In the Legacy of Darkness novels (The Meadows and the upcoming Whickering Place), I’ve included references to the incubus and succubus. In short, these are sexually aggressive demons that seduce men and women in their sleep.
References to these demons goes way back. St. Augustine, King James, and Thomas Aquinas all wrote about them in various theological documents, often describing actual incidents that people claimed to have endured. You may remember the famous painting The Nightmare, painted in 1781 by Henry Fuseli, which shows an incubus sitting on the chest of a sleeping woman.
More recently, paranormal programs regularly feature people who claim to have been the unfortunate victims of everything from hag attacks (being held down or feeling that something is lying on top of them in their sleep) to actual supernatural rape. It’s always disturbing to hear these folks discuss the experience. Their terror in reliving it even in retrospect is visceral and very real.
In recent years, psychologists have tried to explain away these attacks with a diagnosis of “sleep paralysis”–a phenomenon which supposedly takes place when the mind wakes up before the body. But talk to someone who has experienced the horror of something physically lying on them, breathing in their face, or even whispering in their ear. They can’t move, they can’t cry out, and they are physically terrified. They find this nice, neat explanation a little tough to accept.
According to a recent study in Frontiers in Psychology, there are certain people who are more prone to these attacks. People who suffer mental health issues and those who have gone through trauma have a higher incidence of incubus attacks. Students, however, had a 41 percent higher chance of reporting these terrifying events. The study even suggested that there may be a connection between people experiencing these attacks and sudden death incidences–where a person dies inexplicably in their sleep. There have even been some scientists and medical professionals who have experienced hag or incubus attacks. Even they find it difficult to discard the memory of what seemed like an evil force assaulting them.
Because I subscribe to a much more accepting view of the supernatural, I don’t feel the need to find a scientific reason. I believe demons are real and they love to attack people and cause them terror and anxiety. Some friends and family members have experienced this incident, and at least one of them encountered a visual image of their frightening attacker. One of my friends was a student in college when it happened to her, and my family member experienced this during a period of mourning and grief. Demons reportedly attack when a person’s defenses are down.
I once interviewed a paranormal investigator who told me it was difficult to get demons to leave a household where there was constant strife, drug-use, or domestic problems. They thrive in that environment.
The incubus and succubus are often paired with vampires, since the behavior is similar (they strike at night, there may or may not be a sexual component, but there is a taking of energy, life force, peace, etc.). These entities are the driving force behind the vampires in my novels, and although I never want to make light of demonic activity or marginalize it in anyway, I do feature quite a bit of it in my stories.
Do you know anyone who has ever experienced an incubus attack?