Posted in History & Literature

Witching Hour

European folklore state that supernatural and paranormal events, such as ghost sightings, tend to occur around the hour between 3am and 4am in the morning. It was believed that if you wake in the middle of the night around 3am, it was because you were visited by the devil. Women were even persecuted as witches if they were found outside during this ungodly hour.

There are many theories behind why the so-called Witching Hour became so infamous. Many involve religious notes, such as the fact that the Bible states that Jesus died at 3pm, therefore the inverse of the time is considered evil. Some say that the devil plays mockery to the Holy Trinity by using the number “3” as part of its acts of desecration. It is also a time when there are no prayers in the canonical hours, therefore evil spirits supposedly run rampant unchecked.

Scientifically speaking, when we wake in the middle of night then fall back asleep, we are more likely to enter a hypnagogic state – the state immediately before you fall asleep where your subconscious mind starts to take over. This can lead to sleep paralysis, which is commonly associated with horrific hallucinations, such as visions of monsters and ghouls. You may even experience a lucid dream, where you are aware within a dream, so you can have vivid memories of imaginary scenes. This may explain why people have such vivid memories of supernatural experiences.

3am is roughly the time of night when melatonin levels are highest, as it is normally when the body is in deep sleep. If you happen to be awake at this time, you may feel exhausted to the point of feeling delirious, as anyone who has done an all-nighter or a night shift could tell you.

From a historical point of view, before the advent of electric lights, it was common to go to bed early in the evening, wake in the night for an hour or two, then go back to sleep until the morning. This hour was used for prayers, writing down creative ideas, interpreting dreams, and of course, sex. Maybe this was also the hour when some people would be out and about for unlawful deeds, such as burglary. These sneaky burglars may have been misinterpreted as ghosts by anyone awake at the same time.

Whether you are superstitious or not, the Witching Hour is an interesting time as you know that everyone around you are asleep. There is no one to talk to. At this edge of tomorrow, you are left alone in tranquil darkness with your thoughts, feelings and worries.

Perhaps the things that go bump in the night during the Witching Hour are not eldritch horrors, but your own fears and anxieties rearing their ugly heads.

(Image source:

Posted in History & Literature


The following is the world’s shortest horror story.

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


The ten things people are most afraid of are as following (according to a study of 1000 people in France in 1990):

  1. Snakes
  2. Nauseatingly high places
  3. Spiders
  4. Rats
  5. Bees
  6. Enclosed spaces
  7. Fire
  8. Blood
  9. Darkness
  10. Crowds/audience

Ants do not feel fear. The reason is simple. An ant does not know the meaning of death or its own frailty. It may worry about the survival of its city and the entire society, but even then they do not fear their own death.

To understand why they are never afraid, one must first consider that an anthill acts as a single organism. Each ant acts like a cell in the human body.
When we clip our nails, are our fingertips afraid? When we shave, is the hair scared as the razor approaches it? When you dip your feet in the bath to check the temperature, does the toe shudder in fear? Because they do not act as an autonomous unit, they do not feel fear.

Similarly, when we pinch our right hand with the left hand, the right hand does not feel contempt towards the left hand. If the left hand has more rings, the right hand does not envy it. If you forget self and think of the community like an organism, all your worries disappear. Perhaps this is how ants run such a successful, efficient society.

(from The Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge by Bernard Werber)

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Sleep Paralysis

Sometimes just before you fall asleep, or just after you wake up, it is impossible to move any muscles. The panic caused by this sudden paralysis is soon followed by a sense of impending doom and unknown horror. When trying to look around to figure out what is happening, you see a ghost or demon sitting on your chest, pinning you down.
This is a typical scenario of sleep paralysis. It occurs when the mind wakes up before the body (in loose terms) and is experienced by everyone at least once throughout their life. 

Sleep is divided into two phases: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. These two phases cycle to make up sleep at a 1:3 ratio (i.e. about 90 minutes non-REM, 30 minutes REM, repeat). NREM sleep is often thought of as “shallow sleep”, but this is incorrect as the third phase of NREM is literally “deep sleep”. This is followed by REM sleep, characterised by relaxation of muscle tone and the eyes darting in all directions (rapid eye movements). The brain cuts off motor signals to the body during REM sleep to prevent it acting out the movements in a dream (without this, many people would injure themselves or others during sleep). For example, patients suffering from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease with REM sleep disorder show vigorous movements during sleep, often hitting their partners in the process.

The problem occurs when the onset of REM atonia (relaxation) comes before the person fully falls asleep, or fails to disappear after waking up. As the motor system has been shut down, the muscles cannot be moved yet the person has regained consciousness. The more frightening thing is that sleep paralysis is usually accompanied by an intense visual and auditory hallucination, which is almost always related the person’s worst nightmares and fears. This explains why so many cultures associate it with demons and ghosts, and it is also possibly the cause of alien abduction experiences and ghost sightings. Reason being, the hallucination is so vivid the person easily believes that it actually happened.

Sleep paralysis can be caused by excessive drinking, stress or the induction of lucid dreams, but tend to be spontaneous and can happen to you on any day.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Uncanny Valley

(original article by Kingdom of Discord, summarised and modified with permission)

The Uncanny Valley, a term coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori, is a theory that the more humanistic a robot (or any object) is, the more humans will feel comfortable with it and show empathy and love towards it. However, there is a point where the robot almost completely resembles a person, yet there is something not quite right. At this point, human response to the robot plummets, even falling below the line of neutrality and instead reaching a point where people become uncomfortable around it, and may even become hostile towards it or be afraid of it.

For example, robots such as C-3PO (from Star Wars) that are humanoid yet obviously robotic are met with love and affection from the audience. This also applies to human characteristics, such as Wall-E who shows human emotions that we can empathise with. 
But when the resemblance becomes too similar, such as a prosthetic limb, computer-generated images (CGI) such as characters from The Polar Express, or zombies, people find that there is something “wrong” and will show negative emotions towards it.
The Uncanny Valley also applies to people, especially those with a physical or mental disability that causes them to slide under the line that society names “the norm”.

There are many theories as to why this phenomenon occurs.
Firstly, the further away from human-likeness an object is, the less likely it will be compared to the “human norm”. But objects in the Uncanny Valley are more likely to be measured against “normal” humans, and thus they will be seen as “inferior”, rather than “superior to normal objects”.
Secondly, using the above theory, it can also be suggested that the primal instinct of avoiding mates with some disfigurement is elicited, causing a natural aversion.
Lastly, it may remind the person of their mortality and the fact that they could become something akin to that, invoking fear. The fear may also originate from the thought that they may become even closer to human beings, thus replacing humanity. This idea is seen in the anime Chobits.

The Uncanny Valley phenomenon is used extensively in the genre of horror movies, as people will relate more closely to human-like monsters such as ghosts and zombies than giant monsters. This will cause them to believe that it is more realistic, resulting in heightened fear. Combined with the uncanny feeling invoked by the closeness to a human, it is a potent method of scaring the audience.
It is also thought that the Uncanny Valley explains certain psychological conditions such as racism and the fear of clowns, as there is a primal aversion to those that are slightly different.