Louis Proud - Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences
Over the last several weeks I have explored various facets of the Old Hag or sleep paralysis phenomenon. With this installment I interview Louis Proud, author of Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences (Anomalist Books, 2009).
TheoFantastique: Louis, thank you for the opportunity to explore sleep paralysis once again. Your book provides us with an opportunity to consider a paranormal interpretation of the phenomenon. You have a passion for this topic due to your own experiences with sleep paralysis. Can you describe some of these experiences and how they led you to write your book?
Louis Proud: I’ve been suffering from SP since the age of seventeen. (I’m now 26.) Back then, I had no idea what it was. It made me question my mental health. It wasn’t until many years later, when I was in my twenties, that I became familiar with the condition and recognized the fact that I suffered from it. It was a huge relief to know that SP was a reasonably common sleep condition, in no way linked to mental illness.
Since I first started having these experiences, which were generally terrifying, I knew that something ‘spiritual’ was occurring, something other than dream-related hallucinations. During a typical SP episode, I’d wake up in the early hours of the morning, unable to move my body. I’d then become aware of an evil presence in the room, sort of hovering nearby, watching me. I interpreted this presence as an "evil spirit." Sometimes I’d feel the entity touching me or sitting on my chest. Sometimes I’d hear it talking in my ear, making nasty, cryptic, threatening comments. More often than not, the entity would try to take possession of my body and prevent me from waking up completely. I’d have to fight hard to free myself of its grip.
I began to research and write about SP in early-2007. This eventually led to my writing Dark Intrusions. The book features excerpts from a semi-autobiographical short story I wrote in 2005, when I was a writing and editing student, called "Beware of the Spirits Who Feast on Your Soul." The story, which was written as an assignment for class, gives a detailed description of my SP experiences. Though of course, at the time I write the story, I had no idea what SP was, and was therefore unable to put a label to my experiences. I knew it was important that I write Dark Intrusions, since very little material had been written on the subject of SP, especially by those who’d experienced it first-hand. Here was a paranormal topic of great importance that deserved to be given more attention.
TheoFantastique: How have your experiences altered your perceptions of reality, and perhaps even the paranormal and the spiritual?
Louis Proud: Those who’ve never experienced SP fail to realize just how profound and powerful they can be. These experiences, of which I’ve undergone hundreds, have left me with the certainly that there’s much more to reality than the physical world. During the SP state, it’s as if your soul is totally exposed and you’re able to tune in to a much bigger reality. There’s a lot of activity going on around us that, during the normal waking state, we’re unable to perceive with our five senses. With SP, I believe, you’re able to make use of a sixth sense. Let’s call it ESP.
I’m certain that some of the entities I encountered during SP attacks were "spirits;" in other words, the souls of the dead. It seems obvious to me now that death is not the end of human consciousness. When we die, our consciousness lives on in some form. I believe in the existence of a spirit world; and I believe it to be an extension of this one.
TheoFantastique: A number of interpretations have been given to sleep paralysis. What is your understanding of them?
Louis Proud: My book Dark Intrusions explores a number of theories as to what may be cause of SP experiences. Not all of these theories are particularly paranormal. For example, my book discusses the topic of electromagnetic (EM) radiation and how this energy can affect the brain, producing hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. I don’t agree with the theory that SP episodes and other paranormal experiences lie solely with the brain.
I should point out that there are many different types of SP attacks. Some involve nothing but paralysis and are quite mundane. Others involve a ‘sensed presence’ (the feeling that one is accompanied by a presence), as well as tactile, visual and auditory "hallucinations." (I use the word "hallucination" for simplicity’s sake, not as an indication that something imaginary is occurring.) Obviously, some SP attacks – the ones that don’t involve hallucinations – are purely physiological in origin.
The other type of SP attacks, whereby the sufferer may see, hear, feel and sense a presence, seem to have a paranormal origin and cannot be easily explained. Of course, according to the conventional, scientific view, the hallucinations of SP sufferers are entirely dream-related, while the SP state is nothing but a continuation of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. But how could this be true when one SP attack is much like another? In a dream, the imagination takes over and an infinite number of things can occur. On the other hand, SP experiences are extremely similar from sufferer to sufferer – and have been over time. The same details pop up again and again – the evil presence, a feeling of weight on the chest, the sound of footsteps, the sensation of being touched on the shoulder, etc. At the very least, we’re dealing with a genuine mystery here.
TheoFantastique: Why do you find a paranormal interpretation for some of the cases of sleep paralysis more compelling than natural physiological ones?
Louis Proud: As I stated previously, some cases of SP do not belong in the purely physiological category. Take those cases, for example, where SP sufferers have been able to open their eyes, and see their surroundings clearly, while the experience was occurring. This has happened to me more than once. On one occasion I discovered, to my utter surprise, that the entity I could sense with my mind, even feel the touch and weight of, was sitting beside me on the edge of the bed. I could see it extremely clearly. It resembled some sort of troll. When the entity noticed my looking at it, it fled. If what I saw was a hallucination, then the computer screen I’m looking at now, as I write this very sentence, may as well be a hallucination! I believe that my being in an SP state enabled me to perceive this normally invisible entity.
I also know of cases where people have been visited by the spirits of dead relatives during SP episodes, and have received important information from them. This happened to an acquaintance of mine, an American woman in her mid-forties named Michele. She described to me how, one morning, while experiencing SP, “a voice shouted in my ear and said my name abruptly, sternly and sharply…as if they were trying to wake me up.” She explains:
“The next thing I know I’m sitting up in my bed looking into the hallway seeing my late grandmother standing there upset saying, ‘We have to get David. We have to get David. Get up! Get up!’ My grandmother...had passed away about seven months prior to this. David was my baby brother, age 36 at the time. I knew she was talking about him. Then all of a sudden I was truly awake and trying to shake it off...This [SP experience] occurred around 4am. I was due to work at 5am, so I remained awake and proceeded with my day. About 8am a police officer came to my job to inform me that David had died – and he died at his own hands. The time of death was about an hour after my SP.”
How does one explain SP experiences like Michele’s? It’s hard to deny the existence of a paranormal element at work in some cases of SP.
TheoFantastique: Your book discusses sleep paralysis in relation to out of body experiences (OBEs). Can you describe this?
Louis Proud: It’s not uncommon for SP sufferers to have OBEs (as well as lucid dreams). Over the years, I’ve had a few OBEs, and they’ve all been preceded by SP – more specifically, a state of bodily paralysis accompanied by vibrations and sometimes a loud humming noise. Many researchers and writers, including Robert Monroe, author of Journeys out of the Body, have recognized the link between SP and astral projection (another term for out-of-body travel).
SP seems to be a necessary part, or stage, of astral projection. My research seems to indicate that the SP state involves a partial dislocation of the astral body from the physical body. (Which means, of course, that astral projection involves a complete separation of the astral from the physical.) Occultists have long known about the existence of this second, non-physical, body, which is said to be the seat of consciousness and of the emotions.
In the course of my own research, I’ve received numerous e-mails from people who’ve had OBEs as a result of SP – often unintentionally. An Australian teacher named Pam described to me how, about twenty years ago, she experienced SP after taking a light nap. A young mother at the time, she could hear her son crying in the next room. Desperate to wake up and go comfort her son, she tried to move, but couldn’t. The thought occurred to her that, if she could only make it over to the en suite opposite her bed, she would be able to throw some water on her face and wake up properly. She explains what happened next:
“I made an enormous effort, willing myself to move but popped out of my body and started traveling upwards instead of across the bed to the en suite…I recall there was a slight whooshing sound as I traveled upwards and out of my body. I quickly panicked as I thought I was dead. I started thinking that my son would be left crying in his bed and my husband would come home and find me dead. When I really panicked I returned to my body and instantly woke up.”
Pam’s experience is a perfect example of how the SP state can bring about OBEs and psychic phenomena in general.
TheoFantastique: In your view, what is the relationship [between SP] and claims of alien abduction?
Louis Proud: I believe that we’re dealing with two separate, but closely related, phenomena. A significant number of cases of alien abduction can probably be explained as a result of SP. I fail to see how all of them can be explained in this way, however. It’s possible, I suppose, that some SP sufferers mistakenly assume that they’re victims of alien abduction.
Perhaps they’ve read a book or two on the subject, such as Budd Hopkins’s Intruders, which has affected their imagination, causing them to interpret their experiences through the lens of alien abduction. Both phenomena involve paralysis, after all, while some of the entities seen by SP sufferers look a lot like aliens. I myself once saw, during SP, what looked like a small, gray alien standing at the side of my bed.
Significantly, almost every SP sufferers whom I’ve interviewed believes their experiences to be caused by evil spirits or demons – not aliens. Having closely examined a number of cases of alien abduction (book research rather than field research, I must admit), such as Whitley Strieber’s, I’ve noticed that these encounters generally involve some physical contact, in addition to more than one witness, whereas SP experiences don’t. SP seems to take place on a purely astral level. Anyone who’s studied accounts of alien abduction and is familiar with SP (either directly or indirectly) will be able to spot the differences I’ve mentioned. It would be utterly ridiculous to dismiss all cases of alien abduction as being caused by SP!
TheoFantastique: Do you see sleep paralysis experiences as you interpret them as positive or negative experiences, or as some kind of combination perhaps?
Louis Proud: Early on, most of my SP experiences were frightening and unpleasant, horrible even. As a result, I considered the phenomenon to be purely negative, and I thought of myself as a victim. As far as I was concerned, SP experiences were nothing but attempts at possession by malevolent and vampiric discarnate entities. Since then, my attitude towards SP has matured. I now think of the condition as neither good nor bad, but as a gateway to other realms and other states of consciousness.
Nowadays, whenever I have an SP attack, I’m often able to transform the experience by using it to induce a lucid dream or an OBE. This requires a great deal of courage and concentration, and I’m not saying it’s always possible; nor am I implying that the entities encountered during SP (the "demons," "evil spirits," etc.) are harmless and not to be feared. But when it works – when you shift, for example, from a frightening SP attack to an exciting lucid dream – it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
Nowadays I’m more in tune with the positive side of SP. SP sufferers ought to realize that it’s possible to transform these experiences for the better. I’m grateful for being an SP sufferer. It’s taught me a lot about myself, and has put me in touch with my soul in a very literal sense.
TheoFantastique: Louis, thanks again for your book and its exploration of a stigmatized phenomenon. I hope my readers can look at Dark Intrusions as one facet for exploring sleep paralysis.