I come from a very strange place.
I really honestly thought that by the time that I was an adult, I would stop finding people who don’t know where Newfoundland is. But I run into people that don’t know that there’s fairly large island floating next to Canada with an alarming frequency.
Oddly, this isn’t all that uncommon historically speaking-at least part of Newfoundland was once called the Isle of Demons on maps. Like I said, I come from a very strange place.
The Old Hag is one of the cultural exports, for lack of a better term, that appears to be gaining interest outside of the island. Effectively, the old hag is believed-at least by some-to be part of the root imagery that we use for nightmares. It’s further believed by some researchers that the hag image is both related to and influences modern beliefs about alien abduction. The two experiences are exceptionally similar, and may be describing the same experience for some people.
So who or what is she? The Old Hag is effectively an old woman that comes into a person’s room, wakes them up, prevents them from moving, and starts to smother them. There are variations to the legend; what is described is sometimes dependent on where you are in the world, as the hag is one of the most visible images but the story exists outside of Newfoundland. What is being described is essentially sleep paralysis-when your brain becomes awake prior to your body fully waking up.
Your body is designed to keep yourself from flailing in your sleep and hurting yourself and it’s possible to regain consciousness without coming out of that paralysis first. The two experiences are very similar-the sensation of waking up, finding someone in your room, and finding yourself unable to move or with a heavy weight on your chest. The presence of an entity in the room, or rather, the perception of such, may explain a number of folkloric or urban legend style reports ranging from interactions with faerie, ghosts, aliens, and shadow people.
There is a strong cultural aspect to the experience, even when the experience is kept within the realm of the supernatural. Even if we remove a physical explanation, the experience is dependent on where you are in the world. The hag exists on the Eastern Seaboard of the US in effectively the same form as in Newfoundland but she’s seen as a harbinger. In other areas the hag is the soul of the deceased, the angry dead, an animal sometimes described almost like a hell hound, demons, or witches.