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Something freaky
Today's prompt was Tell me about something freaky that happened to you.

The first one that comes to mind was a couple years ago. I had awakened in the night a few minutes before, and when I looked over to the side of the bed, I saw a little girl with black hair and a red cardigan standing next to the bed, eyes shining a bright blue-white color. She looked straight at me, then quickly faded away, starting from the extremities, with the glowing eyes fading last.

What fascinates me about this incident is that my very first thought was, "Oh, wow, hypnopompic imagery! I bet this is where belief in ghosts came from!" The idea of an actual supernatural phenomenon didn't even occur to me, but it was really obvious that to someone hundreds of years ago, this sort of post-sleep hallucination would have been taken as proof of it.

As someone who takes a long time to fall asleep, I witness hypnagogic imagery (visual hallucinations just before falling asleep, as parts of your brain enter "dreaming" mode while you're still conscious) not infrequently, but even then it's only when my eyes are closed, and the images -- while as clear and vivid as anything seen in reality -- last only a second or so. Seeing something persistent in the room with my eyes open right after awakening has only happened twice in my life.

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I can't properly express how delighted I am by your excited nerdy response to your hallucination. People seem to think that if you have a scientific approach to life, that means you're leaving out the magic of a belief in the supernatural. But to me, science is EXCITING! And AMAZING! As much, if not more so, than any supernatural belief.

Also, I'm so glad you wrote this because now I finally have an explanation for something that happened to me when I was a kid. I had a series of hallucinations involving shadows of figures moving along the wall and into my closet, and tiny six-inch people climbing up into an open bottom drawer of my built-in dresser. I got really freaked out and went down to my parents' bed for comfort, only to see a carousel spinning above their bed that shattered into millions of pieces that gently rained down onto the blanket. I always figured I ate something funny that gave me hallucinations, but maybe it was just hypnogogic imagery.

Wait, you said "twice in my life." What was the second time?

Oh, the other I barely remember, I was a little kid. But it involved giant spiders, and was much scarier to me since I was like 10 years old. After a few minutes they faded away -- as always happens, since the brain can't sustain hypnopompic imagery once you're fully awake.

If this apparition was indeed a hallucination, then did you subsequently have any guesses as to why your mind conjured this particular image?

None whatsoever, actually. The pattern to the "fade-out" was reminiscent of the way people fade into telephones in the Matrix movies; creepy kids are a staple of horror fiction. I assume it's no different from a dream, assembled from the flotsam of my life experiences.

Since a high percentage of ghost apparitions reports are from people who are fully awake and not going in or out of sleep, it's unlikely that all of them can be explained away by hypnopompic imagery. It may be an influence on belief, sure, but not a satisfactory explanation for all the facts.

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