Friday, August 07, 2009

Link proliferation: The secret lives of horror-themed cereal mascots, sleep paralysis, and making psychopaths.

A Boo-Berry Shaped Hole in His Heart

My vocation as a bon vivant man of leisure requires I commit a certain portion of my day engaged in the aimless wanderings of the amateur flâneur. During yesterday's existential tinged meandering, I came across Artez'n, an Atlantic Avenue shop that sells creative products from Brooklyn-based creative types.

The shop's full of nifty stuff, but the following horror-themed postcards from Ghastly Greetings caught my eye.

Here's "Rise and Shine," by Mister Reusch.

Here's "Boo Hoo," by Bradford Scobie.

Not in Brooklyn? Das cool. You can snag Ghastly Greetings products over their webby site. You dig?

"It’s going to drag me down into an abyss . . ."

In the August issue of The Psychologist, Julia Santomauro and Christopher C. French survey the state of knowledge regarding sleep paralysis: a temporary an consciously experienced state of paralysis, occurring while going to sleep or starting to wake, often accompanied by elaborate and multi-sensory hallucinations.

The article author mention the most common forms of hallucination:

- Proprioceptive hallucinations: sensations of floating, flying, out-of-body experiences; feelings of being lifted up, of spinning and turning; and sensations similar to those felt when going up or down in a lift.

- Tactile hallucinations: sensations of pressure; touching or pulling on the chest, limbs or head; pressure on the bed; feeling the bedclothes moving; and feelings of tingling, vibrating, shaking, pain, smothering or choking.

- Auditory hallucinations: hearing footsteps, knocking, shuffling, breathing, talking, indecipherable whispering, mechanical sounds
(e.g. humming) and other noises.

- Visual hallucinations: seeing wisp of cloud or smoke-like substances or areas of intense darkness; seeing a human, animal or monster and possibly interacting with them.

- Olfactory or gustatory hallucinations.

The authors also run down various historical and cultural non-scientific explanations for the phenomenon. Here's a sample:

For example, in Newfoundland sleep paralysis is called the ‘Old Hag’. This is described as suddenly being awake but paralysed, usually just after having fallen asleep, and often feeling a weight on the chest and sometimes seeing a grotesque human or animal astride the chest (Ness, 1978). Newfoundlanders think it might be caused by either working too hard, the blood stagnating when they lie on their back, or hostile feelings from another person.

In Hong Kong a condition that seems identical to sleep paralysis is termed ‘ghost oppression’ (Wing et al., 1994). Chinese people have often thought that ‘the soul of a person is vulnerable to the influence of spirits during sleep’ (Wing et al., 1994, p.609) and, in a dream classification book written around 403–221bc, there are six types of dreams described. Wing and colleagues suggest that e-meng, dreams of surprise, are actually sleep paralysis and are distinct from ju-meng, fearful dreams.

Amongst the Inuit of Canada sleep paralysis is interpreted as attacks from ‘shaman or malevolent spirits’ (Law & Kirmayer, 2005). In Japan sleep paralysis is called kanashibari and is related to the magic of one of the Buddhist gods, Fudoh-Myohoh. Historically, it was believed that monks could use this magic to paralyse people in their sleep; more recently it is often believed that evil spirits cause the phenomenon (Fukuda et al., 1987). In St Lucia, sleep paralysis is termed kokma and is alleged to be caused by the spirits of unbaptised babies who haunt the area (Ness, 1978). In Korea, it is termed ha-wi-nulita which can be translated as being squeezed by scissors (Dahlitz & Parkes, 1993). Many other cultures have their own interpretation of sleep paralysis and often the cause is attributed to some supernatural force.

Throughout Europe, from the 1500s until the 1700s, sleep paralysis experiences were often considered to be the work of witches who were accused of using their witchcraft to terrorise sleepers who had offended them in some way. Such episodes were sometimes termed as being ‘witch-ridden’. In 1747, a woman testified at a witch trial that she found her husband in bed ‘lying there stiff, barely drawing breath’, and when he woke up he said, ‘My Lord Jesus help me! Oh! Fiery witches took me to Máramaros and they put six hundredweight of salt on me’(Davies, 2003, p.186)

Recipe for a Serial Killer

Jim Fallon is the Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience at the University of California Irvine. He's been studying the brains of psychopathic killers and believes that he's discovered some shared traits. The following is his TED talk on his studies in which he ponders the question "How do you make a psychopathic killer?"


Monster Scholar said...

I've had one or two dreams that felt like sleep paralysis, particularly one where I was laying on a stone floor as water flooded the room. I felt like I couldn't breath and couldn't move until I finally snapped out of it from not breathing. Horrifying.

As for the serial killer recipe, yikes! I'd prefer to make a nice souffle instead.

zoe said...

see, why don't they tell you, when you're in grade school, that there are these kinds of jobs out there?

zoe said...

the video's really interesting, thanks!

CRwM said...


I've never had the experience myself. It sounds like I've been fortunate in that.

CRwM said...


But how many people knew they wanted to be a gay monster-theme cereal mascot in grade school?

Or is that not the job you mean?

zoe said...

oh, gosh, you're holding me to yesterday's dream?
actually, i hadn't thought of the monster cereal-mascot. i'd like that if i could morph into it (you know, be it), but the mascot suits, i hear, get itchy and hot for mere humans.

i was talking about peeling apart the brains of psychos.
and i think if i had known the option was out there...

Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Wow, three quite interesting topics!

On the second I am quite familiar with sleep paralysis and it is terrifing. The scariest feeling I have ever had.