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An Investigation Into Old Hag Attacks

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mystic
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An Investigation Into Old Hag Attacks
PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005  Reply with quote

Kettlewell N, Lipscomb S, Evans E. Differences in Neuropsychological Correlates Between Normals and those Experiencing 'Old Hag Attacks'. Percept Mot Skills. 1993. 76(3 Pt 1):839-845.


Purpose

240 university students were given the so-called Cognitive Laterality Battery as well as a questionnaire, the answers to which were used to identify those who had experienced an Old Hag Attack. Those suffering from this hypnagogic sleep disorder showed a statistically significantly different profile of scores from normal subjects on the Cognitive Laterality Battery. Also included is a discussion about the implications of this finding for existing theories concerning the Old Hag Attacks.

Introduction

Hypnagogic disorders are defined as sleep disturbances that occur during the onset of sleep as opposed to those which occur during sleep (for instance Pavor Nocturnus - a sleep terror disorder which frequently occurs in young children) or upon waking (hypnopompic disorders). The Old Hag Attack phenomenon is such a hypnagogic disorder. Prior to sleep, the person experiences paralysis, an inability to speak and a sensation of extreme fear. Often the person will hear, feel, see or sense "something" (an old hag, a beast, a man, a demon or something indescribable). The term "Old Hag" is commonly used in Newfoundland where the experience is felt to be caused by the spirit of a witch who rides the sleeper as one would a horse.
In an earlier study by Hufford, it was reported that this sleeping disorder affects about 17% of the population in Newfoundland. One explanation for this seemingly high percentage was offered by Firestone. He argued that certain "... social factors within Newfoundland rural communities make for a general development of hostility and dependency which may find 'conventional' expression in people being 'hagged'. At the same time, the sleep paralysis episode is symbolic of the conflicting pressures upon the individual as an aspect of the high degree of role transparency found in Newfoundland outposts." According to Firestone's thesis, Old Hag Attacks should occur much more frequently in Newfoundland given the conditions he specified, be more prevalent in Newfoundland than elsewhere in the world. However, it must be noted that after further research, Newfoundland did not appear to be the Old Hag hotspot of the world. In fact, in this research about 20% of the people suffered from Old Hag Attacks. Surveys in California, Kentucky, Nebraska and Pennsylvania have yielded estimates of the frequency of Old Hag Attacks in the samples studied which varied from 10 to 25%. Against this backdrop, the 17% experiencing Old Hag Attacks in Newfoundland hardly seems surprising and requires no further explanation of the sort that Firestone proffered.

The phenomenon has been historically approached on a number of theoretical fronts (psychoanalytic, cultural and psychophysiological), but in none of these reports has there been examination of potential differences between normals and those suffering from Old Hag Attacks, except with respect to the obvious manifestations of their pathology.

General

The approach used in this research is to question whether there are differences between those having and not having Old Hag Attacks, by using the Cognitive Laterality Battery. This test permits an assessment of left and right brain hemispheric functioning. Current research seems to suggest that sequential, verbal and analytical functions can be attributed to left hemisphere processes, whereas the right hemisphere is often seen as underlying synthesis, music, the tonal elements of language, spatial perception, sequential processing, and spatial orientation. However, these listing represent only a portion of the catalog of functions which have been suggested at various times for the two hemispheres.

Procedure

Initially, the subjects were asked to fill out a questionnaire which was used to identify whether or not the student ever experienced Old Hag Attacks. Next, all student were asked to complete the Cognitive Laterality Battery. This battery consists of eight tests, four which measure functions associated with the right hemisphere, and four to measure functions associated with the left hemisphere.

Here's a short description of the tests used in the Cognitive Laterality Battery:

Left-hemisphere Tests

  • 1. Serial sounds - A series of familiar sounds at a short rate were presented. The subject needs to remember the order and then write the identities of the sounds in the same order in which the sounds were presented.
  • 2. Serial numbers - A series of digits were playedon prerecorded tapes at a short rate (one digit per second). Afterwards, the subject was to write the sequence of numbers just as they were played.
  • 3. Word production (fluency) - The subject was requested to write as many words as possible that started with a given letter of the alphabet. (three times repeated).
  • 4. Word production (category) - The subject was instructed to write as many words that corresponded to a particular category indicated (twice repeated).


Right-hemisphere Tests

  • 5. Orientation tests - The subject had to identify two identical 3D cubic arrangements from three stacks of cubes within a given time period.
  • 6. Localization tests - An "X" was marked within a large black frame projected on a slide for three seconds. The subject had the mark the location of "X" within a similar but blank frame on an answer sheet.
  • 7. Form completion (closure) - Silhouette pictures of common objects or scenes were projected in which random parts of the picture were erased. The subject was to imagine the completed picture and identify it.
  • 8. Touching blocks - A slide is shown picturing a cube constructed of several rectangular blocks. Each time, five of them were numbered and the subject was given a certain time to count all the blocks touching each of the numbered blocks.


Right-hemisphere tests were alternated with left-hemisphere tests to avoid bias from attention or fatigue.

Results

Of the 240 students tested, 49 of them indicated they had very likely experienced an Old Hag Attack. Of the remaining "normal" students, a comparable sample of 49 was selected randomly for comparison. After all the test results of the subjects were analyzed and plotted, a clear difference became obvious between the normals and the students who experienced an Old Hag Attack. The two groups mostly differed on test 2 (serial numbers), 3 (word production (letters)), 6 (orientation) and test 7 (form completion). Those experiencing an Old Hag Attack scored higher on tests 6 and 7 and lower on tests 2 and 3 than those who did not report such experience.

Discussion

Biological explanation likely

The results seem to present strong support for there being a biologically based difference in the profile on the Cognitive Laterality Battery for those who do and those who do not suffer from the hypnagogic sleep disorder known as Old Hag Attacks. This observation would not be expected if the attacks were the result of some psychosexual Freudian variable (some have argued that mental conflict coming from a repressed component of the psychosexual instinct was responsible for Old Hag Attacks).

Prior explanations

The results from this experiment also seems as odds with the explanation for Old Hag Attacks set forth by Ness and Hishikawa, namely that chronic lack of sleep is responsible. They argue that this sleep deprivation is followed by an early onset of REM which intrudes into wakefulness and is experienced as an Old Hag Attack or in some cases as simply sleep paralysis. While the intrusion of REM into the waking state may account for Old Hag Attacks, it doesn't seem reasonable that chronic lack of sleep is a necessary or sufficient condition for this phenomenon. This hypothesis is also not supported by the fact that some students who suffered from Old Hag Attacks did not report chronic lack of sleep preceding their attacks when they were interviewed.
Another unlikely explanation, set forth by Firestone after his research in Newfoundland, has already been mentioned in the beginning of this article.
So what's the most likely cause for Old Hag Attacks given this experiment? People who suffer from Old Hag Attacks may have some as yet undiscovered brain disorder which permits REM phenomena to intrude upon wakefulness, a conclusion also reached by Hufford. It is possible that this disorder may be reflected in their similar profiles on the Cognitive Laterality Battery. Alternatively, the similarity of the profiles may represent their capacity to create creatures (note the elevation on their scores on the Form Completion Test) or to organize sounds or other sensory phenomena, into a menacing presence as a plausible focus for their fear upon finding themselves paralyzed.




Last edited by mystic on Tue 08 Feb, 2005; edited 1 time in total
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Xgamer4
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Feb, 2005  Reply with quote

I actually understood this one!
Yeah!

But enough with my celebrating:
I don't agree with Old Hag attacks being the result of a brain disorder; simply because most of us have had at least one. If it actually was one, that would seem like a pretty common disorder.

I like the idea that it's just sleep paralysis intruding on us while we're awake. But that just kinda drags me back to the idea I don't like as being the explanation for it, so I'll leave it at that.


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mystic
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Feb, 2005  Reply with quote

Xgamer4 wrote:
I don't agree with Old Hag attacks being the result of a brain disorder; simply because most of us have had at least one. If it actually was one, that would seem like a pretty common disorder.


Why can't this brain disorder be a pretty common one? colgate Or perhaps the brain disorder covers only one part of the possible Old Hag Attacks. Here, the term "brain disorder" doesn't mean something really really bad, but only a difference in some of the right-left hemispheric functions of the brain. It doesn't mean you're crippled for life smile

Quote:
I like the idea that it's just sleep paralysis intruding on us while we're awake. But that just kinda drags me back to the idea I don't like as being the explanation for it, so I'll leave it at that.


It's important to notice SP is NOT the same as an Old Hag Attack. SP is much broader than that. I've had numerous SP experiences which were more beautiful than some of my LDs. Old Hag Attacks do have a SP like feature, but the chest pains, difficulties to breathe, the visit itself from the Hag, beast, man, demon,.. could be signs that there's more to it than just common SP. Imo smile


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fire stone
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Feb, 2005  Reply with quote

the thing that is proven to cause old hags from appering is sleep paralysis, and that is caused by 2 things, sleeping on your back( if your not use to it), and if you sleep longer it may cause it and when you sleep when your not tired, which is also when you have lucid dreams.

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mystic
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Feb, 2005  Reply with quote

If sleep paralysis causes an Old Hag Attack, what then determines if an experience expresses itself as a normal SP on the one hand, or an Old Hag Attack on the other hand?
Also, sleep paralysis happens every night to everyone of us, and certainly not depends on whether or not you're lying on your back. Sleep paralysis is absolutely necessary to go into REM sleep, or otherwise we would physically work out our dreams, which might get a little dangerous colgate


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Xetrov
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Re: An Investigation Into Old Hag Attacks
PostPosted: Tue 08 Mar, 2005  Reply with quote

I just now got some time to read this interesting stuff Mystic posted here lately. Let's look a bit closer at this conclusion:

Quote:
The results seem to present strong support for there being a biologically based difference in the profile on the Cognitive Laterality Battery for those who do and those who do not suffer from the hypnagogic sleep disorder known as Old Hag Attacks. This observation would not be expected if the attacks were the result of some psychosexual Freudian variable (some have argued that mental conflict coming from a repressed component of the psychosexual instinct was responsible for Old Hag Attacks).


Although this is an interesting conclusion, I think it suffers from a (in my opinion, very common) flaw. It has to do with the following; the cause of some phenomenon is either A or B and there is no way there could be a combination of factors. It seems clear that there are biological factors that play a role, but the conclusion that psychological factors dont play any role isn't valid. Also, chances of old hag attack may very well increase with sleep deprivation. All in all, it seems a requirement that one has some kind of slight brain disorder (an internal, biological factor) to experience old hag, but there can very well be several other "triggering" causes (external, for example psychological factors and/or lack of sleep) that need to arise to start the old hag experience. A brain disorder in itself isn't a trigger, I dont think most of these people experience old hags every day.


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mystic
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Mar, 2005  Reply with quote

Yes I agree fully colgate

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psychicsue
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2005  Reply with quote

I have sufferred from Paralysis attacks for as long as I can remember. I don't see the old hag - I just feel there is an "evil" presence in the room, usually behind me, and holding my arms back. It really is a horrible experience. I have been doing a bit of research on it, and some people think that LDers are prone to paralysis attacks.

There is no "cure" other than meds - which I don't want to take. What I have learned to do, over the years, is turn my paralysis into an LD. I float out of my paralysed body and fly through the window. This works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn't.

Sue x


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Lucidity_Master
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Dec, 2005  Reply with quote

The one thing this study didn't discuss is why most people seem to have Old Hag when they sleep on their back?

Has anyone heard anything about this?


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maxdamage
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PostPosted: Sun 25 Dec, 2005  Reply with quote

Maybe because sleeping on your back allows you to see the entire room? You can see your chest better and that old lady can sit on it smile.

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Davion
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Dec, 2005  Reply with quote

I don't suppose these guys bothered to read Claude Rifat's works. He covered the mechanics of this stuff 5 years ago or more. Basically there is a system that blocks our motor neurons while we are sleeping. However, it's possible for this system not to work (sleepwalking) or to work too well (sleep paralysis lasting past waking/old hag attacks.) Why does it get shut off too early? It could be a chemical thing, have to do with EM fields, or it could be due to a (possibly) genetic brain disorder.

Then again, maybe it's not a disorder at all. Maybe it happens randomly to make our lives interesting. But then.. I believe in God so.. I think that sort of thing is possible.

As to why sleep paralysis being overactive would lead to the 'Old Hag' thing, well think of this a different way. A bunch of teenaged kids are sleeping at a friend's house and a scary story is told. Is it uncommon for the power of suggestion to bring on fear, dread, the feeling that someone is watching, etc.? At times, the power of suggestion can cause visual and auditory hallucinations that are as powerful as the drug induced kind.

It seems to me people overthink things sometimes. There IS a n interesting study to be done here, and the best way to do it would be to hook these newfies up to a PET or RIPT scanner and see whats going on in the brain during these episodes. Figure out exactly what causes the Motor Neuron Blocking System to fail to correctly carry out it's duties.

Then, figure out how to make it fail more often for therapeutic reasons smile


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maxdamage
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Dec, 2005  Reply with quote

I've read somewhere that melatonin deficit is responsible for failure of this mechanism.

By the way, are there any reports of visual Old Hag attacks from people who wear sleep masks to cover their eyes?


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Davion
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PostPosted: Sun 01 Jan, 2006  Reply with quote

My brother had something like this happen once when we were kids. We shared a room and he had the bottom of a set of military bunk beds. He told me he woke up and saw 'the devil' holding onto his leg and he couldn't move. I just now remembered that.

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Quimbisero
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Hufford and conclusions on Old Hag
PostPosted: Fri 03 Feb, 2006  Reply with quote

I don't ever recall Hufford mentioning brain damage as a likely cause for Old Hag, though I suppose he might have considered it at one point. It's been quite a while since I read Terror that Comes in the Night, and since we've discussed the subject. It's not listed in the index to the book, although classical studies of anxiety, neurosis, narcolepsy and shizophrenia are. I don't believe he concludes that the phenomena is easily explained by any of those more mainstream psychological catagories.

My reaction to his comments on it when we talked about it were that there could be a number of different causes. He certainly did not characterize the cases he mentioned as all being people with serious mental or neurological problems.

He has also done a lot of work with people who have been involved with Alien abductions and those weird "chupacabra"-like events where people find cattle whose skin have been completely removed,or had all their blood sucked out, etc. Those people seem incredibly paranoid to me, or at least the examples he spoke about did. There was lots of talk of mysterious plots and cover-ups.

Over all he is very open to a variety of possibilities and does not discount the experiences described by people who have been hagged. I think "Terror" is worth a reread...when I have time again.

Eoghan devil

PS: I just like that little devil!


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Basilus West
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Feb, 2006  Reply with quote

Quote:
Those people seem incredibly paranoid to me

Sleep paralysis with severe hallucinations can lead to a slight form of paranoia, if the subject doesn't understand what happens. It disappears when the causes of the experience are explained. I found this on a psychiatrist's website but I can't remember where... shy2


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