The year was 2016. I was 22 years old and living in South Lyon, Michigan. I had just moved in with a family member a few months prior and I was ecstatic to be in that environment. South Lyon was a cute little town that had a bunch of independently owned shops, weekly farmer’s markets, and adorable decorations lining the streets for the holidays. I could tell that they actually took pride in their community and tried to make everyone feel welcome. The overall atmosphere of South Lyon differed greatly from the small town where I had grown up on the outskirts of Detroit, and I was just really thankful for the change of environment.
I remember the first week of moving in with my aunt, we both commented on how neutral the energy of the house felt. We were both pleased with how light and airy our home seemed to be and thankful there weren’t any residual negative vibes lingering from previous tenants. We both had heightened senses to those kinds of things, having been exposed to toxic living situations in the past. I just find it funny now, the way we both took a moment to stop and appreciate our seemingly untainted environment in the beginning. We had no idea what was yet to come.
As strange as it sounds, one of the aspects that drew me to South Lyon in the first place was the fact that I had a friend who was buried out there in the local cemetery. The idea of being physically closer to him brought me a sense of comfort. He had passed away when we were both just kids, and I had never gotten the chance to visit his grave up until that point because the location of the cemetery was kind of far from my hometown. Within the first week of living there, I visited the South Lyon Cemetery and saw my friend’s grave for the first time. As expected, it was an extremely emotional experience, but I found comfort in knowing that if I ever wanted to visit him, he was within walking distance from my new home. I didn’t know it then, but my frequent visits to that cemetery were most likely what led to some of the darkest years of my life.
One night, on my friend’s birthday, I decided I wanted to walk to his grave and visit him after work to make up for all of the years that I wasn’t able to in the past. It was a rainy night in early May, and by the time I got off work, it was well past sunset. I’m not sure if I was extremely brave or extremely stupid, but I followed through with my plans and went to that cemetery by myself.
Initially, I wasn’t scared at all. I hardly even thought about the circumstances of my situation. All I knew was that I had a bouquet of flowers in my hand and someone who I wanted to tell that I loved them. I didn’t give a shit about the fact that I was alone and had just walked into the opening scene of every basic horror movie ever.
I did what I had set out to do. I laid the flowers on my friend’s grave, wished him a happy birthday, and apologized for not being able to visit him on any of his other birthdays that I had previously missed. I would have stayed longer, but it started to rain harder and it was cold. I was exhausted from having just worked a 10-hour shift prior to going there. At that point, I still wasn’t scared. I hadn’t allowed myself to fully grasp the reality of the environment that I was in. I was totally fine until I started to leave.
I don’t know why, but the moment I stepped away from my friend’s grave and onto the path leading out of the cemetery, I was hit with this overwhelming sense of anxiety. My chest felt instantly restricted, and I found myself struggling to catch my breath. I felt a heightened awareness of my surroundings, and all at once I began to feel incredibly unsafe. The next thing I knew, I was involuntarily running out of the cemetery. The moment I stepped out of the gate and onto the road, the feelings of panic subsided. It was one of the craziest things that I had ever felt. I never had that happen to me during any of the other times when I had visited my friend alone in that cemetery. Of course, I usually went during the day, and that was the first time I had gone alone after dark. I believe that night marked the beginning of one of the darkest chapters of my life. It wasn’t until after that night in the cemetery that things started getting really weird around our house.
In the beginning, the strange occurrences started off slow. There was a night when I was sitting at the dining room table on my laptop and I heard a noise coming from the kitchen. When I looked up through the doorway, I watched a spoon fly off of the kitchen counter and land on the floor by the cabinets halfway across the room. The trajectory of the spoon was unnatural, as was the distance it traveled from its starting point to where it landed. There was nobody in the kitchen, and there is absolutely no way the spoon could move with such force all on its own. I got up and reluctantly picked up the spoon. When I set it in the sink, I felt this draft that came out of nowhere and chilled me to the bone. I didn’t like the way standing there made me feel, so I quickly left the room, grabbed my laptop off of the dining room table, and sat on the couch in the living room so I didn’t have to see into the kitchen.
Over the next couple of weeks, my aunt and I would hear a strange noise coming from the basement. It sounded like some of our boxes that we hadn’t finished unpacking were being dragged across the basement floor. We would hear the sound emanating up through the heater vents at night. Whenever we would go downstairs to investigate, we never found anything.
One day in June, I was getting ready to go for a walk to the cemetery and visit my friend again, and as I passed my aunt’s bedroom, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. I stopped in the hallway and stared in concentrated silence for a moment before catching a glimpse of what appeared to be the partial apparition of a child’s bare leg running past the doorway from inside of the room. It was the strangest thing. I didn’t see the full figure, just a bare leg. I called my aunt into the hallway and explained what I saw, and she told me that she has been wondering if perhaps I was unintentionally bringing spirits home with me from the cemetery every time I visited.
As the month of June came to a close, there was a morning when I woke up and walked into the living room and was greeted by a dirty look from my aunt. I thought maybe she was upset with me for having slept in so late and wondered if I had unintentionally slept through some plans that we might have made earlier that week or something.
“What?” I asked, sitting on the couch next to her chair.
“Hmm?” she asked nonchalantly before taking a sip of her coffee.
“Why are you giving me the stink eye? Did I do something?”
My aunt laughed. “Oh honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give you a dirty look. It’s just, well, what the hell were you doing this morning?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve been awake since 7 this morning because I kept hearing the damn floorboards that run under both of our rooms creaking. It kept waking me up, until I finally gave up and just got out of bed. It sounded like you were pacing back and forth for hours, causing the boards to creak in my room as well. What the hell were you doing, rearranging your room?”
My jaw dropped. “Um, I’m sorry, but I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I went to bed at about 1 in the morning and I just woke up.”
“That’s not possible,” my aunt said, putting her coffee cup down on the table beside her. “I mean, it woke me up. I heard the floorboards creaking for at least two hours before I gave up and got out of bed. The movement causing the sound was coming from inside of your room.”
“Well, it wasn’t me,” I insisted. “I was in bed, knocked out!”
“I don’t know how the hell you were sleeping. Even if you weren’t the one causing the sound, it was loud. It woke me up, there is no way you just slept through it. I mean, it was in your room. ”
“I mean, I sleep with my headphones on sometimes. I had them on when I woke up this morning, so I didn’t hear a thing besides my music. But I promise you, I wasn’t pacing in my bedroom. I was exhausted and went straight to sleep the minute my head hit the pillow.”
“Well, shit. I have goosebumps.” My aunt rolled up her sleeve and showed me her arm, all the hairs standing on end.
“Well, now I’m creeped out, too. What the hell was in my room while I was sleeping?”
My aunt shrugged, then stared at the floor in silence as she continued sipping her coffee. “I mean, a lot of weird shit has been happening in the house lately, with those weird sounds in the basement, then the stuff you’ve been seeing, and now this. Maybe we should do something about it.”
“Like what, call the Ghostbusters?” I smirked, then rolled my eyes.
“Well, I do have that bundle of sage in my closet that I showed you when you first moved in. Maybe we should burn it and cleanse the house. You know, just to be safe.”
“I mean, if you think it will help, I’m all for it.”
My aunt quickly got up and signaled for me to follow her. We went into her bedroom, and I helped her move some stuff in her closet so she could get to the box on her top shelf where she had put the sage. When she finally got the box, she set it on her bed and started going through it.
“What the hell?” She continued rummaging through the box for a few minutes, then repeated, “What the hell?”
“It’s not in here. You saw me put it back in here when I showed it to you the first week you moved in, right? When we were talking about how peaceful the house felt at the time? I showed it to you and told you I bought it just in case?”
“Yeah, you put it in that box and set it up there on your shelf.”
“How is it not in here then? I haven’t touched this box since that day. Where the hell is it?”
“I don’t know.. I don’t go in your room, and I would never touch your things.”
“Oh honey, I know you didn’t. I’m sorry, I wasn’t implying that at all. I’m just in shock. Where the hell did it go?”
I shook my head, confused. “Hey, remember that day when I told you I saw that weird partial apparition of the little kid in your room?”
“I mean, I try not to think about that,” my aunt laughed, “but yes, I remember.”
“Well, it was running in the direction of your closet…” I let my voice trail off as I watched my aunt’s eyes grow wide with horror.
“That just made everything so much creepier! Thanks,” she said, shoving the box back on the shelf in her closet.
“Is there anywhere else that you can think of where the bundle of sage might be?”
“I mean, the only other place where we have boxes is—”
“In the basement!”
We both looked at each other in silence for a moment.
“Those dragging sounds downstairs,” she said. “I mean, what if…” Her voice trailed off.
We both went downstairs and looked at the pile of boxes stacked in the corner. Despite the dragging sounds that we had been hearing sporadically over the last couple months, none of the boxes ever looked like they had been moved. However, I did notice one box on the floor that appeared to have fallen from being stacked on the other boxes. Instinctively, I walked over to it and picked it up. It felt so light that at first I thought it was empty. Then I felt something rolling around inside of it.
“What is it?” My aunt walked toward me.
“I don’t know, this box just stood out to me. It’s the only one that looked out of place. I need scissors, it’s taped shut.”
My aunt grabbed a pair off of the table on the other side of the basement next to the washing machine.
“Go for it,” she said, handing them to me and walking back over to the pile of boxes we still hadn’t unpacked. “I don’t even know where to start with these.”
“Don’t bother,” I said, grabbing the box I just opened and pouring out its contents so she could see what was inside. As I tilted the box, a single bundle of sage rolled out onto the basement floor.
“What the fuck?” My aunt ran over and picked it up. “How in the hell did that get in there?!”
“I don’t know, but it was the only thing in this box.”
“And it was taped shut?” She grabbed the box from me and started examining it, like she expected to find traces of magic. “I didn’t put it in there. I sure as hell didn’t tape it shut. Why would I waste an entire box of this size and some tape on one single bundle of sage?”
I shrugged. Not knowing what else to say, I whispered, “I believe you. Do you have a lighter?”
My aunt spent the next hour burning sage and going from room to room, speaking gently to whatever or whoever might be in our house, encouraging them to move on because they were no longer welcome there. I stood by her side as she cleansed the whole house, starting with the basement. She did the whole upstairs, but naturally thought to do my room last. I think subconsciously we were both dreading going in there. When she finally finished waving the smoke from the burning sage around my room, we stepped into the hallway and she just stood there for a moment.
“Damn.” She sighed, then turned around and faced my doorway again. “I think we need to go back in there and go around the room again, because I felt an instant sense of relief as soon as I stepped out of there. I think there is still something in there.” I strongly agreed, having felt the same odd sense of relief upon exiting my bedroom. So, we went back in there.
As my aunt did her final round of the cleansing and continued speaking her gentle words of encouragement for who or whatever was in there to move on, I felt a weird squeezing sensation on my right hand, causing it to involuntarily close at my side. For a moment, it felt like someone was holding my hand. Then I felt them let it go right before I was hit with an overwhelming wave of sadness that made me start to cry. I felt something leaving. I physically and emotionally felt something letting me go that I hadn’t even realized had been with me for all that time. It wasn’t until later that I realized whatever or whoever squeezed my hand and said goodbye might have been my childhood friend leaving. Whoever it was, I truly believe that they had been protecting me, because once I felt them leave, all hell broke loose. That’s when the nightmares began.
At first, the cleansing seemed to have helped. The two weeks that followed were peaceful, and we didn’t have any strange experiences. The sounds from the basement stopped, I was no longer seeing things, and my aunt didn’t hear any footsteps coming from my room in the early mornings anymore. I would have sworn that burning the sage was a total success until the night of my first sleep paralysis nightmare.
Over the years, I have seen documentaries and read theories on sleep paralysis demons. I’ve heard doctors and scientists try to logically explain what the body is actually experiencing when these things occur. I am here to tell you that all of those theories are absolute bullshit. What I experienced was more than a simple disconnect between my body and my brain. What I saw and felt cannot be explained away by science.
On that first night, I was sleeping on my stomach like I always do when I felt something crawl on top of me. I couldn’t see it because it was on my back, but I physically felt its boney knees, elbows, and toes digging into my skin. I could not move. I could hardly breathe. All I felt was this heaviness, this pressure on my shoulders, back, and the back of my thighs. It was weighing me down. I could hear it’s raspy breathing in my ear. I had heard about these creatures but never thought I would experience one. In that moment, with the thing on top of me, all I could think of to do was to pray, but my tongue felt too big for my mouth. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t get the words out. To be honest, the only passages I knew from the Bible were the snippets that were weaved into the dialogue of my favorite TV shows. Even then, when I tried to recite what I did know, the words felt heavy and foreign on my tongue. I could barely even say the prayer in my mind, let alone out loud. So, I desperately resorted to thinking the phrase, “Leave, in the name of Jesus Christ! Get off of me, in the name of Jesus Christ!” I struggled my way through the phrase, then tried to repeat it over and over again in my mind. The more I tried to think and speak the phrase aloud, the easier it became. The pressure on my back lessened each time, until finally, it was gone. When I was able to move, I stumbled out of bed and turned on the light. Of course, there was no evidence of what had just happened to me. No one was there. I was completely alone. So, there I sat in my empty room, crying until the sun came up.
From that moment forward, it was as if all of the paranormal activity within that house seemed to focus on me. During the day, it was small things that would bother me. When I would go to reach for the remote to the TV, just as my hand would hover over it and I was about to grab it, it would slide right out from under my hand, out of reach. The same thing would happen with small objects like pens, lighters, or spoons on the kitchen counter that I was going to use to stir my coffee. This would happen daily. Not to mention constantly seeing shadow figures out of the corner of my eye. At first, I would tell my aunt whenever one of these small things would happen, but after a couple of days, I stopped because the activity was constant. I didn’t want her to think that I was crazy, because none of it seemed to be happening to her. At night, I was having constant nightmares in between the visits from the sleep paralysis demon.
I had my second sleep paralysis nightmare about a week after the first, but this one was different. This time, I was able to pray easier and actually had a little bit of movement in my body, unlike the first time. The creature I could not see, but could hear and feel, was sitting on my back and thighs, holding me down again, but this time, I could move my legs from the knee down. I was kicking my legs violently, trying to get the damn thing off of me in between prayers. I actually ended up bashing my toe on the windowsill by the foot of my bed, which sped up the waking up process and made the creature leave quicker. My foot hurt like hell when I woke up, but it was validating to have some kind of evidence that I could, in fact, move the parts of my body that the creature wasn’t sitting on.
The following two weeks were full of more of the same. I was plagued by more of the frequent, small incidents that tested my sanity throughout the day, followed by the relentless nightmares during the night. Then I had my third sleep paralysis nightmare.
During this dream, I felt the creature crawling on top of me yet again. This time, I used every ounce of strength that I had in me to roll out of my bed and onto the floor. I quickly got up and stumbled toward my bedroom door. As soon as I opened it and the light from the hallway spilled into my room, I ran out the door, looking over my shoulder just in time to actually see the creature that had been tormenting me for weeks.
The thing was undefined. It didn’t have any limbs or distinguishable features. The best way I can describe it is as a shadow figure that took on a form similar to the Magic Carpet from Aladdin. It was a dark, rectangular, abstract mist that had the same movements and mannerisms as that Magic Carpet in that Disney movie I had watched as a child. When I turned and caught a glimpse of it over my shoulder, my stomach dropped as I watched it scurry out of the stream of light from the hallway and slink back into the shadows on the other side of my room.
I ran into my aunt’s room and tried to wake her, but it was like she couldn’t hear me. I tried to shake her awake, but she didn’t budge. For a brief, horrifying moment, I thought maybe she was dead. Then she sighed in her sleep and simply rolled over onto her side and started snoring. I tried shaking her awake again but finally gave up. Panicked and confused as to why the hell she wouldn’t wake up, I stepped out of her room and back into the hallway.
I couldn’t help the tears from falling as I started praying again. That was when I noticed my bedroom light was now on and flickering. Horrified, I slowly reentered my bedroom, only to be greeted by the sight of my own body, still asleep, in my bed.
I had never felt a fear like that. I stood there, frozen, looking down at myself for what felt like an eternity. Then the ground came up to meet me and everything faded to black. The next thing I knew, I woke up, lying in my bed in the exact same position that I had seen myself in.
I stumbled out of bed and ran into the living room, where I heard my aunt watching TV. She read the horror on my face as I entered the room and quickly turned her movie off.
“Oh god,” she said, turning her entire body in her chair to face me. “What happened now?”
“Did I….come into your room last night and try to wake you?” I asked reluctantly.
“Not that I know of. What, you can’t remember?”
“No, I just, I had this really weird dream.”
“As usual.” My aunt snickered before lighting a cigarette.
“No, this one was extreme. I think I had an out-of-body experience.”
“Yeah,” I sat down on the couch next to her chair, then continued. “I had another encounter with that sleep paralysis demon, except this time, I got away. This time, I actually got to see it.”
“Oh my god!” My aunt took a long puff from her cigarette, then let it out slowly, waiting in eager silence for me to go on.
“I felt it start to climb up on me, but I rolled out of bed before it could settle on top of me. Then I ran out into the hallway but caught a glimpse of it in the light of the hallway that had trickled into my room. It was just this creepy black shadow anomaly. Then I ran into your room to wake you up, but you couldn’t hear me. I ended up going back into my room and saw my own body sleeping in my bed. Then I woke up and came out here.”
“Damn, that is a whole other level, even for you!”
“I know! It was horrifying.”
“Maybe we should sage the house again,” she suggested while putting out her cigarette in the ashtray beside her.
“I don’t know. I feel like that made things worse last time. Like, I felt someone or something leave, but I think by them leaving, it made this creature stronger. Things got worse for me after we did the cleansing.”
“That is true; it seems to only be happening to you now. I haven’t had a single strange experience since that day.”
“I know. That’s why I was thinking about going to my mom’s for a few days and visiting with her. Maybe if I get out of here, I will get a break from the weird shit and the bad dreams. I can’t keep going like this.”
“Oh I understand, I was going to suggest the same thing. Maybe you need to get out of here for a weekend or something. Whatever is here doesn’t seem to care about me, it only targets you. So, I will be fine here by myself.”
“Are you sure?” I grabbed my phone off of the table in the corner of the room to call my mother before my aunt could answer me or change her mind.
Later that day, my mother and I were walking around Walmart, talking and looking for small things to blow our money on.
“Oh, this is so pretty!” My mom grabbed a necklace off of the display shelf next to her. She showed me a pretty necklace of a cross. It was silver and had rhinestones in the center, dramatically reflecting the light from every angle. It had a delicate wire framing the stones, bending at sharp angles around the edge of the cross. “It kind of has that gothic look to it that you are into. Do you want me to get this for you? Maybe it will protect you from your nightmares.”
At that point, I was desperate, and anything that offered comfort from my situation was welcomed.
My mother bought me the necklace, and I put it on in the parking lot of the store before we left. I felt safer with it on. I caught its reflection in the wind visor mirror on the drive home, and it looked even prettier in the sunlight than it had on the shelf in the store.
The few nights that I stayed at my mother’s house were refreshingly uneventful. I was able to catch up on my sleep on her couch. I slept so hard, I didn’t even dream. I dreaded going back home. I could only imagine what might be waiting for me there.
Surprisingly, my first few nights back home were uneventful. No nightmares, no sleep paralysis episodes. No encounters with the shadow figure who had made a habit of sitting on me while I slept. There was nothing. It was a damn miracle.
On the fourth night back home, I decided I couldn’t sleep with the cross on anymore. It was beautiful, but its sharp, angular design was extremely uncomfortable, and it would stab or scratch me in my sleep. So, instead of wearing it to bed, I took it off of the chain and placed the cross pendant underneath my pillow when I would sleep at night. I also started praying for protection from nightmares and strange entities in the night.
Both of these new habits proved to be extremely effective. My nightmares subsided tremendously, and an entire year passed without another visit from the sleep paralysis demon. Small little things still happened around the house, and I still caught glimpses of shadow figures out of the corner of my eye, but the overall intensity of the activity had subsided.
Then, one night during the summer of 2017, I fell asleep and instantly knew that the creature was in the room with me. I could feel its presence, but I didn’t feel the weight of it on top of me this time. In my dream, I glanced around my room in the moonlight streaming through the window, and I gasped when I saw it.
The creature was lingering along the edge of my bedroom, where the ceiling meets the wall. It kept trying to come toward me but would get sucked back onto the wall as if by some unseen force. I watched in horror as it tried over and over again to come near me, only to fail each time. It was almost as if there was a barrier that it could not cross.
Suddenly, I was awoken by the touch lamp on my nightstand coming on by itself. It had never done that before, and it never did it again after that night. It felt like someone was trying to save me from my nightmare and help me wake up.
Upon waking, I immediately reached for my cross and panicked when I realized it wasn’t under my pillow. I jumped out of bed, turned on my overhead light, and searched for it. I was amazed to find that it had fallen and was now wedged between my box spring and the wall. It was then that I realized I must have accidentally flung it off of my bed when I had been rushing while changing my bed sheets earlier that day.
It suddenly made sense why I dreamt of that creature again. It had been the first night in over a year that I had fallen asleep without my cross under my pillow. I found comfort in the realization that it was still close enough to me to repel the dark figure from sitting on top of me. I truly believed that the presence of the cross, though misplaced, was why that thing couldn’t get close enough to harm me. I also found it fascinating that I had no idea I had misplaced it from under my pillow prior to having the nightmare. The nightmare was what revealed to me that it had been moved. For me, this was all the validation that I needed. My sleep paralysis demon was real, but so was God, and so were the protective abilities of that cross my mother had given me. It was all too much of a coincidence for me. Any doubts I’d had about the existence of God or evil were laid to rest that night.
I slept with that cross under my pillow for the remaining two years that I lived in South Lyon. I never had another encounter with that sleep paralysis demon again. I moved back to my hometown a few years ago and have hardly had any paranormal experiences or nightmares since I left South Lyon. I don’t sleep with that cross under my pillow anymore, but I still pray for protection from nightmares and all forms of evil before bed every night.
Looking back, I don’t know if I unintentionally brought things home with me from the South Lyon Cemetery when I would visit my friend, or if South Lyon is just a hot spot for paranormal activity. What I do know is that I have always been sensitive to things that people around me don’t really seem to notice, but my experiences with the paranormal were heightened during the years when I lived there in a way that I have never experienced anywhere else. I have never had so many intense nightmares and encounters with the paranormal as I had while living in South Lyon. On the weekends and holidays when I would come back to my hometown to visit family, the paranormal stuff and nightmares didn’t really follow me. It was like all of it always just stayed behind and waited for me to come back to South Lyon.
Since moving, I have tried to investigate the history of that town, and I discovered that the South Lyon Hotel, as well as my home, which was located one block away, were all built atop of a former cemetery. According to the town records, the hotel was built in the 1860s, and the bodies in the cemetery that formerly inhabited the land were relocated. However, many of the bodies were left behind and simply built on top of due to the negligence of the builders, as well as the several unmarked graves that surrounded the area. Maybe the two dollars and 50 cents that were required for the relocation of each body was just too much of an inconvenience for them to pay to do things properly.
Many witnesses and workers at the South Lyon Hotel have made claims of shadow figures, apparitions, disembodied voices, and electronic interference. The hotel caught fire in 1977, and was rebuilt and reopened within the next decade. However, the hotel caught fire again in June of 2016 while I was living one block away. The fire took place right before my aunt started hearing the footsteps in my bedroom and before all of my sleep paralysis nightmares began.
I don’t know if that second fire stirred up or released whatever energy was in that hotel, or if my heightened experiences during that time were connected to my frequent visits to the local cemetery. All I know is, I don’t believe in sheer coincidence anymore. I truly feel that it was all connected in some way that I may never fully understand.