Awareness during sleep paralysis often includes the terrifying and realistic sensation of being held down while waking up or going to sleep. Sometimes, it’s accompanied by grotesque visions that seem to threaten our most prized possession: our sanity. But I have found for myself that sleep paralysis can lead to creative states of mind (such as lucid dreams and astral projection). And as it turns out, sleep paralysis makes great fodder for modern art too.
First, check out the work of South African fashion designer Elmé Bekker. Based in Cape Town, Elmé has suffered with sleep paralysis off and on her entire life.
Recently, rather than trying to wake up from the ghastly visitations, she’s taken to scrutinizing what her nightmare figures are wearing.
The piece to the right is directly inspired from a series of SP visitations by an evil white swan character that haunted Elmé after she saw the movie Black Swan.
So that’s a creepy feedback loop starting with a film, inducing nightmares, and then inducing more art.
For more of Elme Bekker’s hypnagogically-inclined designs, see her 2011 collection from South Africa Fashion Week.
Then there’s this wild digital print by DeviantArtist ~unded.
Titled Kanashibari, this 2010 original digital art is one of the coolest –and creepiest– renditions of a ghost attack while in sleep paralysis.
Kanashibari, by the way, is the Japanese word for the nightmare that creeps upon you while you’re awake, presses you down, and seemingly threatens to steal your soul.
You can get full-sized prints of this piece (and ~unded’s other spooky mythological art) here.
Finally, I’m really excited about the London-based singer-songwriter Gabriel Bruce, whose deput 7″ single Sleep paralysis has been likened to works of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits.
His gravely voice and penchant for darkness also reminds me of Michael Gira, lead singer for the American post-punk band Swans, whose song “Goddamn the sun” I’ll never forget thanks to the incessant listening by my friends in high school.
(What is it about creepy swans in this article?)
Bruce’s song “Sleep paralysis” is definitely haunted. But he also designed a 60 page Dada-inspired booklet on the horror and science of sleep paralysis that comes with his vinyl single.
So cool. And the song is good too.
Here’s the video (you can go to full screen once you hit play):
Gabriel Bruce – Sleep Paralysis from Off Modern on Vimeo.
Know any other recent artistic works inspired by sleep paralysis and hypnagogia? Shout them out below.
Morgan Sharp says
I used to have SP experiences all the time, but I found they completely stopped after reading your book on them. Once I understood the mechanisms behind what was happening, they were no longer a problem for me. The last couple I had were not frightening at all because I knew there was nothing to be afraid of, and that took all the wind out of the presence’s sails. In fact, in the last one I had I didn’t even feel the presence. I know a lot of people like to believe that they are actually being assailed by dark spirits, but that kind of mindset will only encourage further bad SP experiences. Realize that you are being tricked by your own mind, and the ghosts vanish.
Michael -Thanks for including me in your worfnedul organization. As a primary care provider, sleep issues in adults as well as children often go unrecognized and most certainly, un/undertreated. Thanks for your commitment to providing a forum for those invested in this cause to bounce ideas and ask questions. I look forward to being able to introduce your organization to the 140,000 nurse practitioners who are in the trenches of primary care everyday. A multidisciplinary perspective is key! Wendy
Ryan Hurd says
hey Morgan, glad to hear the book was useful! I agree, realizing that the ghosts are basically externalized thought forms really shifts the encounter. not that I think the ghosts therefore don’t have value in what they say or represent. but it’s a shift from a naive realism perspective to a more nuanced view of the weirdness that is SP.
Brill song. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Sleep Paralysis is an amazing experience! Especially once the minds fear of the unknown is conquered.
Then you can really start exploring ^_^ <3