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Bump in the night

Sleep with one eye open

Illustration by Evan Brien

Illustration by Evan Brien

Halloween is a time for ghosts, ghouls and other assorted gremlins to roam through the night, causing terror and mischief.

Of all these monsters though, the one you should be most afraid of is a lesser-known demon of German origin, known as the Walrider.

It is said that Walriders are shapeshifters that sneak into your room at night to cause night terrors.

Nicole Bach, a visual communication and design student at ACAD, said that she suffers around three night terrors per week, and that they leave her both physically and emotionally exhausted.

“I wake up sometimes and I can’t move,” said Bach.

“It takes me a while to realize what’s happening and my brain starts to panic.”

When she finally regains control of her body, her heart is racing and her muscles spasm. Visual and auditory hallucinations are also common in her night terrors.

Most commonly, she wakes up to an electric scream, like feedback when a microphone is held too close to a speaker.

“I remember seeing a shadowed figure standing in my doorway, watching me. More recently, I’ve been seeing a man made of static standing over me while I was paralyzed, or a woman floating over me.

“Once, I saw a big door in my room, and I could hear hushed voices and thunder from behind it.”

Bach is far from the only person haunted by a Walrider. In fact, their grasp is vast, stretching back to Teutonic folklore.

And night terrors are not the Walrider’s only ploy. Also known as Alps, Walriders are known for causing nightmares as well.

In fact, the German word for nightmare, alptraum, means “alp dream.”

And, while nightmares are far more common than night terrors, they are no less traumatizing.

Kyle Heller-Bueckert, a graduate of SAIT’s Emergency Medical Responder program, said that he has suffered from a recurring nightmare for the last 15 years.

“It’s hard to explain how scary it is when you’re in the middle of the dream,” said Heller-Bueckert.

In the dream, he is travelling along a beam of white light, projected through black, empty space.

At the end of the beam of light is a blinding white orb, and the closer he gets, the louder the ringing in his ears becomes.

He cannot control how fast he’s moving or which direction he is travelling.

Something about the light makes him tense, he said, although he’s not sure exactly what.

“It’s that same feeling you get when you’re watching a horror movie and the main character is walking through an abandoned insane asylum or something. I feel like something terrible is about to jump out at me, but I can’t stop, and I can’t turn away.”

After a while though, he reaches the point of light, and turns towards a second point. However, the second point is not a light. Instead, the second point is an old rotten log, visible in the distance but
not illuminated.

The beam of light that Heller-Bueckert had been moving along is replaced by invisible earth that feels soft and wet beneath his feet.

All that remains the same are his inexorable progression and the tension, which has grown into dread.

“At that point, it doesn’t feel like I’m watching a horror movie anymore. I’m living it. The bad things that are about to happen are about to happen to me.”

The air is heavy with the smell of rot along the second path, but at least the ringing in his ears has stopped.

The third and final path is pure blackness. There is no sound, no smell, no sight. Heller-Bueckert drifts along the final path completely numb.

Somehow, he knows that he is still moving, and that he will soon arrive back at the start.

And then it will all begin again, with him travelling along the edge of this cosmic triangle until he eventually wakes up.

“It seems symbolic, somehow. I don’t know what it means, but I feel like it probably means something,” said Heller-Bueckert.

Just recently, I must have had my own visit from a Walrider, because I had a similar experience.

I had just been startled awake by a nightmare, and when I opened my eyes, I saw a child with no face standing in front of my bed.

When I tried to scream, I found that my mouth wouldn’t move. The most that I could force out was a hushed groan. I tried to scramble away, but my arms and legs refused to move.

As I fought to regain the use of my limbs, the child slowly drifted backwards until I could no longer see him through the darkness of my bedroom.

After a while, I managed to thrust one of my arms out and turn on my bedside lamp, but the child was nowhere to be seen.

The rational part of my brain knew that it was just a hallucination, some kind of waking nightmare.

But still, I couldn’t bring myself to turn out the light.

An older, more animalistic part of my brain was telling me that something was still in the room with me, and kept my heart racing.

I ended up lying in bed with the lights on until the sun came up.

Looking back on it, I feel silly. I don’t believe in monsters, but at the time, they were as real as anything.

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