Part 4 – The Brain and the Paranormal Series – False Memories in the Paranormal

Now this is a deeply interesting and maybe a little controversial subject but certainly one I feel needs to be addressed in this series, I can already imagine the back lash I am going to get for this post so I will start with a little disclaimer –

 This post is not calling anyone a liar, the issue with false memories is that someone who experiences them are completely unaware that it has happened and it’s not something an investigator can pick up on except in certain circumstances ………..people who experience the paranormal truly believe they have experienced something paranormal, this will tend to be based on their own perspective and/or belief system……yes sometimes individuals seek attention or aim to gain in some way through lying but that is not what this post is about!

Hopefully that’s clear now so we will move on………


What is experienced?

False memories are an incredible phenomena that involve the details of a situation being ‘blurred’, be incorrectly remembered, gain additional non-existent information or even appear out of nowhere, it is also quite easy to implant a false memory but we will look at that in more detail later.

They have a major effect on witness statements and individuals recalling information from a situation, we tend to miss details or the brain will infill them based on a number of observed factors for example: Illness, Tiredness, Hyper Arousal (fear or panic), poor viewing conditions (eg Darkness or dim lighting), certain drug use and of course the two that really stand out within the paranormal community –

The need to believe and the expectation for something to happen!

For example, arriving at an event, investigation or séance – some who might attend are 100% believer’s and know something is going to happen no matter what but even the sceptics who arrive tend to at least want something to happen also. Now I understand that this can happen within residential properties so I will add the new house effect to this series at a later date.

False Memories are an important factor to the paranormal investigator because we collect a lot of witness statements and observe a lot of ‘strange‘ behaviour or happenings this means we should be separately documenting everything, most of this series should easily point to the fact that the body or mind is not a tool for investigating the paranormal as we are somewhat flawed in our design!


So what is happening?

False Memories as mentioned previously are caused by a great deal of factors, the literature on this subject is vast and a lot of years of research has been done to find out the exact causes, try Googling Chris French or Elizabeth Loftus for example, the only issue is these vary under many different circumstances, for example if someone is scared which in all fairness once on an event and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose because Jan’s been touched on the back by a ghost at the same time that Rob’s had his jeans tugged by the old mortuary monk, it’s only natural to feel fear and panic at this point as most of us have a ‘swarm mentality’ (another post for another time).

As we feel this hyper arousal from the situation our brain, or the adrenal cortex to be a little more precise, releases a lovely little hormone called Cortisol and also a little dab of epinephrine (adrenaline) for good measure, this can have 2 effects on our memory:

  1. It allows us to clearly remember very detailed images of the situation (the flash bulb effect) which unfortunately although detailed is not always accurate but it is a requirement for the brain to learn from the scary situation in order to avoid the encounter again so the memory is created regardless.
  2. In circumstances of very high trauma it can damage or even completely inhibit memory recall of the situation.

Now I could go into every perceived cause but this series is about bringing the paranormal examples to the scientific examples, the expectation for something to happen is usually enough to get the old blood pumping enough to kick start the adrenal cortex, add that to the usual lights off style of investigation and also the fact mostly its done throughout the night we have a pretty good cocktail for individuals to fall into a trap with false memories. (Tiredness, low light, paranormal belief, a want for something to happen and hyper arousal)!!!

This may be a good point to just recap that this is not saying an individual is lying, the individual will not have any idea that this has happened!

This of course can be counteracted by the use of a camera to be able to look back and visualise without doubt what actually occurred! (Look forward to the upcoming investigating series in 2017)

Ok so now we have in place the idea of the false memory but what if we suddenly gain more information that wasn’t actually there in the first place?

Within the field of psychiatry false memories are known as confabulation and it is basically the brains way of filling gaps of information once we recall a memory, this happens on an unconscious level, this can happen when 2 pieces of information contradict each other, when a witness is asked again and again to describe a memory or even during hypnotism to dig out repressed memories!

Describing the memory again and again forces the brain to attempt to pull information from the memory, this is basically filled with whatever would normally occur to the individual based on previous beliefs or situations, if someone has a deep belief in the paranormal or spirituality then those gaps could be filled by information involving it or if the individual, in this case, the investigator starts asking closed or multiple choice questions.


This can be surprisingly more common than you might think, published in 2014 is a brilliant experiment repeated from Professor Richard Wiseman in 2005 with an additional twist, that was conducted by Chris French and Krissy Wilson of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where 180 undergraduates and staff from Goldsmiths college were shown a video, (1 of 2 videos containing the same footage with one slight variant between the two) the video showed a ‘psychic’ with various instruments (Spoons, keys etc) the ‘Psychic’ then bent a key using sleight of hand and placed the key down on the table, the second video was identical but included the “psychic” claiming that the key was still bending.

the subjects watched the videos in pairs although some included a ‘stooge’ to aid the experiment, this was to show how an outside influence after the fact affects the memories of the other participants

See the published write up of the experiment here – Wilson and French 2014

The experiment showed that when we witness something the memory can be manipulated via verbal cues not just during the experience and also after depending on the point of view of others around us, on top of this the experiment also showed that people with a belief in the paranormal were also more likely to continue to believe they witnessed the key continue to bend.


What an investigator should do?

So as an investigator false memories should take consideration, as mentioned at the beginning of this post this is not calling anyone a liar, someone who experiences a false memory will be completely unaware of it, if someone has what they perceive to be a paranormal experience in a high percentage of cases that person truly believes that is what has happened, it’s up to the investigator to find out if that’s the case.

The research shows the following criteria seems to correlate with a susceptibility to false memories:

Fantasy Proneness, disassociativity, hypnotic susceptibility and absorption which funnily enough is the same criteria as susceptibility for paranormal belief and the tendency to report paranormal experiences.

First to second interview will tend to pull out these details of a false memory if one is present, in fact it may also cause false memories, so ensure that closed questions aren’t asked, but also be aware that giving too much freedom for the witness to go over situation that can cause them to try to remember details that in fact didn’t occur.

Another point which investigators forget is that they themselves can also be prone to false memory (we are all human after all) that is why it is imperative as an investigator to document what they can at each stage of the investigation.

The investigator should always ensure that they record (with permission) the whole interview using either a camera or Dictaphone, this isn’t to capture any paranormal occurrence or EVP that might occur this is to ensure that the whole interview is recorded for later review.

Check over the details, do they add up? in one sentence does the witness claim to be located in the hallway looking into the kitchen when the apparent phenomena occurred and another they were actually in the kitchen, these details that seem to collide can tend to indicate a false memory.

Check these details after the fact, transcribe the interview and highlight the main factors, location, who was present, what time, day or night etc etc do they match up? do they change significantly this could be a case of false memory and even a badly conducted deception in some cases.

Once this is complete the investigator can move forward with the investigation, if an investigator feels that they may be compromised is someway (eg absorbing into the witnesses own belief system, experiencing a paranormal occurrence alongside the witness or feeling that the witness has an inappropriate interest in them) then it is in the best interests of the investigator to gain the help from a fellow investigator, hand the case over to another investigator or even close the case in some more serious circumstances.

What an investigator should NOT do?

As mentioned multiple times before, A FALSE MEMORY IS NOT LYING, so its not in the investigators best interests to openly say to a witness especially in the first instance that you feel what they have experienced is a false memory they will instantly take that as an accusation of dishonesty!

also ensure that you do not feed information to the witness that could evolve a memory, for example, we as investigators tend to know more than most when it comes to the ‘paranormal’ explanations so if someone has experienced walking into a kitchen and the cupboard being open it should not then be referred to as Poltergeist activity.

We are in a fragile position of authority we must not validate claims to the witness at any point, this is the issue with a lot of teams out there that instantly start talking about paranormal occurrences which in turn immediately solidifies the witness’ pre conceived belief that an experience is indeed paranormal.

Questions should be open and only in the interest of the investigation, do not start asking closed questions which include details that you assume has happen e.g.

Witness – “I saw a shadow walk down the stairs towards me”

Investigator – “Did you hear the footsteps of the shadow?”

Witness – “Yes”

This can create the idea that the shadow was heard walking down the steps also,

Try this instead:

Witness – “I saw a shadow walk down the stairs towards me”

Investigator – “What sounds did you hear whilst this happened?”

Witness – “I didn’t hear anything it was completely silent”

This helped to not include any details that never actually occurred, if the witness heard footsteps they would include it in the answer, if the details didn’t come from the witness initially then they should not be included in the investigation.

Thanks for reading,

As always,

I invite any corrections to research that may have updated since the time of the original post and I will update once I have confirmed the research is valid.

Again thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!

Please give the facebook page a like for up to date progress on the rest of the series


Anomalystic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience – C.French & A.Stone





Further Reading / Watching

As above +



Why a flashlight isn’t communicating with a ghost! 

Unfortunately this is a massive issue within the paranormal community and something that I feel is a shame I have to make a video on just to make a very old fashioned point!

See the video below!

It’s time to move on from this unbelievably archaic trick!

Part 3 – The Brain and the Paranormal – Pareidolia in the Paranormal 

Catch up on the series here:


Part 1

Part 2

Ok so I think this subject had to happen within this series, I am happy to say I have seen a big change over the years with people realising that Pareidolia is a valid argument for a great deal of paranormal pics thrown into the pools of social media.
This is all well and good except as with most things in the paranormal community it gets used again and again without many people actually looking into the subject! It’s become quite an annoying buzzword that people comment on everything!

I thought it would be good to explain what this is and what is happening within the brain that allows it to happen!

This way hopefully individuals can explain to others who don’t understand the single word of ‘Pareidolia’ when it’s commented on a photo they have asked a group to look at.

What is experienced?

So Pareidolia is a form of apophenia this is the brains ability to make sense of information and create patterns in things that just aren’t there! Pareidolia applies to predominantly the visual and audio side of our senses.

I will explain apophenia in detail in a later post but for now we will stick with Pareidolia for now due to its importance in paranormal research!

Pareidolia is our ability to see faces, bodies or shapes in meaningless stimuli, eg seeing faces, monsters, Angels, animals etc in clouds when really it is just condensed water vapour in a random shape!

It also includes hearing voices, music and words in meaningless sound, some in the paranormal community call this matrixing (not sure of the origins) it’s actually pareidolia but whatever floats your boat because that ship is staying by the looks of things!

What is really happening?

Well once again our ever so ‘reliable’ brain is playing with us, and the best part of pareidolia is………….I can prove it!!!! Right here in this post but I will get to that,

For the more technical side of pareidolia the part of the brain that is known to cause this phenomena is the right fusiform which is part of the temporal and obsitial lobe, this has been shown in MRI studies to spark to life when individuals are shown faces and effectively face looking objects, the only variation found between a real face and an object that looks like a face is the reaction time for the brain to recognise it, a face looking object takes longer for the brain to ‘connect the dots’ and decide upon what it is seeing.

This recognition can also be manipulated using something referred to as ‘anchoring’ in which another stimuli is added to enable the viewer to see/hear something that they maybe couldn’t before, this is common place in the paranormal community and a complete pain in the backside for any serious investigator out there, this is done be it by using words during EVP playback on the screen to ensure the listeners hears the word the individual thinks is being said or a back story to a photograph or video that ensures the individual is looking for certain details, and please don’t get my started on circling and zooming in to certain areas of a photo or video! (I will on purposely show this further on)


Some maybe lucky enough to have not seen this photograph of a coat hook before:

And here we add some writing to help the individual to see what may have not have been seen previously:


This is a good example of what happens for someone who has not seen this reference before, those who have will already have seen that coming and come to the conclusion that it looks like a drunk octopus wanting to fight, you see this also shows a level of anchoring, as the internet has so nicely put it “what is seen cannot be unseen”, so imagine you have a massive interest in the paranormal and you go out photographing haunted locations and you catch an orb or atmospheric object (mists, fog, smudges on mirrors etc).

Take this example from Gloucester Paranormal the team picked up this image and realised it was brilliant example of Pareidolia (NOTE THE BELOW IMAGE IS NOT OF A GHOST)

Most other teams would have advertised this as paranormal do you see the man in the window?

Maybe if I circle it and zoom in some more?


When most in the paranormal community look at these photos they are actively looking for a spirit, ghost or anything out of the ordinary and there is a very good chance that because they are in that paranormal mind set you are going to create patterns in the brain that point predominantly to faces of ghosts or people like shapes, this is pareidolia in action. Once this happens you cannot reverse it easily, your brain follows the same path again and again in order to fill gaps and makes the person seeing the photo instantly look for paranormal based images. Unfortunately studies have found that believers in the paranormal or magical are more likely to assign these patterns to ghosts and demons etc. along with emotions to the false image than the actual natural or technical explanation.

These include witnessing faces in particle orbs or patterns in smoke – see this video on the ParaRationalise Facebook page to see an example.

We have a vast bank of memories of pretty much all faces / sounds and words we have ever experienced, this will help explain when people easily recognise these patterns as looking like loved ones or sounding like people they know, as you walk down a street your brain is constantly absorbing new information, as well as in horror films, cartoons and popular media, to our brain it is a requirement for our survival to note the faces / sounds as often as possible to show if we are in danger, the brain does this very fast and without our conscious knowledge.

This all happens with objects also, it can depend on the mindset of the individual to what they see first, this idea inspired the development of the Rorschach ink blot test which was later found to be difficult and near enough useless to help explain an individual’s mental issues but shows that we can see images in random stimuli.

So let’s look at some examples of visual Pareidolia, some maybe funny some maybe confusing and some maybe rude but I will explain in the title below the image what it is so if you don’t want a spoiler scroll down slowly:

A dogs backside? Or Jesus Christ?

A door and 2 Windows? Or a surprised house?

A broom against a wall? Or well… I’ll let your right fusiform decide that?

You should be getting the point by now, remember “what is seen cannot be unseen” so let’s look at a few more examples…………

Tea light holders? Or a row of scared/shocked faces?

Not a good choice of lampshades!

And this one is just brilliant!
Anyway moving on…….

So as for audio pareidolia there is a lot of pieces of equipment that can induce it and make individuals feel they have communicated or recorded an experience, equipment like the spirit box for example which flicks through radio waves at the speed selected by the users, or using white noise in an attempt to find EVP’s with a recorder this just exacerbates the effects of pareidolia, Unfortunately a lot of these recorders also have issues with small artefacts appearing in a recording that can make the listener believe an EVP has been caught and cause individuals to label what is apparently being said.

This can also be more prominent in certain individuals and I hear from a lot of investigators that have named themselves, ‘kings or queens of the EVP’ which actually means they aren’t very good at monitoring these situations and could catch an EVP in any kind of audio stimuli.

This phenomena does not only happen in our brain it is also a defect present in imaging software such as facial recognition on cameras or the recognition software on Kinect cameras, this can lead to an increase in reports from users that have had a scary experience of their camera’s recognising someone in a photograph that is in fact not there this also works with Kinect cameras when people tend to see what looks like a dancing person on the screen with nothing visually there to the individual present. (see images below)

 So after all of these examples I hope you can see and understand much better as to what our brains are capable of and how we do see these things? Hopefully now when someone posts up in the comments sections of a photo or video – “ITS PAREIDOLIA”, you can now understand exactly what it means and involves. This should enable you to realise that the quote of “a picture never lies” couldn’t in fact be more wrong! Our brains accidently ensure that is the case!

What an investigator should do!

The first thing for an investigator is to understand what it is that is happening (which I hope the above explains), this knowledge can then be passed to any individuals involved in either an investigation or looking to yourselves to consult them for answers on an EVP, Video or Photo.

Use examples to show the individual how it works, keep some in a case file to make things easier especially at first contact stage, this will only be a hope that they will want to take on board any of the information.

You will come across countless examples of pareidolia during investigations either in data you have collected yourself or data a client has collected prior to the investigation being required.

If you come across an EVP and you think you hear a clear voice within it, set up a network of individuals that have no real involvement in the paranormal, send them the recording via email or flash drive with no reference to what has been heard or any details of the investigation and let them tell you what they hear, do this with a multitude of individuals and see if they all decide the same as you do, even after this exercise it will only show you the clarity of what was heard but is worth storing away in the interesting folder for later.

What an investigator should NOT do!

As always an investigator should not go into an investigation with the idea that ghosts or spirits are causing any phenomena, to confirm when asked that a picture is paranormal especially without any investigation shows a great lack of experience in the investigator as well as causing an individual to instantly secure the belief that what they are experiencing is 100% a spirit or a ghost. This can have many complications to both the client and the investigator.

As always,

I invite any corrections to research that may have updated since the time of the original post and I will update once I have confirmed the research is valid.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!

Please give the facebook page a like for up to date progress on the rest of the series


Leonard Zusne & Warren H Jones – Anomalistic Psychology – A study of magical thinking

Carl Sagan (1995) – The demon haunted world – Science as a candle in the dark

Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations

Further Reading:

Part 2 – The Brain and the Paranormal – Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic Hallucinations in the Paranormal

Ok so onto the part 2 of ‘the brain and the paranormal’ series, I’ve selected this title for part 2 as we are still within the sleep related hallucination area, I will expand to group hallucinations and insanity, sensory deprivation and personality disorders as the series progresses.


If you haven’t already, catch up with the ParaRationalise Facebook Page, the Introduction to the series and Part 1 – Sleep Paralysis.

This post is about hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, bit of a mouthful yet they are quite simple, they are sleep related hallucinations and in easy terms a hypnagogic hallucination occurs as we drop off to sleep and a hypnopompic hallucination occurs as we wake!
These can also occur the opposite way around although it is not very common.

These are something that helped me in my research and to understand a lot of the personal paranormal experiences I have had over the years!

These 2 sets of hallucination types will need to be explained separately but are quite similar, as I mentioned before in Part 1 these tend to be entwined with Sleep Paralysis but hopefully once you finish reading this post you will see there is indeed a difference.

What is experienced?

Hypnagogic Hallucinations –

Hypnagogic hallucinations are created once you close your eyes to go to sleep or find yourself in a situation of sensory deprivation like a dark room or quiet area.

They can last from seconds to minutes and seem completely random and uncontrollable.

They create various hallucinations from visual, auditory and tactile.

Visual hallucinations can vary in severity these can be small trails of light, shapes, faces, kaleidoscopic imagery and even full blown scenes

The auditory hallucinations can be hearing conversations, a loud buzz or bang (exploding head syndrome), someone calling your name, non sensical murmurings or shouting.

Tactile hypnagogic hallucinations can be someone stroking your face, feet or hands, the feeling of wetness, heat in dry or cold room and forms of transient Paraesthesia (pins and needles, crawling skin feeling).

This is a limited list of symptoms but I would like to show you an example taken from Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir Speak, Memory,

“As far back as I remember…I have been subject to mild hallucinations…just before falling asleep, I often become aware of a kind of one sided conversation going on in an adjacent section of my mind, quite independently from the actual trend of my thoughts. Is it neutral, detached, anonymous voice, which I catch saying words of no importance to me whatever-an English or a Russian sentence, not even addressed to me, and so trivial that o hardly dare give examples….this silly phenomena seems to be the auditory counterpart of certain praedormitary visions, which I also know well…they come and go, without the drowsy observers participation, but are essentially different from dream pictures for he is still master of his senses. They are often grotesque. I am pestered by roguish profiles, by some coarse-featured and florid dwarf with a swelling nostril or ear. At times, however, my photisms take on a rather soothing flou quality, and then I see – projected, as it were, upon the inside of my eyelid-gray figures walking between beehives, or small black parrots gradually vanishing among mountain snows, or a mauve remoteness melting beyond moving masts”

This is a brilliant example of hypnagogia, they tend to have either a calming or terrifying effect on individuals and can easily be misinterpreted as a paranormal experience and tend to be misinterpreted as spiritual visions, premonitions or messages from higher entities!

On top of all this there is what is known as a hypnic jerk which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to……this when you suddenly wake up as your dropping to sleep due to the feeling of falling or losing balance but actually you’re laying down in your bed, this is generally misinterpreted as floating above your bed and then landing as you wake! Unfortunately we really don’t have the ability to levitate however cool that might be!

Hypnopompic hallucinations  Hypnopompic hallucinations are what I would consider answers for a lot of my own paranormal experiences especially early on in life, these hallucinations can be undeniably terrifying or exceptionally calming, you wake and see, hear and/or feel something in the room with you, the difference from this and sleep paralysis is that you can move, you can still jump out of your bed or run away whilst experiencing it!

These are a great deal less common than Hypnagogic hallucinations but have a rather lasting effect on a sufferer!
These can be difficult to differentiate from reality, a lot of reports explain how it seemed so incredibly real!

These hallucinations can be greatly detailed and can be projected in to the room the individual is in, as you can imagine this tends to stay with an individual, you will tend to hear people say “I’ll never forget one time when…….”

Take this example from Oliver Sacks books ‘Hallucinations’ of Donald Fish a regular sufferer of Hypnopompic Hallucinations:

“I wake from a calm sleep and perhaps a fairly normal dream with a shock, and there before me is a creature that even Hollywood couldn’t create. The hallucinations fade in about ten seconds, and I can move when I have them. In fact I usually jump about a foot into the air and scream…. The hallucinations are becoming worse
– now about 4 a night – I am now becoming terrified of going to bed. The following are examples of what I see:
A huge figure of an angel standing over me next to a figure of death in black.

A rotting corpse lying next to me.

A huge crocodile at my throat.

A dead baby on the floor covered in blood.

Hideous faces laughing at me.

Giant Spiders – Very Frequent.

Huge hand over my face. Also one on the floor five feet across. 

Drifting spider webs.

Birds and Insects flying into my face.

Two faces looking at me from under a rock.

Image of myself – only looking older – standing by the bed in a suit.

Two rats eating a potato.

A mass of different coloured flags descending onto me.

Ugly looking primitive man lying on the floor covered in tufts of orange hair.

Shards of glass falling on me.

Two wire lobster pots.

Dots of red, increasing to thousands like spattered blood.

Masses of logs falling on me.”

It is easy to understand how these can be misperceived as a paranormal experience, a thousand thoughts of what just happened would go through their head, is the house haunted? Is something attached to me? Has this ‘entity’ been watching me sleep? I think you’ll agree that doesn’t sound much fun. Let’s not forget these can happen in areas that are well lit and also during the day.
The issue within the paranormal community is this exceptionally easy ability to point straight at a paranormal explanation when really there is hundreds of options to go to first, hopefully this series will give investigators some direction prior to a paranormal explanation.

So what is really happening?

The hallucinations can be caused by a lot of factors in somebodies life, these can include heightened stress levels, anxiety, grief, drug use/withdrawal or an erratic sleep pattern, as per sleep paralysis these are much more common for sufferers of narcolepsy, insomnia or mental illness. 

It can even occur for people who meditate regularly!
There are multiple reasons behind these hallucinations but it is thought that as the brain ‘slows down’ ready for sleep (the brain goes from beta waves to alpha waves) we become more suggestible between our subconscious and conscious, this enables us to have these hallucinations in any or all of their forms.

With Hypnopompic hallucinations the opposite is happening this is what allows us to experience the hallucinations in ‘everyday’ life.
Sensory deprivation which will be included in this series at a later date can cause these hallucinations to occur and most who study them would use the Ganzfield experiment to allow this state to be extended for the experimenters to study for longer periods.

What should an investigator do?

If as an investigator you come across someone who claims to have these symptoms (please note, people may have one or many symptoms from various posts in this series)
it’s important to find out if it something recent or has just started happening, if possible ask for some more detailed information about sleep patterns, stressful situations, recent loss or drug use.

These details can be quite critical in getting the correct help, these hallucinations tend to be treated with counselling more than a medicinal approach, as always if you feel these hallucinations are having a negative effect on the individual ask them to make an appointment with their doctor and explain that these are quite normal symptoms and the doctor is able to help!

If the individual is suffering with a mental illness and from what you are aware they are avoiding prescribed medication this needs to be reported to your local mental health service as soon as possible.
Knowledge is a good first step in these situations, once the individual is aware of what the hallucinations are there is a good chance they will begin to control them better on their own, it can bring the fear and stress levels down which in turn helps the individual sleep better.

What should an investigator NOT do?

As with sleep paralysis it would help nobody involved to walk in and claim that what these individuals are seeing ghosts, dead loved ones, demons, other Worlds etc etc this will no doubt make the situation very much worse than it already is, setting up night vision cameras to show anything other than an individual overnight that nothing is with them as they sleep will begin to solidify the concept that these experiences are paranormal and a danger is very much present!

Every flashing light from EMF Detectors, every voice recorder, every reference made by paranormal teams regarding the history of a place is going to make everything much much worse for the individual!

As always,
I invite any corrections to research that may have updated since the time of the original post and I will update once I have confirmed the research is valid.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback! 


Follow the series on Facebook via the ParaRationalise Facebook Page



1. Hypnagogia – the unique state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep – Andreas Mavromatis

2. Hallucinations – Oliver sacks

3. An introductory study of hypnagogic phenomena – Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research

4. Replaying the game: Hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics’ – Stickgold, R., Malia, A., Maguire, D., Roddenberry, D., & O’Connor, M

Further Reading 

  2. Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks
  3. Hypnagogia – the unique state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep – Andreas Mavromatis

Part 1 – The Brain and the Paranormal – Sleep Paralysis in the Paranormal

So to begin with I want to start on a subject I brought up in my previous blog post on Demons which can be found Here

Sleep Paralysis  Sleep paralysis is quite well known in the general populace and within the paranormal community, some believe it is attacks whilst sleeping by spirits or evil demons even alien abduction or visitations from loved ones who have passed!
Fortunately for those involved this isn’t a paranormal experience and is actually quite normal and is found to be a common occurrence for a few people.

What is experienced?

Now imagine you have woken up and you can’t move, that’s pretty terrifying in itself! Trust me I’ve been there myself a few times!

But on top this the person experiences a varied amount of symptoms.

These can range from full blown hallucinations of something either comforting or completely terrifying,

For example a shadow man standing at the foot of the bed or in a dark corner, the incubus/Succubus as explained in my previous post (Here) a similar demon like creature, an alien abduction or experiment, an old hag sitting on your chest or an unknown presence in the room with you!

The presence is not always necessarily scary, some people experience visitations from loved ones who have passed or even people who are still alive!
This example is taken from Oliver Sacks book ‘Hallucinations‘ shows how terrifying it can be for an individual –

“I had just lain down in bed, and after a few rounds of changing positions I ended up face down. Almost immediately I felt my body go more and more numb. I tried to “pull” myself out of it, but i was already too deep into the paralysis. Then it was almost as if someone sat down on my back, pressing me deeper into the mattress…the weight on my back got heavier and heavier, and I was still not able to move. [then] the thing on my back got off and laid down next to me…I could feel it lying beside me, breathing. I got so scared and thought that this couldn’t be anything other than real…because I had been awake all along. It felt like an eternity before I managed to turn my head towards it. Then I laid eyes on an abnormally tall man in a black suit. He was greenishly pale, sick looking, with a shock ridden look in the eyes. I tried to scream, but was unable to move my lips or make any sounds at all. He kept staring at me with his eyes almost popping out when all of a sudden he started shouting out random numbers, like FIVE-ELEVEN-EIGHT-ONE-THREE-TWO-FOUR-ONE-NINE-TWENTY, then laughed hysterically….I started feeling able to move again, and as I came back to a normal state the image of the man became more and more blurry until he was gone and I was able to get up”

Now consider how terrifying that would be? To almost anyone without an understanding of what it is would label that paranormal, they would easily believe something had visited them or the house is haunted by something evil! It can cause a cascade of thoughts that will make a person feel uncomfortable in their own home!

You see I chose this example as it shows a complete set of hallucinations, auditory, tactile and visual! It also shows just how real these can seem to the person experiencing them!

A lot of people also experience a buzzing noise that can be heard as a hum of a space ship, a growl of something ‘evil’ or even screaming or laughing, this is purely an auditory hallucination nothing more.

Sufferers also experience a difficulty to breathe or a pressure on the chest which has helped bring forward the idea of the old hag sitting on the ‘victim’!

So what is really happening? 

 This is a psychological phenomena where your brain and your body kind of slip off tune with each other, this tends to happen during REM sleep which normally is estimated around 90 minutes into falling asleep, a person suffering from an attack will drop almost straight into REM sleep, as we drop into REM sleep our brain releases 2 chemicals glycine and GABA these chemicals are the brains way of stopping us acting out our dreams and nightmares whilst sleeping!

It essentially paralyses you during sleep, the problem appears when the brain becomes more conscious in its REM state but is still releasing these chemicals, we become aware of our surroundings without being able to move, this allows our mind to stir up wonderful images that seem to be in the room with us but are actually just part of a dream!

This can be common place for sufferers of narcolepsy or sleep deprivation to experience these hallucinations as they can easily drop straight into a REM state sleep, but it is not limited to just these sufferers, it has been found by James Allan Cheyne of the university of Waterloo that between a third and half of the general population have suffered from a sleep paralysis attack or as its labelled isolated sleep paralysis if it is only the odd time it is experienced this is based on vast Internet surveys and direct contact with over 300 students.

The Amygdala plays its part in this as it remains active whilst the person is having an attack, the 2 small regions in the brain are designed to protect us, it is our fear centre, it is, if anything giving the dream/awake state the fuel to make the situation completely terrifying!

These terrifying projections can be based on belief or even suggestion over years, and to be fair as above there is a lot of varying examples.

Now sleep paralysis should not always be confused with hypnagogic and Hypnopompic hallucinations (I will explain them in detail in part 2 of the series) they have similarity and can interact but Sleep paralysis causes extreme hallucinations in some cases the sufferer cannot tell if it is an hallucination or not!

As for the struggle to breathe it is noted that the muscles that require breathing to become fast paced and shallow are ‘deactivated’ during an attack, this mixed with the rise in heart rate creates a feeling of pressure on the chest and a difficulty to breathe, having that difficulty can be a catalyst to why a lot of sufferers hallucinate something sat on them restricted breathing!

From these small examples you can easily see how people believe that this could be a paranormal occurrence, heck it’s where the word nightmare originated, but fortunately it is quite normal and easily explained.

What should an investigator do? 

If an investigator came across a case where this is occurring it is the most responsible and ethical thing to do is advise going to see a local Doctor if you discover it is a regular occurrence then narcolepsy could be to blame, especially if it occurs outside of usual sleep patterns, high levels of stress or sleep deprivation if the ‘attacks’ are less common can also be a cause.

You should explain that you indeed believe what is happening to them and explain its commonality and how easily it can be perceived as a paranormal experience, most people will struggle with the concept to begin with but with patience and time you should at least persuade them to try this approach first!
You would quite rarely come across anyone who has been diagnosed with narcolepsy and feel the need to contact a paranormal team as they tend to have a good understanding of why and what is happening to them, it is only if their belief system pushes beyond what is medically diagnosed then, It is a responsible move to explain that indeed this isn’t a paranormal experience and refer them back to their Doctor as soon as possible.

What an investigator should NOT do!

  It is not the best idea to go into an investigation of this kind with an instant idea that this is an evil entity attacking individuals, this will only solidify the idea for the sufferer and has huge potential to make the situation much worse, the sufferer will struggle with sleep even more feeling like this really isn’t in the mind and with that they will become more deprived of sleep which in turn will cause the attacks to become more frequent! (This is the point you hear “the attacks are getting worse because I’m trying to get help we are making it angry”) this isn’t the case but a spiritual approach would agree and in turn make things worse once again for the individual!

Please as investigators be responsible and ethical!

Coming next to the series –

Part 2 – Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic hallucinations in the Paranormal!

To follow the series please like the Facebook page Here for updates as they happen

As always-
I invite any corrections to research that may have updated since the time of the original post or I am not aware of and I will update once I have confirmed the research is valid

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!


1. The Journal of Neuroscience,18 July 2012, 32(29): 9785-9795; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0482-12.2012

2. Morton, K. “Paralyzed at Night: Is Sleep Paralysis Normal?” Stanford Sleep & Dreams. 2010.

3. Oliver Sacks. “Hallucinations” 2012

4. “All in the mind?” – Paul Chambers (ASSAP journal Anomaly 25)

5. Christopher C.French & Anna Stone – “Anomalistic Psychology exploring paranormal belief and experience”

Further reading

1. Here

2. Oliver Sacks. “Hallucinations” Here

3. Christopher C. French & Anna Stone. “Anomalistic Psychology” Here