Things that get thumped in the night

Well, almost, anyway.

I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a keen reader and watcher of science fiction and horror. The horror box in particular can cover a wide range of subject matter, and encompasses good old supernatural shenanigans. And this post is about just that – the supernatural.

Or rather, it’s about things that aren’t supernatural because – this is quite important – even though I thoroughly enjoy spooky tales of ghosts and so on, make absolutely no mistake: I do not believe in anything of that kind.

However, despite my non-belief in that sort of thing, I do have a penchant for watching things on YouTube where video clips and photos that allegedly show glimpses into the paranormal – and sometimes just accounts of people’s experiences – are compiled together and talked about. And I usually do this last thing at night, in bed (yes, in the dark), before putting the phone to one side and allowing myself to drift off to sleep.

As an additional bit of background, in the Spread the infection post linked above I mentioned the so-called video nasties, in particular that (as a young teenager) I’d already seen quite a few before they were banned in the UK. Related to that – or possibly not, depending which films it was and when – there’s a particular memory I enjoy occasionally telling people about. It’s arguably relevant here because it might possibly explain the way I reacted to something I’m going to recount later in this post.

One evening, I’d been at a friend’s house where we’d watched a couple of zombie films. I was cycling home in the dark – but all these decades later, I can’t say how late it was; it may have been very late one night, or it could just as easily have been not so late but in winter. I was cycling at a fair speed, and my route took me past a cemetery – and as I passed it, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement.

So, I’m maybe thirteen or fourteen, possibly fifteen, and therefore still quite young and impressionable. It’s dark, and I’ve just watched a couple of films in which the dead rise up and attack the living…

And I’ve just glimpsed movement in a cemetery as I’m cycling past.

So it’s obvious what my reaction was, isn’t it?

That’s right, I slammed on the brakes, and circled the bike around to take another look – to check out what I’d seen.

Wait, what? Did you think my reaction would have been to pedal harder and get the hell away from there? You don’t know me very well, do you? 😉

Just so you know, it was actually someone walking through the cemetery. Nothing more exciting than that.

So, as I said above, I do have a habit of watching these ‘spooky’ compilation videos on YouTube late at night, in bed, before I go to sleep. Three YouTube channels in particular that I’ve subscribed to and visit again and again are cjades, LoeyLane, and Slapped Ham – and I’ve recently also added BizarreBub, though I’ve yet to watch any content there.

If you’re the sort of person who believes in ghosts etc and/or is easily spooked (see what I did there?) then watching that type of video when I do is probably not a good idea – but I’m not that sort of person, so it’s fine. However, there’s no denying that some of this content is going to creep into my subconscious and crawl into my dreams. It does.

What others call nightmares, aka bad dreams, I tend to jokingly call ‘horror dreams’ – like horror films, but taking place entirely in my mind, when I’m asleep. I like horror dreams. They are to be encouraged.

Sometimes, though, the effect isn’t a horror dream. Sometimes they’re just an ordinary dream with some weirdness (or supernatural silliness) involved. An example of this happened quite recently. Imagine one of those wavy on-screen effects as we switch to what happened in the dream…

I was at my parents house, sitting in my usual chair. It was late at night, and there was only me there, along with their dog. Not an unusual scenario, because I often stay at their place to dog-sit when they’re away on holiday.

The dog, sitting on the arm of my chair, was barking loudly (well, as loudly as she can – she’s tiny) and excitedly at something on the sofa. I glanced across and saw that the curtain, instead of hanging down behind the sofa, was draped over the front of it, and part of it was flapping wildly – like there was wind behind it.

When I say part of it, though, that’s important. It wasn’t a corner, or the edge, it was the middle of the curtain, and it was forming a shape – a person’s torso, even though there was nobody sitting there, as if a ghost was trying to manifest itself using the curtain.

So I did the obvious thing. I went over to it, and pressed down on where it was flapping to stop it – completely disregarding the fact that it was shaped like a person. The flapping stopped, and the dog stopped barking.

That’s the only part of the dream I remembered when I woke up. Maybe that’s all there was to it? Who knows?

To some extent, my reaction in that dream also, like what I did when I passed the cemetery, probably helps explain something below.

A common theme – how I see it anyway – in those videos I watch is people who can’t come up with something more rational to explain what they’ve seen or heard, so end up believing something irrational; the supernatural or paranormal explanation. I think some people are probably susceptible to that sort of belief, and are therefore more likely to be taken in by that than just accept that there’s a rational explanation that they just can’t see. I have to admit that while I think the explanations are often obvious, I do sometimes see videos that defeat me, but I recognise that just because I can’t see the rational explanation, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

A few months ago, I drifted out of sleep, via a semi-conscious dream state, into the waking world. This was in the early hours when it was still very dark, and in that dream state I could feel my duvet slowly moving to one side. In my not-fully-awake state, it felt like it was being gradually pulled off me.

As I woke up more and more, I became aware that it was indeed moving – it was sliding to the left.

And as I woke up even further, I realised exactly what was happening. The duvet was being pulled off me.

By gravity.

When I finally ‘switch off’ at night, I tend to adjust my position a few times before finally getting comfortable and drifting off to sleep – and you can bet your bottom dollar that while I’m asleep, particularly when I’m at the point when I’m dreaming, I move around a little more.

What will have happened, then, is that during either of those periods of movement – or both – I’d caused enough of the duvet to hang over the left of the bed, and not enough to cover the whole bed or hang off the right, that the weight of what was hanging was enough to give gravity a good grip on it. It will have began very – imperceptibly – slowly, but as more ended up on (off!) that side of the bed and the less on the bed itself, the more the effect took place, and the faster it fell/slid, until the point I became aware of it.

Another example of this is called pareidolia. In general terms, this is when people think they can see something specific in something more random – a shadowy human shape or silhouette in a dark hallway, for example (not an uncommon thing in the videos I watch).

I have a very recent example of exactly this – again, in the middle of the night, in my dark bedroom. And I have an easy explanation to go with it – complete with photographic evidence.

Laying in bed only the other week, I could see the silhouette of a head, directly in front of me. It looked sort of like someone wearing a hood. I hadn’t yet gone to sleep – this is when I had finished my usual YouTube session, and was positioning myself for the night. Which means it was well before hitting that dream state. I saw the silhouette, and even though it was too dark to see what was really there, I did realise as soon as I spotted the ‘head’.

And I immediately thought ‘that’s a bloody good example of pareidolia’ (though at that moment in time, I couldn’t remember the word for it), so I grabbed my phone and took a couple of photographs; one without flash, hoping that what I saw would come out as I saw it and one with, to show what it really was.

The first photo didn’t really work, but it’s easy to add a very quick enhancement that sort of shows what I could see. So, the relevant image as it came out – cropped to just the relevant part:

The darkness in my room - the image as it initially came out doesn't show what I actually saw
The darkness in my room – the image as it initially came out doesn’t show what I actually saw.

Pulling that into Gimp on my Linux computer, and telling it to add a quick auto-adjustment (white balance) turns it into this:

Different colouration because of how I brought it out - but you can now see what I saw - the silhouette of a face in the dark
Different colouration because of how I brought it out – but you can now see what I saw – the silhouette of a face in the dark.

What was I actually looking at, though? What might have made someone less rational think there was actually a spooky face there? Well, earlier that evening I’d done my laundry, and I didn’t have time to fully dry the bedding etc, so I’d thrown it over the clothes horse, which I’d dumped in the bedroom on that side of the bed. I was looking at my bedding. Here’s the same part of the flash-assisted photo:

No face, no ghosts or other entities - just a section of the bedsheet hanging next to the bed
No face, no ghosts or other entities – just a section of the bed sheet hanging next to the bed.

In the almost total darkness, there was just enough light to cause different parts of the bedding to be just about visible, and the way that part was positioned caused those shadowy lines to look like a head.

And finally, we get to the part referred to in the title of this post – things that (almost) get thumped in the night.

Again, this is quite recent (late November or early December). The last thing I’d done before giving up on the idea of being awake was to watch a couple of those ‘spooky’ YouTube videos in bed.

In the early hours I began to awaken. I was laying on my side, facing the right of the bed (towards my window), and in my semi-awake/semi-still-somewhere-in-dreamland state, I felt that there was a presence behind me – i.e. to the left of my bed.

Now, I have seen a video in one of those compiled selections where a chap has woken up in the middle of the night, and is using his phone to film himself. He’s lying on his side, and is visibly terrified – and I really do mean terrified, rather than just ‘scared’. In the video, he thinks there is someone or something behind him. If memory serves, he expresses a fear that whatever is there, it’s going to kill him.

A video like that will pop up as part of a compilation of clips on one of those YouTube channels, then at a later point on one of the others, and eventually appear on them all – so unsurprisingly, I’ve seen it more than once. I don’t think it was that night, though, but it’s one that I remember distinctly.

So I’m gradually coming around and, like this chap, I have the distinct feeling that there is someone or something behind me.

My reaction? As I started to wake up more, I rolled to my left and into a more seated position, and as I did so I balled my right hand into a fist and raised it.

The action of rolling over and sitting up brought me back to being fully awake and fully conscious, so I realised at that moment that something in a dream was playing tricks on my mind, and that there was nothing really there.

But if you believe in the supernatural… I was quite ready to thump a ghost. 🙂

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