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Shadow People Series: Old Hag

Updated on February 3, 2012

Depiction of The Old Hag

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This Shadow Person Explained Away

The Old Woman or Old Hag shadow person is typically explained away by both paranormal enthusiasts and experts and by Scientists. The thing most people say is the cause of someone seeing the Shadow Person known as the Old Hag is: SLEEP PARALYSIS.

The alternate name for "Sleep Paralysis" is "Old Hag Syndrome," because this phenomenon has been reported by so many people, and experts from many fields have actually been able to study this phenomenon. Another fairly common term used to account for Shadow People described as the Old Hag is the term "Hypnagogia," which stands for the time span when you're no longer fast asleep but your body hasn't "awakened" as quickly as your conscious mind has.

Typically, people who are in sleep paralysis are still paralyzed by the natural and normal body physiological process which keeps us safe during sleeping hours. If our brains didn't have a sort of 'lock down' mechanism working when we sleep, we'd thrash about and act out our many dreams. In a state of sleep paralysis, a person becomes conscious or thinks they've fully awakened, but their body has lagged behind and not been brought to a state where it can physically react in the world yet. This state, indeed, is terrifying for most people, and those who suffer in sleep paralysis may end up experiencing this half-awake but immobilized state a number of times on many different awakening occasions before they are actually aware that they may be experiencing sleep paralysis.

Not Convinced?

Well, if you're not convinced that the medical/scientific and psychological explanation above is what the Old Hag Shadow People are about when people see such things and report them, you're definitely not alone.

The Old Woman or Old Hag Shadow entity is basically described as a black silhouette in the shape of a person but the shadow has no facial features - no visible nose, eyes, mouth, etc. This shadow is described consistently as two-dimensional in appearance and blocks out visible things between the viewer and things located behind the area where the shadow person or Old Hag is in the room. Sometimes there is a sort of distorted, vapourous three-dimensional effect, visually, and according to the movements of the shadow entity.

Try to try as I might here, I cannot make the Old Hag seem MORE menacing or more supernatural here, because...

Well, although more people THINK the Old Hag has a supernatural source, she's just a Shadow Person phenomenon that seems to have a very good explanation through medicine, psychology and science.

All I'll be doing if I continue on is start writing fiction about an Old Hag shadow in a made-up story. I'd rather not continue on because this series on the topic of Shadow People is created to look at the different explanations for all sorts of shadows reported by both 'believers' and 'non-believers' in the paranormal experiences of these Shadow entities.

Fortunately, according to my viewpoint, the Old Hag Shadow entity seems to have hit up against some fine concluding explanations - all involving physiological sources but with reasonably natural human body effects.

I don't recall ever having had an episode of Sleep Paralysis myself. I'm not looking forward to ever having such effects going on in the middle of the night between my half-awake body and rapidly awakening mind, but if something like this DOES OCCUR in my life, I'm pretty darned sure

I WILL FREAK RIGHT OUT!!!! In all accounts I've read about, the hallucination - or the mind-body mixed up effect of sleep paralysis allows for a very terrifying experience in those who suffer it. I'm sure, again looking back on the accounts of sleep paralysis I've already read, that if I were to encounter one of the still unexplained benign shadow people, that experience probably wouldn't hold a candle to the effects of experiencing The Old Woman via sleep paralysis. 

I'm sure I'll wonder about all of this and still have no control on whether or not an episode of sleep paralysis will ever happen to me. If it does, I'm sure I'll feel the presence of the Old Hag and experience derogatory effects in my body and mind which compel me to believe I just saw a real, existing paranormal object in my room. Hopefully, all the things I've already studied about Shadow People and other paranormal topics will serve me well in a state of semi-consciousness, but who knows?

Sleep Paralysis Documentary - Trailer

Hub Challenge Hub #15

This lens is part of a March 2010 Hub Challenge I'm doing. I started March 1 and have a personal goal to publish at least 60 hubs over the month of March.

To check out how I'm doing, see my challenge hub, link below: 

Mythbuster Hub Challenges 

This Hub is part of a Shadow People Series set of articles. The matching Shadow People article links are below:

Shadow People Series: General , Shadow People Series: Hat ManShadow People Series: Old Hag , Shadow People Series: Hoodies , Shadow People Series: Shadow Things   


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      Kyle 4 years ago

      I am with Ella. I have never seen the shadow people while in bed. I have seen them my whole life, but lately I have seen them outside of my house as I am walking toward my front door. They are blocking my vision of the door and then they quickly move off, out of sight. I am fully awake and energetic. I am very much into science, but I have to wonder with so many people seeing the EXACT same thing if there is something else going on? To be honest I hope they are just hallucinations, but are there examples of hallucinations being shared like these are? By the way I am 30 years old and I have seen them since childhood and didn't know anyone saw these until about 4 months ago.

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      mythbuster 5 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hello Ella, thanks for stopping by to comment. I hope the shadow people you're seeing while awake aren't frightening.

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      mythbuster 5 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      wingedcentaur - I don't know how I missed your later comments and questions for so long but I'm here now, so I'll respond. No, in my opinion, I don't believe we should equate Shadow People with Angels and Demons so readily. To do so, I believe, is to assign a label to each that already belongs to another - e.g. the explanations and lore on Demons and Angels is already populated with well enough theories. We may miss something about Shadow People if we so quickly decide to say they belong to known categories that, perhaps, we're more comfortable speaking about - because the Angel and Demon classifications of entities have been around for an extremely long time. As well, you mention "intentions" which could and up making us label Shadow People all wrong. Men, Angels, Demons, and Dogs may all have "intentions." This doesn't make them the same species because they can share, at times, a "nature" or "tendency."

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      Ella 5 years ago

      I see the shadow people when i am wide awake.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Thank you mythbuster. Tell me: Do you think we could just as easily apply the terms "angels" and "demons" to these Shadow People, depending upon whether their "intentions" seem to be good, bad, or indifferent?

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      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      wingedcentaur - I think some people are seeing hallucination as a malfunction of physiology of the human body and mind but that others are seeing something dimensional that is real during these episodes. I feel the only way to figure out the difference between dimensional episodes and hallucination episodes is to be open about these experiences - discuss and study them - and take every instance of "Old Hag" experience to be real to the person who experiences the episodes. Regardless of what causes the Old Hag experiences, in many cases I've read, the events are minimized - often ridiculed - and many people are still afraid to speak about what is happening.

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      William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Good Day mythbuster.

      This is an interesting hub, which I voted up for useful. I read all the comments again as well. As you say, this is something I have never experienced and "pray" that I never will. I have a question for you, if you don't mind.

      First... you wrote at the very end: "Hopefully, all the things I've already studied about Shadow People and other paranormal topics will serve me well in a state of semi-consciousness, but who knows?"

      In the sleep paralysis documentary clip (the second one) one of the narrators said: "We erased the knowledge of these experiences from the cultural repertoire while the experiences were continuing to happen. That is dramatic. That's a level of social control that's very impressive."

      A couple of this hub's commentors have talked about this experience as a fight against demons for your soul.

      My question, mythbuster, for you is this: What do you think this experience means? Do you think there is a malfunction of physiology, in some people, that causes them to see what is NOT there? Or do you think the "malfunction" is that some people in a state of sleep paralysis or other states of consciousness (I hope that's not too New Agey) are able to see things that we, human beings, perhaps "shouldn't" see or are not "ready" to "see" at "this time?" What's your take?

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      GabbiXue - thanks for stopping by to read and then share your experiences on sleep paralysis. I'm glad that your experiences aren't as consistent as they once were. I'm not sure why so many people say they experience/see the same things. Perhaps in people who experience this syndrom, a certain area of the brain connected with fear response is triggered. Not everyone, however, DOES have the same experiences... people in different cultures report different things. Some Asians report a different kind of entity that is demon-like but is not described like North American accounts of demon entities during sleep paralysis...however - the Asian accounts are mainly similar to each other...

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      Dragonfly 7 years ago

      I was never aware this was a syndrome... A few years ago, I was a jr in high school and was spending the night in my grandparents basement. The basement always gave me the creeps & I believe I was just drifting off to sleep when an eerie feeling washed over me. I soon discovered I was paralyzed & unable to move any body part. A few moments later a voice came from the left side of my body "so this is what you look like, I wanted to know." I tried to scream and no sound came out. What felt like hours later, I regained my ability to move and ran up stairs to the guest room my brother had been sleeping in, he too had a "nightmare" that night

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      GabbiXue 7 years ago

      I was finally diagnosed with Narcolepsy when I was 18 or 19 and all of the things I went through started about 11 I guess.

      Its the most terrifying thing to experience. As far as sleep paralysis all I can say that I have experienced iss this feeling of heaviness on my chest like i couldn't breathe. The thing I don't get is...Ok, so theres a medical explaination but explain why so many people have seen the same thing? I have to say I'm with Bill yon on this when you say its demons you are fighting and you are fighting them for your soul. I always get that feeling. I haven't had consistant symptoms since I was 30 (8 yrs ago) I will have something here and there but not like b4 when it was constant and sometimes was every night. IDK what im looking for here I guess just an explaination of what in the world is going on with these entities I mean are they here to try to kill you or what and why so many people seeing the same thing that has to make even the profesionals question.

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      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey lxxy, I'm glad you are aware enough about this issue to recover quickly from episodes.

      No, bill yon, I get regular nightmares usually - not old hag syndrome effects. Apparently the effects CAN still happen to nearly anyone if they become very sleep deprived or sustain certain kinds of stress... so I still hope that old hag syndrome won't be one of my nighttime or sleeptime reactions to sleep troubles or stress.

    • bill yon profile image

      bill yon 7 years ago from sourcewall

      You have never been through sleep paralysis?i grew up with it.sometimes its as simple as concentrating on moving one part of your body and waking up,other times its an all out war with demons seen and unseen for your soul!It may be called "old hag syndrome"but everybody that goes through this doesn't face the "hag" I face demons seen and unseen its like if you don't win the fight you want wake up! Matter of fact I'm going to right a hub on this I go through this every other month for days at a time.

    • lxxy profile image

      lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      I'm used to it. I don't generally get an old hag feeling, you just sort of lie there trying to say something or wriggle your toes, anything.

      I do get the sensation of being awake--and once I realize I am awake, usually within 10-15 seconds the episode remits.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Thanks for your comments, Justine. I'm glad I haven't experienced Old Hag syndrome because even researching on this topic has made me aware of how frightening sleep paralysis might be even if a person is aware of the condition.

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      Justine 7 years ago

      nicely written. And I have to say, all the science and medical explainations do make a peosn feel quite a bit better once they have fully wakend, but so far, nothing can make me feel safe while in the middle of a sleep paralysis episode, and nothing fully gets rid of the creepy sensation of the things you can see, even if you are not actually awake but just feel like you are.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey lxxy, nice to see your comments here. I agree with you about this type of "Shadow" entity... it has been often enough attributed to the 'sleep paralysis' condition in most people who report seeing the 'old hag.'

      I haven't experienced anything I'd call "old hag syndrome" or bouts of sleep paralysis - and I'm very glad I don't experience this sort of problem! I hope that your sleep paralysis events are manageable, lxxy, because in my research on this topic, the "episodes" seem truly terrifying beyond anything I feel I would handle well!

    • lxxy profile image

      lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      I'm quite sure it's a medical condition, I have bouts of sleep paralysis generally once or twice a month.


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