Rants & Essays
Sleep Lab Ghost - Part 1
By R. Patrick Murtha
In the Fall of 1976, Dr. V, a professor of experimental
psychology at CSU Sacramento, finally got funding from the Nat. Institute of
Mental Health for a pet project he'd wanted to conduct for quite some time. As
his Teacher's Assistant and leader of the Lab section, I was charged with
conducting the night to night operation of the experiment. We were testing Dr.
V's theory of Temporal Regressiveness. The theory states that the time
reference of dreams is related to the body's core temperature, and to test this
theory we were to affect the body's temperature by the use of alcohol and so
should see a shift in the temporal regressive reference of dream reports since
alcohol has a predictable affect on the body's temperature. It had already been
seen that the first two REM periods contained dominant references to events
that had taken place in the immediate past of the dreamer. The middle REM
periods of the night then integrates these near-past memories with memories
further and further back in the sleeper's past, until in the last two REM
periods of the night all these memories are then integrated into what is
anticipated to occur in the next few days in the sleeper's life experiences.
Since we knew that alcohol is a body temperature suppressant, it was theorized
that we would see dream recall from further back into the Sleeper's past
earlier in the night since the body temperature would be prematurely
We started this particular night's experiment on a Friday
night. The Subject for tonight's experiment was a 22 year old female; her
second night in the experimental condition. She filled out the questionnaire as
I applied the electrodes to her head using collodian and drank her orange
juice...this time with a nonalcoholic additive that tastes of alcohol. The
placebo condition, if you will. All went normally as I led her into the
Anechoic chamber, plugging her into the box above the head of the bed which led
into the control room and was hooked directly into the Grass Model VI EEG.
After I left the vault-like sleep chamber she self-inserted the rectal
temperature probe...please, no sneering. Now, there were those night's when my
wife was the subject, in which case procedure was modified slightly for the
insertion of the rectal probe, but that's for another newsgroup, you dirty
minded people! Geeeez!
Anyway, we got her to bed at about 10:30 PM and proceeded
with that night's awakening schedule. Then, at exactly 2:48 AM, I heard a
commotion; the EEG needles, which just a minute before had shown a transitional
but still "fast asleep" Stage 3 sleep pattern, were all of a sudden flying left
and right across the scrolling paper indicating an awakening. "Oh great," I
thought, "this will throw off the entire body temp readings for the night."
Then, over the intercom I heard the subject talking.
"Uh...what are...huh? Who the heck are you? Are you part of the experiment?
Patrick? Patrick! PAAATRIICCKK!!" and all of a sudden she was screaming out my
name. I immediately hit the light switch, ran out the door and around the
corner opening the door quickly as I could now hear the sleeper's screams
THROUGH the otherwise soundproof vault door.
"Sh_t! What on earth is going on?!" I was saying to myself
as I opened the door to reveal the Subject tearing out the electrodes from the
box above the bed.
"Who was that?! Who WAS THAT?!" she was yelling and
immediately ran down the hall towards the women's bathroom.
"Hey! What's wrong? Who was WHO?!" I followed. Of course at
this time of night there was no one else in the building and I followed her in,
consoling and trying to calm her down. She went on to describe how, while
laying in bed and having a vague "thinking" type dream, (very normal report of
a NonREM dream) that she immediately awoke (reason unknown) and there in the
completely blackened room was the glowing apparition of an elderly woman
actually luminescing as it stood next to the bed looking down on her!
Now, I'd conducted experiments for the last year and a half
and this was the first time I'd ever heard anyone mention anything like this
during an experiment. I was just as confused and upset as she was as I assured
her that nobody came out of the door before I got there and asked her to tell
me whatever else she could remember. "She was glowing from INSIDE," she began,
finally settling down a bit as we walked together towards the lab. "Then, I
asked her if she was supposed to be there and the light went on and I could see
THROUGH her to the wall!" she sputtered. "Then, she turned, and I could see her
long, flower-print dress flow as she turned. And she walked THROUGH the door
out to the hall and that's when I really lost it!" she sobbed. Needless to say,
we ended the experiment then and there, but that wasn't the last time this Old
Lady of the Psych building showed herself; and the next time I actually saw her
with my co-experimenter!
But I'll leave that one for later.