They Come By Night

John Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare 1781. This work is in the public domain and has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law
John Henry Fuseli – The Nightmare 1781. This work is in the public domain and has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law



THROUGHOUT TIME there have been reports of evil spirits known as incubi and succubi – male and female demons respectively – that visit sleeping people by night and are reported to have sex with them, although sometimes they are content to merely take possession of their chosen victims.

Symptoms of such visitations are invariably the same: people suddenly being awakened to find themselves completely paralyzed by some alien life force that has taken possession of their bodies. Unable to move, or even scream, unfortunate victims can only lie in their abruptly awakened state totally at the mercy of demonic entity that has rendered them power­less. Sometimes such visitations last only seconds (a tempo­rary nightmare some would argue), but in many cases such visitations last for several minutes, and may reoccur with relentless persistency …

Cases of such ‘nightly visitations’, in fact, can be traced back for many centuries. In ancient Greece, for example, such spirits were said to be the servants of the God Dionysus, a Deity associated with ‘material pleasures’ – not least, by demanding that his worshippers drank copious quantities of wine and fresh blood and took part in licentious orgies. It is perhaps not surprising that this powerful Greek god came to be identified almost exclusively with the element of sex. (Not that such activity was frowned upon or even considered “debase” by that particular culture, any more than many kinds of commercialized sex are considered immoral in today’s society.)

Later still, during the now almost legendary witch trials which peaked during the 17th century, cases of incubi and succubae possession reached the bounds of hysteria when it was claimed that the unfortunate witches accused had had sexual intercourse with these cohort spirits sent by the devil.

Sex, itself, still appears to be an important factor in identi­fying the continuing reports that accompany the appearances of these malevolent phenomena, although, it is fair to say, perhaps many cases of these demonic visitations have escaped notice due to embarrassment (mainly concerning the sexual implications) on the part of the witnesses themselves. Perhaps it is one thing to admit to having sexual fantasies, quite another, when having to justify or explain these as being the result of ‘sexual attacks’ caused by visiting spirits or demons: however, it is not always the case that such visitations invariably involve the element of sex. Sometimes there just seems to be some unexplained intent to control or take posses­sion of the human body or mind on the part of these ‘over­powering’ entities – call them what you will – and such visita­tions can have equally terrifying consequences.

In 1993, one witness was positive that a series of terrifying occurrences that awoke him while he slept, were the result of ‘visitations’ from some demonic entity.

Mr. Brian Price, who moved into a house in Enfield with his family in 1973, can recall many chilling experiences in a ‘haunted bedroom’ where he slept, not least, by being awak­ened on several occasions at night by a ‘suffocating pressure’ kneeling on his chest. He tried to move, but couldn’t, and was immobilized by some ‘invisible force’. Once, this ‘sat’ on his back pushing his head into the pillow with such tremendous force that he felt he was about to suffocate; he could hardly breathe – indeed he felt was about to die – when just as suddenly, whatever it was, it disappeared.

It finally got off me. I got out of bed and went to the door and looking downstairs, there was a very bright blue light. Something told me not to go down there so I went back to bed and nothing further happened that night.

But events at the house were far from over; indeed, Brian Price (a man who did not even previously believe in ‘ghosts’ or the possibility of ‘visiting spirits’) was yet to recall further experiences with this formidable entity …

After a while, I started to see a woman in the bed, but could never see her face. I could feel her but every time I tried to turn her over (she always had her back to me), she just vanished. The final crunch came when my teenage daughters wanted to swap rooms with me. Lo and behold, the same thing happened to my youngest daughter and ‘it’ reappeared and just laid on her. She was really shaken up …

Of course, the fact that Brian Price sensed that his nightly ‘visitor’ was feminine, would be a strong indication that the entity itself was succubus; although perhaps understandably, he stopped short of assuming that this ‘visiting wraith’ may have had any of its more ‘stereotyped’ intentions.

The occurrences did worry him sufficiently, however, to seek the advice of a local priest, who in turn, quite adamantly asserted that he had come into contact with some wayfaring demon … (Well, of course, he would say that, wouldn’t he?)

It is perhaps to be expected, that the alleged existence of the incubus and the succubus, is usually either attributed to the activities of demons by their unsuspecting victims, or equally explained away by sceptics – if they accept such ‘attacks’ at all – as being the result of repressed desires in the human psyche which have somehow manifest in a person’s imagination.

One lady who resided in north London in 1992 is certainly in little doubt that a series of ‘psychic encounters’ which she had experienced in this respect, were absolutely genuine: interestingly, that they might have had some connection with some sort of vampiristic activity.

Events were first brought to the author’s attention in the summer of that year when he received a letter from a 25-year-old lady who was living in the Wood Green area of North London at the time. She had been experiencing a sequence of unexplained occurrences at her flat – usually during the night after she had fallen asleep. She described being visited by a ‘tall dark figure’ that almost invariably rendered her totally paralyzed during its visitations; visitations which she preferred to refer to as ‘attacks’.  She wrote:

For the past five and a half years. I have suffered from unac­countable fits both at night – and during the day – but always when lying in bed. Throughout 1987 I saw several doctors and numerous tests were taken to find any cause for these attacks, but these out-ruled epilepsy, brain tumors and other possible causes.

The fits usually occurred just a few minutes after I had retired to bed and was still wide awake. They would start with a tingling sensation in my legs -rather like pins – and – needles – and then, within seconds, I’d find myself paralyzed from head to toe, with a sort of humming noise buzzing in my ears. Every inch of my body felt weighted down by a ton of pressure. I cannot say for how long I was unable to move or even breathe, but the sheer terror of it made it seem like an eternity. I couldn’t scream, though I tried I did, and always felt certain that if these ‘fits’ lasted any longer, I would surely die.

The symptoms always disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared, leaving me completely exhausted. But, during each of these occurrences, I felt that something or somebody was standing beside my bed; being completely paralyzed I could never turn my head to look at it, but once – last year – it occurred during daylight hours. I was lying on my back, I didn’t need to turn my head, and I saw ‘It’.

The memory of it still fills me with dread, although I’m still not exactly sure as to what I’d seen … Its best described as a large “dark shape” with big red eyes inducing an unbelievable terror in me.

It vanished. But I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t just scream, but also couldn’t help crying for a long time afterwards.

I am not a superstitious or religious person and always tended to take such matters with a ‘pinch of salt’; that is, until I expe­rienced these occurrences and actually saw what I did.

I know the description of what I saw sounds like the obvious Horror Movie cliché; especially the eyes, but I can give you my word – the word of a pretty sane and not easily frightened woman – that what I saw was real. It is certainly a problem that I hope does not recur for the rest of my life.

Further investigation into this case, revealed that the lady in question began to have a series of nightmares ((usually just before an attack began), started sleepwalking regularly and developed an aversion to bright light. As well as this, she also became anemic and found it almost impossible to eat.

Eventually, events culminated in her visits to several doctors (although more than in desperation than in expectation), but, whilst confirming her anemia and an adverse reaction to bright light, no physical cause could be found to account for her alleged experiences.

But notwithstanding the confirmation of her physical symptoms,, this did little to allay in ultimate fear that eventu­ally she would have to sleep, and that the ghoulish entity would be nearby … waiting.

In fact, this indeed proved to be the case, until contact with a certain occult Circle in the autumn of 1992, finally enabled her to escape the clutches of this malevolent entity.

Of course, whilst the experiences of just two witnesses does not on its own stand as irrefutable evidence as to the existence of the incubus and the succubus, it should perhaps be remem­bered hat these cited cases are typical of many others which have not only been reported world-wide, but which have been reported down through the centuries. Moreover, whatever the circumstances of these reports, the basic symptoms accompa­nying such visitation appear to be – indeed are – the same.

To remind ourselves briefly of the effects of so-called incubus and succubus visitations, they seem to adhere o the following pattern …

People are suddenly awakened in the night to find them­selves completely paralyzed, often with a tremendous pressure on their chest, that ‘pins’ them to the bed. They are unable to move, even scream, and can only lie helplessly completely subject to the entity’s will. These visitations often occur with persistent frequency and victims find themselves growing physically weaker, becoming anemic and developing an aver­sion to bright light (particularly sunlight.) They also become prone to bouts of sleep-walking either soon before, or not long after, the ‘attacks’. As well as this, of course, there is a common tendency for ‘victims’ to experience vivid dreams or nightmares throughout the duration of these visitations; dreams that can often seem to take on a fearsome reality.

From the above, it may be seen that the circumstances – or rather resulting effects – of alleged incubus and succubus visi­tations share remarkably similar characteristics. Though this, of course, is not the essential point; and in any event, it is a point that remains totally academic.

The real issue here must surely be, the effects of such visita­tions – if true – and how these might be comparable to other universal manifestations that have somehow become embedded in the human psyche.

The myth of the ‘vampire’ , for example, seems to show that much earlier characteristics attributed to incubus and succubus phenomena have been borrowed to embellish – even make out the ‘vampire myth’ itself. The hypnotic influence of the incubus and succubus itself (rendering a ‘victim’ tempo­rarily immobile), sleep-walking (often in an hypnotic state), aversion to bright light (sunlight), loss of appetite, not to mention the sexual element involved, all seem to point to the idea that the whole vampire myth itself derived from, or was based upon, facts that had already long since been in existence.

Much evidence for this points towards where the ‘vampire myth’ as we know it really began; no less than in the pages of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, who was almost certainly influ­enced by myths and legends of the incubus and succubus that were already in existence, which almost certainly inspired him to apply their attribute (blood-draining included) to his mythical Count Dracula. The ingredients, at least, were all there, and once committed to consistent print, were merely ‘ripe pickings’ for Hollywood a few decades later; notwith-standing that all the gory sex and colour scenes came more recently and early cinema viewers had to be content seeing the vampire myth portrayed in black and white.

But if incubus and succubus visitations did indeed inspire Bram Stoker in the writing of his sensational novel, this in itself would only solve the problem of ‘original inspiration’ or idea; not the original mystery.

For if these nightly visitations (themselves commonplace world-wide and which share such a long history) are true in their own right, then it begs the question, just what are these formidable ‘nightly entities’ that seem bent on visiting, if not ‘sexually influencing’, their human counterparts?

It would seem such an answer would be equally evasive. It may have something to do with an inherent trait in human nature to fear and ultimately condemn things that cannot be comprehended by the human mind, while such fear itself (whether consciously realized or unrecognized) may para­doxically actually serve to feed ‘intelligence’s that otherwise lie dormant, or at least evade, everyday conceptions of normal reality.

(c) David Farrant

Adapted from the book Dark Journey by David Farrant


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