For years, photographer Nicolas Bruno has suffered hypnogogic sleep paralysis. His mind is awake, but his body feels completely paralysed. Unable to move, Bruno is assaulted by hyper-realistic visions of malevolent presences, screaming disembodied heads, demonic creatures crushing his chest, and other nightmares. So real are the experiences, Nicolas began to think he was possessed by demons.
I would go to bed and I would wake up immediately right into one of those dreams. I wouldn't sleep for two days at a time because I was so afraid to go to bed.
Soon, insomnia and suicidal depression became worse than the sleep paralysis. A conversation with a high school teacher changed his life, and Nicolas began to recreate his hypnogogic hallucinations through photographic art. His work is both fascinating and frightening.
“For people who haven’t experienced it, and say they want to – they really don’t. You’ve never woken up being choked out by shadow hands. You’ve never had a looming figure floating above your bed, screaming into your ear.”
Nicolas's art has reached out to other sufferers, and he's now working on a virtual reality project. You can find more of Nicolas Bruno's photography on his website, and by following him on Facebook and Instagram.
If you're curious to know more about sleep paralysis, a phenomenon experienced worldwide and since ancient history, I highly recommend Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night by Ryan Hurd, an in-depth and practical exploration. Australian sleep paralysis experiencer Louis Proud approaches the phenomenon from a perspective a la Colin Wilson and Whitley Strieber in Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences. The Terror That Comes In The Night is a scholarly investigation by David Hufford, with historical accounts.