Why is it that seemingly innocent things--children, dolls, clowns, churches--when turned on their heads make the most terrifying horrors? The juxtaposition of good and evil and holy and hell piques our attention when the benign unexpectedly becomes malicious.
In this episode, we'll tell you two stories and a few undeniable truths.
What is it about the juxtaposition of holy and hell that piques our attention? Sure, the terms are nearly synonymous with good and evil, but I believe it goes deeper than that. For example, there's almost nothing more terrifying than a possessed child, a wicked doll, or a cruel clown. But what makes so many people afraid of these seemingly innocent things?
That's just it. It's their proximity to goodness, to safety—the things we consider familiar and pure. And when that is twisted, spun on its head, and what we believed to be benign or harmless becomes a threat, our reality is shifted off its axis, and a new fear is born.
A holy terror.
This is Jeremy. He told me this story a few weeks ago about his experience at a church when he was a teen. And though, he's over thirty, the hair on his neck still stands up when he thinks about it. You'll hear me in the background occasionally asking questions, and you'll hear others too. We were all hanging out and talking about strange things that have happened to us when we were younger and braver.
Names have been changed and removed to protect those involved.
In Jeremy's case, it was the place that should have felt safe, holy, but instead, an evil had invaded that made an already scary scene even that much more terrifying.
This type of experience is called "legend tripping," often experienced by teens or young adults who are chasing an urban legend. Their curiosity and thirst for adrenaline often take them on adventures the rest of us would gladly pass up.
Often, it's the expectations—to be scared—that can sway perceptions into the dramatic. But what someone feels is real—to them, at least. And that legitimate feeling can chase them—or maybe a better word would be haunt them—for the rest of their lives.
These types of unexplained occurrences can lead people to develop a fear of demons (Daemonophobia) and the paranormal.
No matter what your religious beliefs are, most people agree that evil—real evil—exists. And it is even among us.
As if the talk of evil isn't unnerving enough, add it to a dark night—a terrifying being in your room as you sleep, and you have more than a nightmare. Let me tell you a story…
Sleep paralysis happens to one in 10 people. Although people from any age can suffer from it, it usually occurs in teens and young adults and people in their 20s. It's believed that sleep paralysis happens because your body and mind are not moving through the sleep stages smoothly. There's no cure for sleep paralysis, but often times antidepressant or sleeping medication may be prescribed in order to treat the symptoms. The medical community will tell you that there's no reason to fear some type of demon or possession it in the night. That there's no reason to have nightly tears. Doctors often recommend just making sure you get enough sleep and decreasing the amount of stress in your life. And since often times sleep paralysis happens when you're sleeping on your back when you are fully able to experience the nightly terror, it's suggested that you sleep on your side or on your stomach.
Art often imitates life, we know that. And there's no denying that through the centuries people have believed that sleep paralysis is being attacked by an evil presence. For example, the hag in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a reference to sleep paralysis. And the nightmare which is a painting by Henry Fuseli that was done in 1781 is a depiction of sleep paralysis and a demonic visitation. In the picture, a woman is lying helplessly on her back in a very incapacitated state, and there is a small being That looks absolutely wretched sitting on top of her chest. And every culture and history talks about evil nightly terrors where are humans are left helpless in the middle of the night, and there's some type of presence that attacks them poop.
It's very common for people who have sleep paralysis to feel this tightening on their chest like something, or someone is sitting on them even if they can't see that something or someone. During the event, the person is unable to move or to speak, and it's a terrifying experience to be awake but not have your body be awake with you. Researchers often say that suffers are hallucinating, which is the source of the intense fear that they feel. Episodes usually only last a couple of minutes, but a lot of times, people have claimed to have them repeatedly throughout a season in their life. Most often those seasons are related to stressful events or occurrences. In some cases, sleep paralysis is considered genetic. And it's believed to be a dysfunction of the REM sleep.
I've explored this phenomenon a few times in my writing because I suffered from it in my twenties, and I wanted answers. And like almost everything in my life, I used my writing to work through those fears and emotions. You can find more online about sleep paralysis if you're curious, or if you are one of the many who suffer. For purposes of this exploration though, sleep is just another normal, familiar, comfortable, thing in our lives that when turned on its head can be completely terrifying.
Like we mentioned earlier, Daemonophobia is the fear of demons. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, rarely is horror more frightful than when it studies the demonic. Talking about ghosts and mysteries is scary enough, but when the conversation moves into the spiritual unknown, people tend to bale. No one wants to talk about it. Believers skirt the topic, and non-believers who don't believe in God have trouble justifying recognition of the Devil.
But even though there's a lot of confusion regarding the existence, purpose, and practice of the anti-Christ, one thing remains true—darkness is petrifying to us all. Especially when that darkness comes from an unexpected place. We all know to avoid haunted places, don't use Ouija boards, and never dabble in things we cannot control… and yet we're a curious people. And sometimes that curiosity will spook us…for years to come.
Still, we must be careful not to knock on certain doors. Doors that have something lurking behind them that should remain hidden.
We never know… just one choice could confront us with the absolute truth we think we wanted to know. It's often easier to meet hell than it is to meet holy.
But I'll tell you from experience, nothing will push one to the light like a personal confrontation with real—evil—darkness.