For hundreds of years, people around the world have told tales of encounters with the paranormal. Whether they have seen ghosts or demons, many claim that they have felt strange physical symptoms as a result of a ghostly presence.
These are seven of the most-commonly reported symptoms of being haunted:
1. Feeling as though you've been punched, slapped or pinched
Many people report having being slapped, pinched or punched awake while sleeping or that they awoke to find a shadowy figure hovering near their bed shortly before feeling as though they were attacked.
On a site called Your Ghost Stories, a woman explains being woken up in the middle of the night to see a "Golum-like" creature with elongated limbs on top of her, punching her. She explained that she couldn't actually feel pain but she could see the creature throwing the punches and could feel the blanket against her skin. It moved on to attack her partner who was sleeping next to her.
The paranormal community talks about a demon-like creature called an Incubus, Demon Hunter explains. Generally, an Incubus is described as a male demon that attacks people whilst they are sleeping. These attacks are usually on females and are thought to be sexual. A female version of an Incubus also exists and is known as a Succubus.
An artist's interpretation of an Incubus (Image: Mysterious Universe)
2. Becoming completely paralysed at night
Many believe that the demons described above are also responsible for a phenomenon commonly referred to as "night-time paralysis". Waking up unable to move can be terrifying but there is a possible medical explanation for this occurrence. Sleep paralysis involves being temporarily unable to move or speak whilst conscious and is thought to be caused by waking during REM sleep.
3. Unexplained scratches, cuts or bruises on the body
Some people who claim to be haunted report that they often find strange scratches, bruises and cuts on their body that they can't explain. The Complete Idiot's Guide explains that a poltergeist may be responsible for these minor injuries. They suggest that a poltergeist's activity usually occurs in stages. You may first notice unexplained small scratches on your skin but, at more advanced stages, there might be larger gashes to the skin.
Watch this video about the Enfield Poltergeist, one of the most famous hauntings of all time:
4. Feeling as though someone is strangling or suffocating you
A user on Your Ghost Stories describes having once woken up to a feeling of heaviness on her body and the sensation of being choked. She claims that there was a being on top of her who was laughing while he had his hands around her neck. She explains that she began to rock around to shake him loose. She said that at first the creature appeared as a black fog but later "flashed itself to her" and appeared to be some sort of creature with horns.
Feeling as though you are being choked or suffocated is also thought to be due to a demon attack, but these types of sensation are known to go hand-in-hand with sleep paralysis. They usually subside after a few seconds.
Read: 7 medical mysteries
5. Feeling as though your eyes are being pulled
A commonly-experienced physical symptom associated with a haunting is an irritation in the eyes or the feeling that the inside of the eyes are being pulled.
Eye irritation can be explained away by a number of medical conditions including eye infections, injury to the eye or even allergies. A pulling sensation in the eye is a common symptom of dry eye syndrome that occurs when their is a decrease in tear production, resulting in inadequate lubrication of the eye.
6. Being held down or constrained
Many people report feeling like they are pinned down in their beds and cannot move. The phenomenon is known as "Old Hag Syndrome" as some used to believe the sensation was caused by an invisible, old witch sitting on your chest, preventing you from moving.
One reader describes her experience to About.com:
"Last week it happened again. I was lying in bed and again was awoken. I felt a very strong force holding me down. I could not sit up. I tried to scream for my daughter and could not get any noise to come out. I tried to hit the wall with my arm and this force would not let me. It again lasted about 30 seconds and was over."
Like feeling paralysed, suffocated or strangled, the feeling of being constrained can probably be attributed to sleep paralysis.
7. Experiencing an unpleasant taste in the mouth or bad breath
Many people claim to experience a horrible taste in their mouth during a haunting. These tastes are often described as metallic, although this can be attributed to a number of medical conditions including pregnancy and allergies and can also be a side effect of certain medications such as those prescribed for blood pressure, osteoporosis or glaucoma.
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