- Folk belief in Newfoundland, South Carolina and Georgia describe the negative figure of the hag who leaves her physical body at night, and sits on the chest of her victim. The victim usually wakes with a feeling of terror, has difficulty breathing because of a perceived heavy invisible weight on his or her chest, and is unable to move i.e., experiences sleep paralysis. This nightmare experience is described as being "hag-ridden" in the Gullah lore. The "Old Hag" was a nightmare spirit in British and also Anglophone North American folklore.
- In Chinese culture, sleep paralysis is widely known as "鬼壓身/鬼压身" (pinyin: guǐ yā shēn) or "鬼壓床/鬼压床" (pinyin: guǐ yā chuáng), which literally translate into "ghost pressing on body" or "ghost pressing on bed." A more modern term is "夢魘/梦魇" (pinyin: mèng yǎn).
- In Fiji, the experience is interpreted as kana tevoro, being "eaten" by a demon. In many cases the demon can be the spirit of a recently dead relative who has come back for some unfinished business, or has come to communicate some important news to the living. Often persons sleeping near the afflicted person say kania, kania, "eat! eat!" in an attempt to prolong the possession for a chance to converse with the dead relative or spirit and seek answers as to why he or she has come back. The person waking up from the experience is often asked to immediately curse or chase the spirit of the dead relative, which sometimes involves literally speaking to the spirit and telling him or her to go away or using expletives.
- In Turkey sleep paralysis is called Karabasan, and is similar to other stories of demonic visitation during sleep. A supernatural being, commonly known as a jinn (cin inTurkish), comes to the victim's room, holds him or her down hard enough not to allow any kind of movement, and starts to strangle the person. To get rid of the demonic creature, one needs to pray to Allah by reading Al-Falaq and Al-Nas from the Qur'an. Moreover, in some derivatives of the stories, the jinn has a wide hat and if the person can show the courage and take its hat, the djinn becomes his slave.
- In Thailand it is believed that sleep paralysis and discomfort is caused by a ghost of the Thai folklore known as Phi Am (Thai: ผีอำ). Some people claim that this spirit may even cause bruises. Stories about this spirit are common in Thai comics.
- In Brazil, there is a legend about a mythological being called the pisadeira ("she who steps"). She is described as a tall, skinny old woman, with long dirty nails in dried toes, white tangled hair, a long nose, staring red eyes, and greenish teeth on her evil laugh. She lives over the roofs, waiting to step on the chest of those who sleep with a full stomach.
- In the Southern states of the United States, it is sometimes referred to as "witch riding".
- In Malay of Malay Peninsula, sleep paralysis is known as kena tindih (or ketindihan in Indonesia), which means "being pressed." Incidents are commonly considered the work of a malign agency; occurring in what are explained as blind spots in the field of vision, they are reported as demonic figures.
In island folklore, the Hag can be summoned to attack a third party, like a curse. In his 1982 book, The Terror that Comes in the Night, David J. Hufford writes that in local culture the way to call the Hag is to recite the Lord's Prayer backwards.
The event is said to portend an approaching tragedy or accident.
In contemporary western culture the phenomenon of supernatural assault are thought[by whom?] to be the work of what are known as shadow people. Victims report primarily three different entities, a man with a hat, the old hag noted above, and a hooded figure. This phenomenon is 100% real and also a component in 20% of sleep paralysis cases, which may also be involved in alien abduction.
It can be difficult to differentiate between cataplexy brought on by narcolepsy and true sleep paralysis, because the two phenomena are physically indistinguishable. The best way to differentiate between the two is to note when the attacks occur most often.
We tracked down the "Old Hag" to her home in Fort Myers, FL. She was actually a pretty nice, cool old gal who gave us lots to eat, told us great stories of a rich full life spanning centuries, cursed like a sailor and smoked fine Cuban cigars.
When asked why she freaked people out by sitting on their chests while they slept, she said, "you live as long as I have, honey, you have to find new ways to amuse yourself".
When asked how she feels about being known primarily as a "hag", she spat on the ground and said, "people will talk, what am I supposed to do?"