John Henry_Fuseli — The_Nightmare

Mystical Menagerie – The Eternal Nightmare

Most people love their sleep, especially as they grow older. We can’t wait to fall asleep. However, it means terror and possible injuries for some of us, if not worst. Is it a simple question of mistaken identity? Or is it paranormal?

Check For Monsters Under Your Bed

You wake terror beating at you. There’s something insidious in the room with you, creeping closer, intent on doing you harm. You try to run, but your limbs won’t obey your commands. You cannot shout. You cannot scream. 

The only thing that moves is your eyes, frantically searching the parts of the room you can see while lying prone in bed. Pressure increases on your chest until you can’t breathe, and you realize you are going to die. Panic consumes you. 


When you can finally scream, you can only release a short cry of warning before your heart gives out. For some, death is a blessing, the end of the nightmare that tormented them. A chance for final rest, an eternal uninterrupted sleep.

The Nightmare On Elm Street

We’ve all seen the movies. A scarred, laughing Freddy Krueger with metallic claws reaching out from the darkness to drag you into his nighttime world. 

Wes Craven's: New Nightmare
Wes Craven’s: New Nightmare

Wes Craven created a monster, unlike anything that existed, as everyone could identify with the victims in this scenario.

After all, everyone has had a nightmare at some point in their lives. Krueger didn’t just spring from nowhere, however. This killer was inspired by real, if somewhat unbelievable, events.

The Nightmare of the Hmong

Starting in 1977 and lasting approximately a decade, hundred-and-seventeen Hmong men died suddenly in their sleep. Their average age was thirty-three, and all were healthy before going to bed. 

There was no logical reason for these men to pass away, no outward signs of damage or distress. Some family members mentioned hearing a scream or labored breathing, but nothing else. 

Full Moon
Full Moon

All complained of being visited by a nightmare creature in the Hmong culture called the Dab Tsog. In the weeks before death, they were known to attempt to avoid sleep in the days beforehand. 

None succeeded in repelling the Dab Tsog, even though they tried various methods of sleep-avoidance techniques. 

The Dab Tsog Curse

Those visited by the Dab Tsog describe something like sleep paralysis, but in the Hmong culture, it is far more dangerous. Once you’ve been visited, you must find a Shaman who can perform certain rituals to call on your ancestors to protect you. 

Horror - Silhouette
Horror – Silhouette

All the victims were recent refugees to the United States escaping from the Vietnam War, cut off from their support systems and ritualistic beliefs. They could not perform the rituals they believed would protect them. Without their help, you will undoubtedly become a victim.

Only Sleep If You Dare

So, what can cause these things? Many believe things like sleep paralysis are brought on by stress, lack of sleep, genetic heart disorders like Brugata syndrome, and a disturbed REM sleep cycle. 

The Hmong spate of deaths was eventually termed SUNDS—sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome, as authorities and scientists could never find a definite cause. 


Unfortunately, it seems the Hmong avoiding sleep to prevent being targeted by the Dab Tsog likely contributed to their demise, making them more susceptible.

The Never-Ending Cycle

Another type of sleep disturbance that’s even rarer runs in families and is more deadly. Fatal familial insomnia, or FFI. Unlike the rest, FFI causes the brain to never shut down completely, resulting in a sort of coma-like stupor. 

Horror - Eye
Horror – Eye

Once symptoms begin to show, the patient generally has less than a year left to live. A prion disease related to Mad Cow Disease leaves the brain resembling Swiss cheese and shows another reason why avoiding sleep to escape terror is not the answer most are looking for.

The Reality Of Sleep

Everyone needs to sleep. When we don’t, our brains can conjure up hallucinations and visions we could never dream of while awake. Sleep is healing and helps to form long-term memories. 

Horror - Nightmare
Horror – Nightmare

Without it, the very things that make us whom we disappear, leaving us in a sort of half-life; awake, but unaware. Everyone has had a nightmare at some point. 

Nightmares are universal, a product of being human. Everyone has feared something in the dark we cannot name. It’s no wonder that every culture has some form of a monster that attacks during sleep.

Monsters Under The Bed

What happens when our nightmares become deadly? What happens when we can’t escape what’s in our own minds? These are the fears that bring creatures like the Dab Tsog to life, the things that have us reaching for our religion, our cultural practices to protect us and offer us some bastion of light in the darkness. 


The deaths of the Hmong men show the worst of what happens when we lose our hold on the things that keep us grounded. The beliefs that we feel keep us protected against the demons that go ‘bump’ in the dark. 

We all need to sleep; we can’t escape it. We don’t need Freddy Krueger to scare us silly… \our own minds conjure horrific scenes quite well enough.


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