I admit, you guys, that this constitutes a cop out on my part but I’m actually really busy today and won’t be around to spin a proper yarn about the paranormal so to rectify that, I offer you this segment from Unsolved Mysteries. When I was a kid I loved true crime and to this day, criminology fascinates me in a way that I’m sure still worries my mother. For those of us with a thirst for the morbid, you looked no further than Unsolved Mysteries. Robert Stack always looked a little drunk but he channeled that trench coated G-Man persona from his better days and he had that kick ass voice. The reenactments were where it was at, but also being a hound for the paranormal, when Unsolved Mysteries decided to lighten the mood and run some goofy ghost stories, they unwittingly scared the living shit out of me with a segment called The Tallman’s Ghost. I’ve tried to do some further research on this story to get the details because Unsolved Mysteries often packed a high-level overview of the case into an 11 minute spot and left out a lot of details in favor of stuff that let them tell the story they wanted to tell. Unfortunately, there’s just not much out there about this particular case. At least not by the name Tallman’s Ghost. Look for that and you wind up with a lot of forum discussion threads talking about this episode or people discussing Phantasm.
The killer piece about this segment, though, is that it traumatized the viewing audience of my collective generation. Bring this episode up at a party and I guarantee you a 1:10 ratio of people who have seen it and had nightmares for the rest of week based on this segment. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure why it had such an effect on me. Maybe it’s just that it’s been 20 years and I’m jaded but back then, something about this episode gave me chills. I’d watch the other segments during reruns but when this one came on, I’d change the channel. Some of the phenomena described by the Tallman’s, in particular the old woman, is a common encounter that a lot of people call hag attacks. In neurobiology, the scientific community describes the attack as ‘hypnagogia’, a state where the body is awake but the mind is still coming out of the dream state. You’re aware, you’re unable to move and breathing may either be very difficult or not happening at all. In this state, people experience a whole range of sensory hallucination but the common link seems to be visions of horrible old women either choking the victim or just terrorizing them in general. These ‘hag attacks’ are actually a bit of cultural legacy and seem to be present in European cultures as well as The United States and Canada and reports go back to ancient Europe. Your conclusion is up to you. Are supernatural hag attacks a particular kind of spirit terrorizing people in the night or is it some ancient legacy of mass hysteria that somehow manages to survive the ages?