Ah, the incubus, a delightful monstrosity from simpler times responsible for all sorts of sexy night time mischief. The demon, it was said, would visit a sleeping woman and conduct sexual activities with them in an effort to father a child, as in some of the legends of Merlin. The female version of this creature, the succubus, would do the same with men so as to bear a demonic child. There are some versions of these entities that would have us believe that they are actually gender neutral and can assume the shape of a woman to accept the seed of man, and then become a man to deliver the now tainted child to a woman. Weirdly complicated, I know.

Incubi and Succubi have a long history in mythology and demonic lore, only later being co opted by the Catholic Church. The incubi of Mesopotamia were originally storm demons with a penchant for attempting sexual acts with people that slept near their place of residence. The demons would attempt to mate with humans, creating strange ghostly children that they would raise. Why? I’m not entirely sure, it’s difficult to find information about this particular bit of their history. Later, in ancient Greece, many individuals practiced what is known as incubation. Descending into pits or holes, people wishing to receive prophecy through their dreams, with the guidance of a priest, would sleep in hopes of receiving the spirit of prophecy. The spirit, or incubus, would hopefully visit and impart wisdom onto the dreamer.

It wasn’t until early in Christian history when the debate over night demons began and our demonic pals took the shape we know today. St. Augustine discussed them, mentioning the frequency and number of purported attacks as evidence that something was going on. Thomas Aquinas, many hundreds of years later, was responsible for the idea of the shape shifting gender-neutral demon. The whole point of the process, in his mind, was to spread chaos through the children that would surely be touched by evil. These children, though born by women, were thought to possess strange powers and witchcraft.

The strange part of all of this is that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar monsters in various cultures. Monsters that sit atop the sleeper and harass them or that sexually assault individuals in the night. We’re talking about cultures that had very little contact with one another all coming up with the same exact idea or something close to it. So what’s the deal? It would appear that the people being attacked by demons in the night were most likely suffering from sleep paralysis, a rather unusual condition that is more prevalent than most people think. You see, when you dream, your body goes into a mild state of paralysis so that you won’t hurt yourself thrashing about in the night while you see all those amazing things in your head. Occasionally, someone wakes up a bit while they’re in a deep sleep and dreaming. They’ll open their eyes and see something terrifying, maybe something they were dreaming about, and they can’t move! Terror sets in and when you panic it only gets worse. Eventually you fall back asleep or you wake up completely and, while some people brush it off and look for the logical explanation, others…take it in a different direction.

Personally, I’ve never suffered from sleep paralysis but I know a bunch of people that have and they’ve said it feels incredibly real. Nine times out of ten they suffer from nightmares, particularly nightmares where they see and feel someone next to them or on top of them, holding them down. Pretty scary.

Meanwhile, the demons that inhabited our imaginations that were responsible for these problems are out of work, I’d imagine. It must be hard to find a good woman so what’s an incubus to do? Why not try your luck on a dating show?

After all, women love a bad boy.