Sleeping with the Light On


As many of you probably know, Iceland is famous for being laced with a kind of hard to put your finger on, haunted around the edges feeling that has been capitalized on by many. Whether you buy into it or not, it seems statistically worth noting that half of Iceland Review’s editorial staff has been subject to the attentions of island’s hyperactive paranormal community.

I don’t necessarily feel like it’s appropriate to out other people on their ghost encounters, but I don’t have a problem explaining what happened to me. In part because I think there’s a pretty scientific explanation behind it.

I live in an old building in 101 Reykjavik, just a block away from the big gray church at the top of town. I don’t know exactly when it was built, but I’m guessing early 20th century. The building is separated into three apartments, and I live in the top flat.

I moved in last September, when things were starting to get dark. As fall set in, it got darker, and by the end of November, getting out of bed in the morning was no small task. Living in an old house, and hearing about how everything hear is so haunted, it naturally crosses your mind at some point whether you’re the only one hanging out in the living room. But I always felt like I was.

But on one of these particularly dark nights, I woke up, and found that I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t breathe. I was sort of paralyzed, and at the side of my bed, some kind of woman – not a good woman, she was bad – was hovering around facilitating the suffocation. It felt like it went on for awhile. Eventually I came out of it, gasping for air, and I thought, Okay, well. Now I know. I have a ghost.

However, due mostly to the fact that I had an old boyfriend who would wake me up in the middle night having been visited by a old hag who tried to choke him, I started poking around the internet for some clues, and came across sleep paralysis. It’s a sleep disorder that has been recorded for centuries across cultures, in which the sleeper becomes paralyzed and has an accompanying paranormal hallucination. According this article, it’s actually how the word “nightmare” originated, and it's the subject of the painting above.

SP, as I will affectionately refer to it, is usually associated with strange sleeping patterns. Say you’re tired, stressed, or living with four hours of solid daylight. I’ve talked to a few other people here in Iceland that its happened to, and I imagine we’re not the only ones in this part of the globe, whose dark winters and light summers do a number on your sleep patterns, that have been visited by uninvited guests in the moments before waking.

Or maybe I’m just being a cynic, and chalking too much up to science.


Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.