Has the Old Hag Visited You?

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Jan 22, 2015 10:22 AM

In the Downhome Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador, author Ron Young wrote about the dreaded Newfoundland nightmare - a form of sleep paralysis, in fact - and his own visit from the "old hag":

The old hag or witch made herself known to many people in this province while they were sleeping in their beds at night. I have had a number of encounters with her myself. The first, and most vivid, was when I was 11 and visiting my grandparents in Twillingate for the summer months. My room was across the hall from my grandparents. One night I was awakened by a heavy weight on my chest. There was someone kneeling on me and trying to strangle me with the sheet. Although the moon was shining in through the window I couldn’t make out the features of the person holding me down. I tried to move my arms to push the person away, but I was unable to move them. I was never so terrified in my life. I started screaming out to Gram. After what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes, Gram was suddenly beside my bed and the hag was gone. She didn’t hear my screams but heard something and figured I was being hag-rode. I have had several visits from the hag since and talked to many who have had similar visits, some who claim to have actually seen the hag.

Since my first visit from the hag I have learned a few things about dreams. A dream occurs when someone is in the REM (rapid eye movement) state of being asleep. This is a state somewhere between being asleep and awake. The visit from the hag probably occurs when one is awake enough to be aware of his/her surroundings, but not enough to get the conscious mind away from the workings of the subconscious. 

One of the beliefs surrounding the hag was that a person who was hag-rode shouldn’t be roused. Instead, the witness to it should say the afflicted person's name backwards to end the trance. Another belief was that if you were hag-rode and made the sign of the cross with your eyes, the hag would leave you.

Have you ever been hag-rode? Do you know anything about how to prevent it or end it? Share your experiences by leaving a comment, or by emailing us at editorial@downhomelife.com.