Witch pressing or sleep paralysis? (my eye witness encounter)

It is widely believed that you can’t successfully describe or talk about something unless you have experienced that thing. Like the saying goes “he who wears the shoe, knows where it itches”. Based on this notion, I will give an eye witness account of “witch pressing”, though it didn’t happen to me, I have never been “pressed” by a witch, I only witnessed it “pressing” someone I knew.

It was far back in my interesting childhood days; I can’t remember the month, but I know it was during the holiday period because I and my siblings alongside other children in my neighborhood were all at home. We (four kids) were always doing everything together, we ate together, slept on the same bed, went to toilet together and at the same time (even if it was only one person that wanted to use the toilet), we did virtually everything together. We had strict middle class parents, who were in the employ of the  state’s civil service. Talk about discipline? Our parents spared no one. The cane they used in flogging us was kept on top of their wardrobe, far from our reach. That cane was used a lot so it was replaced every two days.

On this fateful day, I think it was on a Saturday, our parents went to mum’s village, on driving out of the compound, they left strict instructions that we should stay indoors and not go outside, which we all agreed (of course). I’ll state here that we were not outright disobedient kids, we only made exceptions to some of our parent’s instructions, especially those ones we knew that we would not be caught while at it. So, we accepted not to play outside but we already knew we won’t keep to that agreement. For crying out loud, it’s a holiday and there were lots of home videos upstairs in our neighbors living room to be watched so do we sit indoors and play hide and seek till you guys return? No, not when we are on holidays!

We lived on the ground floor of a rented one storey building in the heart of Uyo, directly above us lived our favorite neighbor and childhood friends. Their home was where we converged to watch Nigerian home videos. So immediately our parents drove out of the compound we all ran up the stairs to our neighbor’s house. We had a maid then, I have forgotten her name now since we had lots of them before and after her stay with us, she stayed behind while we went up. She would just wash the dishes and cloths and then retire to her room to sleep.
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While at our neighbour’s, we always have this plan that while we are busy playing around there must always be a watchman, an onlooker who would notify everybody when our parents were approaching. We could see the beginning of our street from our neighbour’s verandah. And on sighting them approach we would all scamper back home and pretend to be studying or sleeping. So on this fateful day our lastborn was the watchman since home videos didn’t really interest him at that tender age, so we settled down to enjoy the day while keeping a sharp ear ready for the cry to retreat to base. We were not really expecting that call to come in the next one or two hours, since Eket was a bit far from Uyo and being that they would spend some time there, we expected them back by evening.

I believe that if I send anyone on an errand without my supervision, the job won’t be executed to my taste. So it happened on this day because our lastborn was very busy with his close friend driving toy cars on the floor than focusing on the task at hand. So it was this belief that prompted me barely few minutes of our settling down to go supervise the onlooker task. As I shifted my eyes from the home video I was watching, I glanced outside towards the road only to see my dad’s car approaching the compound, I glanced at our lastborn and saw him so engrossed in his play. I called out to my siblings to retreat to base immediately. We all scampered down the stair case as there was no much time left being that I saw my parent’s approach rather late.  

On getting to our front door, we discovered that it was locked! Why! This door was never supposed to be locked! We ran to our maid’s window which opened directly to where my dad parks his car meaning that when he drives in, he will see us immediately. We called out to her to come and open the door for us, there she lay, open eyed staring back at us but not moving even a finger. We called and called, my sisters even started crying, but she lay still staring back at us. I have never seen anything like that before in my life.
Our parents drove in and saw us all clustered at the window, they knew we had disobeyed them and were already planning how we would be flogged. Our maid woke up immediately my dad called her name with one loud voice. Well after the incidence passed (which included of course the flogging) we asked her why she heard us calling her and she refused to stand up and open the door for us. She said she was pressed down by witches and wizards and that she was talking only that her mouth was not moving, she said she was repeatedly asking us to pass a stick through the mosquito net on the window and hit her with it, but we just kept on calling her. I didn’t hear her say anything and am very sure she wasn’t talking because that incidence still remains very fresh in my memory. 
After she left, we had other maids and relatives who stayed with us and this scenario of witches and wizard “pressing” was repeated though not in the same circumstance as the first. So I realized that something like that existed though I never experienced it. 
Few years later in High school, I heard stories from my fellow students about experiencing this witch “pressing” effect. My sister once recounted a near incidence she encountered in her hostel in the university, she claimed she saw the person behind the act and woke up immediately and rebuked her to never try it again.
I was therefore very surprised when sometime this year I and some of my colleagues were having a heated argument about the existence of dark powers in the world. It started when my friend Chris (not his real name) opined that there was nothing like Juju aka “Jazz”, that it was all a set-up notion to buy the minds of unsuspecting people, he further added that there was no witchcraft. Over the years of my growing up I developed hatred for arguments because it always led to me getting insulted so I always stayed away from arguments no matter how enticing it was. But this one, I had to air my view because of the above experience, I told them this story and another friend who had been backing Chris all along told me there was nothing on earth like “witch pressing” that what our maid went through was a medical ailment known as “sleep paralysis”. Well the argument ended in an inconclusive note, it had to! I mean how can you tell Africans that “jazz” didn’t exist? And worst still witchcraft? We all grew up seeing these beings manifest either in our homes, churches and the environment in general.

Me, being a person who loves learning, I picked my smart phone later at night and typed “sleep paralysis” in the google search box and what I saw and read that night really surprised me and formed the basis of this article.
According to Wikipedia, Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon during which an individual is unable to move during falling asleep or awakening, but is aware of their surroundings. It is often accompanied by frightening hallucinations to which one is unable to react because of paralysis and perceived physical experiences, such as a strong current running through the upper body. Sleep paralysis poses no immediate risk to those who experience it, although it occasionally causes significant distress. Episodes last from several seconds to several minutes.
Genetics and sleep deprivation are a major cause of sleep paralysis, and it has also been linked to disorders such as narcolepsy, migraines, stress, anxiety disorders, trauma and obstructive sleep apnea. Sleeping in a fixed supine position increases the chance of sleep paralysis. The underlying mechanism is believed to result from disrupted REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when there should be a general inability to move muscle to prevent the sleeper from acting out their dreams.
Sleep paralysis is closely related to REM atonia, the paralysis that occurs as a natural part of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep paralysis occurs either when falling asleep, or when awakening from sleep. When it occurs upon falling asleep, the person remains aware while the body shuts down for REM sleep, a condition called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. When it occurs upon awakening, the person becomes aware before the REM cycle is complete, and it is called hypnopompic or postdormital.
So there is actually something like sleep paralysis? The way it was analyzed, it is exactly as it is described by those who have experienced “witch pressing”. How come all these years we in this part of Africa never knew it wasn’t always a witch pressing the individual but a medical ailment. After learning about this sleep paralysis I started asking medical practitioners about this medical ailment. They reluctantly accepted that it was actually sleep paralysis and for every one of them that I questioned, I could see the “believe what you want” look on their faces. Then I questioned few religious leaders I could meet and I could only deduce one thing from their responses; how come it’s only in Africa that sleep paralysis is rampant? That should tell you that it is not just an ordinary medical ailment, it has something to do with the dark world. My dad told me some are sleep paralysis while some are not but that the percentage is higher on the “some are not” part.
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Okay so if this was actually sleep paralysis and nothing serious, how come no religious or medical group has done any form of sensitization campaign to educate people about this ailment? Over the years we have lived with the belief that it is purely a spiritual matter and have prayed not to experience it. We have seen people who experienced it and have testified of the horror they faced during the few minutes of the encounter. As I mentioned earlier, my sister narrated her own little encounter in the university when she actually saw the culprit, was able to overcome the “pressing”, stood up to face the culprit and warn her never to try that again. Note that she saw who was behind the act! LOL

You may have something else to add to this, and i would very much love to learn from your experiences, please feel free to drop your comments below. Thanks.

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