taken his own life, instructs the maid to cover the wound in some fashion, so that the parish priest will never suspect.
The Breslau Vampire is buried in a lavish ceremonial. But, that, of course, is not the final nail in the coffin, so to speak.
His unhappy, sin-filled revenant is seen to accost and curse various sleepers in the community, coming to them, in Old Hag-fashion:
"The ones most bothered were those who wanted to rest after heavy work; often it came to their bed, often it actually lay down in it, and was like to smother the people..."
The above, quoted from Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, sounds much like the Old Hag phenomenon. The Breslau Vampire, furthermore, "...squeezed them so hard that—not without astonishment—people could see the marks left by its fingers..."
Again, the body, as in nearly all these folktales, is exhumed, found to be fresh with blood—no matter how long it lay in its coffin, always looking daisy-fresh, as it were.
The story of a man with the somewhat unintentionally bawdy sobriquet of "Johannes Cuntius" further shows us that the legend of the vampire, incubus, and Old Hag may all originate from the same shadowy space.
A Silesian blood drinker, known as the "Pentsch Vampire" from an account recorded in 1653, Cuntius was an alderman who, being kicked to death by his own horse, bewailed his sorry life upon death. His relatives implored the church to bury him in a particularly hallowed spot, and were successful in this, only to find that, to their horror, the restless dead man began rising from his grave, stealing into the sleeping chamber of his wife, and demanding sexual congress with her. Furthermore, he began belching blood and flame, spotting the altar cloth, flinging about objects invisibly, causing the hounds to howl, and doing other nasty, poltergeist-like effects. His grave, incidentally, was dotted with mouse-holes; presumably to allow him to escape it as a mist.
The dead seek the blood of the living, said F. Marion Crawford. And "...the blood is the life." Or, to quote an anonymous Victorian poet: "The living was food for the dead."
The story of the Croglin Grange Vampire of England further elaborates on the theme of Old Hag, or bedroom visitant, as Undead. Herein is related by a Dr. Augustus Hare, in a book from 1871, the story of two brothers and a sister relocated to "Croglin Grange" (a place mysteriously vanished from the map; although there is, in Cumbria, a "Croglin Low Hall"), the family fortunes having turned. This scenario was, perhaps, borrowed from the early Victorian "Penny dreadful" novel, Varney the Vampire, by George W.M. Reynolds (1843). Whatever the case, Hare relates:
"Then a long, bony finger of the creature came in and turned a handle of the window, and the window opened, and the creature came in, and it came across the room, and her terror was so great that she could not scream, and it came up to the bed, and it twisted its long, bony fingers into her hair, and it dragged her head over the side of the bed and—it bit her violently in the throat."
(It may be a small matter to note that, invariably, the Old Hags, Hat Men, and Hooded Men [as well as the preying mantis entities] ALL have the same long, skeletal, tree branch-like fingers.)
The ghastly bedroom revenant; whether it come to molest, take blood and semen, or simply to suffocate, assault, and terrify; wants something, some vitalizing energy source from the victim. Another account, of a miller and a servant boy, who was accosted by an invisible leech-like demon in the night, notes:
"...he (the servant boy), at last confessed that a thing which he could not see, but which he could plainly feel , came to him every night about twelve o'clock, and settled on his chest, drawing all the life out of him, so that he became paralyzed, for the time being, and neither could move or cry out..."
The boy became more and more weak and anemic. The miller, in order to set things right, slept in the boy's bed, and when the dream demon appeared, put out his hand to the boy's chest, feeling a gelatinous, invisible mass that writhed like the Conqueror Worm in his powerful grasp. He proceeded to throw the ectoplasmic bloodsucking blob on the fire, and, afterwards, it is reported both miller and servant were disturbed no more.
In the late 1890s, in New England, the family of alleged vampire Mercy Brown exhumed her body, burned her heart, mixed the ashes with water, and gave it to her brother Edmund, who believed her nightmarish ghost was sucking the vitality from him—to drink. Edmund died of consumption, later, anyway. The corpse of Mercy, by the way, when her tomb was opened, was said to be as fresh as those of the medieval vampires from the Slavonic folklore and ancient accounts.
The Malaysian bloodsucking demon, the Aswang, is a particularly horrifying bedroom invader, described as a winged, floating head trailing entrails, with a long, serpent-like tongue. Vampire tales, as well as Old Hag accounts, are not limited, thus, to European accounts.
Note: Author David Hufford believes, incidentally, that Bram Stoker knew the rudiments of the Old Hag experience while writing Dracula.
"I felt the same vague sense of terror and the sense of some presence... then indeed my heart sank within me. Beside the bed, as if he had stepped out of the mist—or rather, as if the mist had turned into his figure, for it had entirely disappeared—stood a tall, thin man all in black."
Out of such lurid prose are legends born.
I shall never forget the close encounter UFO sighting I had a quarter century back. There was no doubt that what I saw was a UFO, in every sense of the word; no doubt whatsoever.
Walking around an apartment complex at night, a close relative asked me, quite suddenly, what that strange light was coming up over a field across the street.
I looked over and said, unthinkingly, "It's a helicopter."
To which she replied, "Yes, but, it's not making any noise."
Sure enough, as I turned and beheld the weird, silent, sky-borne object, it hovered, a huge dirigible or cigar-shaped black mass, right above the empty field across the street (the field, incidentally, for whatever it's worth, abutted a now vacant radio station). A strobe-like lightning flashed on top, as each side was lit by a huge white beam of light. Illuminating, presumably, US.
As we stood there in amazement, the thing arced up, completely silently, at a 45 degree angle. Then, seeming to explode in a violet glow, it literally catapulted into the expanse of stars beyond, until it was lost from sight.
"That," I said in utter befuddlement. "Was someone that was a little off course. Like 75 million light years."
I was jesting of course, but the fear we suddenly felt was real, and we proceeded to hurry back inside. Smart people, of course, no longer take long late-night walks. But this was a quarter of a century back.
Today, it has been many, many years since I've had an encounter with a "Night Hag." At least, not one that I can consciously remember. Sometimes, when I am sleeping, I will find that I get out of bed and commence to walk across the room. I can sense something coming for me, something propitious, and I know it is a "visitor" of some other place, some other world. Then, invariably, I wake up again, in bed, having only "dreamed" myself awake.
One theory, a theory put forth by people such as New Age conspiracy theorist and guru David Icke, is that the Night Hags are simply beings from another dimension, those that prey on feelings of fear and revulsion; anger, terror, and grief. These entities, called "Archons" in the ancient gnostic texts such as the Nag Hammadi scrolls, are said to be the Jinn, demons, fairy folk of old. (Icke himself repeatedly associates them with "reptilian" extraterrestrials.) Unable to create, these grey alien-type beings of a dour countenance live on another plane of existence (perhaps the rocky, bleak, barren alien world I saw right before awaking to an encounter with the Hag).
The Archons are fascinated with us, our propensity to create, in which they cannot share. But, like the reptilian demons, Icke is also continually propounding as the authors of all our woes; they must feed in a parasitic fashion. On human energy. On US.
They steal into our rooms, abduct us from our dreams, sit upon our suffocating frame. They may take a child for a changeling, sperm, ova as an "alien abductor," or blood as a vampire. Their interest is in reproduction, I take it, or cross-breeding, in our dreams and illusions, and also in our repulsion, terror, and fear.
There are two additional points: One that, if the reader should read this article and be left with the impression that the "Old Hag" is always a hooded phantom or Reaper image, that is a mistake. One woman, in a BBC documentary called The Entity, correctly assessed the typical Old Hag as a literal... old hag. "She looked as if she was wearing everything she owned." In other words, like a crazy, toothless old woman, a bag lady from beyond. With a hideous stench, no doubt.
The second little note is that director Wes Craven, who invented the fictional Night Hag cum slasher Freddy Krueger, confessed in an interview that his inspiration had been reading an article about a weird series of deaths involving young men that had immigrated recently from the Pacific Rim islands.
Each of them seemed to suffer from terrifying nightmares, to a point where these young men began to experience terror at the idea of falling asleep. And then they began to die, perhaps with little in the way of explanation from the standpoint of "natural causes."
One Final Note
On the internet are collected many accounts, from anonymous sources, from people from all walks of life, who have had an experience with the Old Hag. Lest you think our own experience is somehow unique to ourselves, we can most assuredly reassure you, IT IS NOT. A simple Google search on the part of the interested should serve to disabuse you of that notion. Sleep paralysis is thought to relate to narcolepsy. Also, the visual "phantoms" are thought to be either hypnopompic (falling to sleep) or hypnogogic (upon awakening from sleep) hallucinations. Explaining why these hallucinations are always similar, if not virtually identical, case after case, has never, by the skeptics, been explained.
Farson, Daniel. Vampires, Zombies and Monster Men. London: Aldus, 1975.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. New York: Facts On File, 2005.
Hufford, David J. The Terror That Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions. Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press. 1982.
Robbins, Rossel Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown, 1959.