Louis Proud. Dark Intrusions; An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences. Anomalist Books, 2009.
One of the most important books about ufology, or indeed any kind of visionary experience, is David Hufford’s The Terror That Comes in the Night. Peter Rogerson reviewed it in Magonia when it was first published, and you can read his review HERE. I suggest you click and read it, then come back here.
OK? As you will have seen, Hufford was one of the first people to study such incidents as actual experiences rather than legend, rumour or ‘just folklore‘. Hufford’s book was published almost thirty years ago, it still remains the key text on the ‘Hag experience'. One noticeable omission from the subsequent literature on the experience has been a detailed account from any of those who have suffered from it.
We are used to books from UFO contactees and abductees telling us what their contacts mean to them and the rest of us, and whether they describe their experiences in strictly literal terms like George Adamski, or in a more nuanced way, like Whitley Strieber, they can still tell us a great deal about the nature of that experience.
Louis Proud, the author of this book, is a young man who has experienced the Hag phenomenon since the age of seventeen (at the time of writing he is 25). He has a very clear idea of what is causing these experiences. The opening sentence of his book states: “When I was seventeen years old, something changed within my mind; a shift of awareness occurred and I became receptive to the presence of invisible beings - and I still am. Call them spirits if you like”.
Having come to that conclusion Proud then began searching for some explanation of the nature and origins of these ‘spirits’, and this book is largely an account of his quest, rather than an analysis of his personal experiences, which are mostly described in the first three chapters.
Firstly he consults Hufford’s works, which confirm that he is not alone in his situation, and that the type of Hag he encounters is as a result of sleep paralysis. But this, he feels is not enough of itself to explain what he considers to the ‘external’ and ‘objective’ aspects on the phenomena. He begins a search for the origins and nature of the ‘spirits’ behind his experiences.
This takes him from the Enfield poltergeist to the Spiritism of Brazil, channelling, mediumship, Stan Gooch, Robert Monroe’s out-of-body experiences, Swedenborg, Albert Budden, Whitley Strieber, even Trevor James Constable’s UFO ’critters’ feature in his search. but I do not see that they provide a coherent background to explain the Hag itself
Many of these people have something interesting to say about the Hag phenomenon as part of a larger phenomena, and they all seem to supply something which Proud can apply to his own experience, but the author is not able to make a single coherent explanation for what he has experienced.
And, of course, it would not be reasonable to expect him to do so, as the experiences are themselves so incoherent, so disturbing and so random. Perhaps the real purpose of this book is explained in the final sentence, where Louis Proud, having gone through this intellectual journey into the nature of his own personal experiences, concludes: “ … the [sleep paralysis] state puts you in direct contact with your soul allowing you to experience the spirit real first-hand. This is immensely significant, even revolutionary.”
Proud seems to have come to terms with his own ‘Dark Intrusions’, but his is not the only way. By coincidence, while reading this book the Daily Mail (8 December 2009), in its ‘Good Health’ section published the story of another Hag-experiencer, Hannah Foster, also 25 years old. She reported the classic symptoms: paralysis, the sense of something heavy pressing on her. She would see grotesque ‘demons’ .
She believed her attacks were triggered by the stress of leaving university and starting work. Interestingly, Proud’s experiences began when he had just graduated from high-school and “events had taken a rather unfortunate turn”. He gives no details of these events, but they seem to involve a major change in lifestyle.
Hannah Foster did not begin a search through the esoteric literature to find a way of coping with her experiences, she seems to have gone a more conventional medical route in seeking information about her condition. Unlike Proud, she accepts that, however overpowering the effects of sleep paralysis may be, they are something that is happening within herself, and she ultimately can control them: “Each time it happens, I tell myself not to panic, that it’s not real. But even though I know rationally what’s going on, it can still be pretty frightening … Knowing there are other people out there going through the same thing really helps”.
Two very different ways of dealing with the Hag, and I feel that Hannah’s will be, for most people, the best way, but Proud’s account still gives us an insight into this strange and disturbing condition, but it needs to be read carefully, with an understanding of just how personal it is. -- John Rimmer
[Hannah Foster's account of her experiences can be read HERE. There are some interesting readers' comments to the story]