Tag Archives: sleep paralysis

Chinese Sleep Paralysis Apparitions

This is a story that I heard from a barber when discussing folklore origins. S is a middle aged Chinese woman who used to live in China before immigrating to the United States.

C: My sister used to have pretty bad sleep paralysis when she was little. She got scissor lock, right, so she can’t move, sleep paralysis. She said that she couldn’t see, er, in her head I think she said there was a small girl running around her bed trying to give her an apple.

Me: Huh, an apple?

C: Yeah, like trying to give her an apple. I think her bed was in the center of the room so the girl would run around her bed and try to hand it to her. Another time, my sister used to have a lot of sleep paralysis, and she could only move her eyes. And she said during that time, in like a dark corner, she could see, you know in cartoons like the bad guy when they go Ha Ha Ha (menacingly)? She would see a shadowy figure and she would hear him laughing. After the first few times, I think she got used to it though. Thankfully, I’ve never gotten scissor lock before.

Me: Wow, that is so scaryyy. Ahh. This is kind of weird but do you know if someone has ever died in your house or on the land around you?

C: No, sorry I never heard anything like that before.

Me: All good, I was just wondering. Thank you for your story!

Even though I have heard and read many stories about sleep paralysis demons, I have never heard of an apparition of a little girl with an apple. The contrast between a somewhat innocent-seeming girl and a laughing dark figure is very interesting, though what is more intriguing is that someone could get used to the sleep paralysis demons and the feeling of not being able to move your body while mentally awake. Since Asian countries are more open to the spirits and ancestors than in many western countries, people in these Asian countries are less likely to be frightened by the apparitions and instead see them as some spirits who simply want some company or have some fun.


Background: The informant (A) is my roommate, the daughter of two Pakistani immigrants. She grew up in the US and frequents Pakistan during breaks from school. She is Muslim and participates in many of the religion’s practices.

A: So the like…background of this is that in Islam there are these other creatures that exist and one is called a Jinn. It’s made of fire and like…exists between our human realm and where angels or heaven and hell are….those are called Jannah and Jannath in Arabic. And Jinns can like…..kind of like possess you, and my mom would always tell me this one blessing to say to get rid of Jin. And then that one night I had sleep paralysis and I saw this like…creepy human man figure next to my bed. And obviously I was scared and like….frozen…or paralyzed so I couldn’t move but I started like…whispering the blessing my mom had told me but the Jinn started getting closer and I just kept saying the blessing. And then eventually it just went away and I fell asleep. But when I told my mom she was like, “There’s definitely something bad around you.”

Me: So where’d you learn about Jinns?

A: I heard about them in the Quran and stories of like…personal experiences with them are passed down a lot. Like my grandma believes that Jinns are really attracted to her and will follow her around, I can’t think of any specific stories she’s told me but I know she’s thought that for a long time.

Context: This was told to me during a recorded in person interview. The informant presumed that the figure she saw during sleep paralysis was a Jinn and that it was visiting her due to some sort of evil energy or happenings near her. The informant was recounting the story she had told me at an earlier date.

Haunted House in Indiana- The Funny Man and the Woman with the Red Eyes: Sleep Paralysis and Two Traveling Ghosts, Cured by a Witchdoctor

I first heard this story when I asked the speaker if she had ever seen a ghost, but when she began telling her story I remembered that I had heard parts of this tale before. The speaker told her story in a very matter-of-fact tone and spoke first about her experiences with friendly and unfriendly ghosts. For another example of a ghost legend by this same speaker, search “Haunted Theaters and Ghost Lights” in the USC folklore archive.


When the speaker and her twin brother were three years old, they shared a room in Gary, Indiana in a house completely made of brick. “My mom came in [to the children’s bedroom], she had just put us to bed. And then she heard me and my brother laughing. And so she like came back into the room and she’s like, What’s going on here? She’s like, what’s happening? And we’re like, ‘The man, the man. He’s making a funny face.’ And there was nobody there.”

“Was I scared? No, because he was one of the friendly ones of the house,” the speaker said. “He was kind of just there for jokes and like to make children laugh, because apparently, um, his grandchildren died in the house. And he like, died out of grief. And he loved kids. So he would just play with my brother and I [sic] occasionally.”

The speaker said that there were also unfriendly ghosts, and that she had recently gotten rid of one of these malicious specters. ” “They moved with us to Florida. And at first, I didn’t notice because they didn’t approach me. At first, they would just stay in the corner. And I didn’t realize it would always be a really scary woman with two red eyes. And I didn’t know what she was. I thought she was just like, a spirit… But no, she turned out to be worse than I thought.”

The speaker said that she began to experience sleep paralysis and that “I would be screaming, and she’d be attacking me. And I couldn’t move. And I’d wake up with bruises on my arms and my legs because she was sitting on top of me.” She slept with her mother at age 17 because of these nightly attacks. When she returned to her bedroom, she said, ” “I was screaming to save my mom and my brother. But they couldn’t hear me. And then just the woman was just taking my family away from me. And I didn’t like I couldn’t do anything. I was just sitting there. And then again, my mom woke me up screaming, crying in real life. “

The speaker’s Puerto Rican grandfather, Julio, was a witch doctor. “We had to pin a square piece of black cloth underneath my pillow. I don’t know what it was to catch her something like that.” Soon after that she moved to Southern California to attend school, and she hasn’t seen either ghost since.


This story was told at night in the kitchen, and three college-age females were present. The speaker said that she was relieved to be rid of the ghosts, and that after her parents’ divorce, she rarely visited the Gary House. She also said that the house was torn apart after the divorce, and that her father would start projects that he wouldn’t complete (for example, fixing the bathroom tub). I think these ghosts may have something to do with the divorce, but I believe that this experience was very frightening for the speaker.

This speaker later scoffed at my mentioning that a friend received therapy when recovering from his parent’s divorce. Her response suggested that children do not need therapy for this life change.

For another example of ghosts stories indicating changes in property ownership or status quo, see the scholarly article “Ghostly Possession of Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore” by Ulo Valk (2006).

The concept of traveling ghosts is certainly frightening, and this story was welcome after a long day’s work.

Tug of War with a Ghost

Informant: It was in North Carolina. I just got done playing with a fake Oujia board (like the ones you would find online). I went to bed. I woke up and it was freezing. I had a habit of kicking my blanket off in my sleep. I go to grab it and something was tugging against me. I thought nothing of it because I was half-asleep. I eventually won this tug-of-war and went back to sleep. I woke up the next morning freaked out because I realized I was fighting for a blanket with something in my half-asleep state. I did not think it was sleep paralysis or anything because I got up to get my blanket back. I just really want to know what wanted my blanket and why.

Background/Informant Thoughts: Informant was 15 going on 16 in North Carolina during the summer of 2016. (This is the same informant with the two Virginia apartment ghost stories.) The informant was in disbelief that she fought with something over a blanket. She was not scared or anything, but she was confused as to why it happened. She also stated that after this experience, it never happened again.

My Thoughts: While this story is seemingly more tame compared to the apartment ones, this still freaks me out a lot! In a groggy, sleepy state, I would be scared out of my mind if I was fighting with a ghost over my blanket. I also think this ghost story shows that the person is prone to being haunted in general. With having multiple accounts of being haunted at a Virginia apartment as a kid, I believe the ghosts have simply followed her around just to maybe mess with her.

Ghost Paralysis

Informant: One night around 9:00 I am talking to my mom at the top of the staircase. There is a door at the bottom of the stairs, and I look down to see a full figure standing in the doorway. I looked back at my mom, and told her that I just saw someone. She asks what I mean, and I tell her that I saw someone looking at me right there, but when I look back and show her it’s gone. 

Later that night in my bedroom, which is right across from the doorway to the stairs. I am in bed, trying to sleep but I can’t, I feel something, like something is watching me. I look around the dark room, and at the corner of the bed you see a shadow standing with its head tilted. I flip over to try to ignore it, and I grab my phone to distract myself from being scared. But then I feel the presence right next to me and in the screen of my phone I see two shiny, bright eyes in the reflection right to the left of me. I then flip over to my back and feel the presence right on the side of my face, and I see the two eyes. Trying to ignore it I close my eyes, and try to fall asleep. But at three in the morning I wake up with sleep paralysis, and I see the same figure standing at the foot of my bed. I can’t move, talk or wake up.

Collector: So what do you think happened? What do you make of this situation?

Informant: After I woke up, I tried to not pay any attention to it to avoid fear. And I told my grandma about it, because I didn’t know what it was. She said that when sleep paralysis happens a dead person is laying on top of you. My grandma told me that if I feel like I am being watched or that there is a shadow in my room, to cuss at it and tell it to go fuck itself, because it scares them away. Ever since that night whenever I feel a presence I tell it to go fuck itself, and they don’t really ever come back. Also the more this stuff happens, the more you get used to it. But since the shape was a tall dark shadow, that means it was an evil spirit, and the fact that it got onto me tells me that it was not a good one. It was a bad spirit that I brought home from somewhere, I went to a cemetery before this and I didn’t wash my clothes, and that’s when I started noticing shit. But definitely since it was a dark shadowy spirit, I think it was trying to harm me. 

Context: The informant, is a Latino male, who was born in Los Angeles, California, and now lives in the Seattle Washington area. 

Analysis: The informant suggests a lot of compelling ideas, and mythologies about ghosts. Ghost belief, and interactions with the dead are much more prevalent within Mexican culture. The informant mentions taking spirits home with you from cemeteries, and washing your clothes after visiting a cemetery. Also what an evil spirit behaves, and looks like, and even how to ward off a spirit that is unwanted. I have never heard of the idea of sleep paralysis relating to a ghost encounter. But sleeping is a very liminal time, especially sleep paralysis. Are you asleep? Are you awake? Are you dreaming?  In regards to warding off spirits if the informant claims that this encounter has not occurred since he has yelled at this spirit, and ignored it, this it may point to evidence that this idea could be effective. An angry ghost wanting to haunt may not bother with someone who is not scared.