Return Home

Haunted dreams

Back to Episode

Man lurking at window Man lurking at window (mnapoleon/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

Matt Kielty introduces us to Steve Volk, a city reporter in Philadelphia who--for decades--was plagued by a recurring nightmare. It popped up whenever Steve was going through a stressful time, and it always played out exactly the same way. But no matter how self-aware Steve was about his most current set of anxieties, and no matter how hard he tried to rationalize and explain away the dream...he couldn't make it stop.

Then one year, Steve started working on a book about topics at the edge of science, and along the way he stumbled into lucid dreaming. Pretty soon, Steve was reading through old sleep studies conducted by a scientist named Stephen LaBerge, and he was starting to wonder if lucid dreaming might not be so fringe-y after all. So he called up LaBerge's assistant and began training himself on a set of techniques that would eventually help him put his inner demon to bed.

Read more:

Fringe-ology, by Steve Volk

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, by Stephen LaBerge


Steve Volk

Comments [14]

Alex from ontario, canada

I have been having a similar experience for I guess a decade or so, I have variations on the same few anxiety dreams almost every night, it's like my brain has a bag of situations, settings and characters it picks from; the subway, elevator and my old house may be slightly different than they were the night before but they're still a subway, an elevator and my old house. The same arguments, the same dilemmas.

I'm often aware that I'm dreaming and can "feel" things like when metal is cold but I can rarely ever do anything except think "I wish this dream were over".

If it's an especially bad one I can sometimes make it skip or downplay particularly stressful or gruesome parts but I don't seem to have the power to make the kind of meaningful changes that I've read people experience when they lucid dream. It's both stressful and incredibly boring, I don't look forward to sleeping.

Feb. 15 2018 11:45 AM


Jun. 01 2017 02:45 PM
Gwyneth Iredale from oregon

I, too, had nightmares as a child to the point of being terrified to go to sleep (and I still don't like to turn off the light at night). I was always being chased. One time, however, when I was in high school, as I was running through the school halls from the person trying to catch me in my dream, a non-description person stepped out and said, "you know, you can wake yourself up, if you want to." I asked how and he said "close your eyes really hard and blink them open and you'll wake up."

After I got control of waking up when lucid, I then learned how to control my dreams. I would suddenly become lucid, then realize I could get away by flying, or just fly for the fun of it. I also walked into dreamscape art galleries to get inspiration for my painting, never sure whether the artwork I saw was a vague recollection of art in the waking world, or original in my dream.

I also got to the point when my dreamworld almost became equal in weight and importance to the waking world, especially when a teacher asked us to keep a dream log. At that point it was almost exciting to go to sleep and create adventures while lucid dreaming.

I seemed to have outgrown the skill and the story was an interesting reminder. It worked wonderfully as a ghost story. The boogeyman, whether he lives under the bed, floating outside a window or behind a closed door - is a transcendent phenomenon through so many cultures. Perhaps the boogeyman is teaching us a lesson in facing our fears and taking control.

Oct. 20 2016 11:53 PM
Robert Tilchin from eugene, oregon

i just heard this for the first time on a repeat episode. how fascinating for me to hear. i am one of those with a very similar experience. and like most of your sharers, my repetitive nightmare began around age 6. then i read about lucid dreaming and the senoi around age 12. i taught myself lucid dreaming and took away the knife. ending that nightmare. i remember grabbing the knife by the blade, cutting my hand, painfully, but remembering it was a dream and not letting go. it is interesting that almost all the shares are around the same age, so much earlier than the actual storyteller. (btw i discovered decades later in therapy that i had been raped as a child). what no one mentioned was as a middle school male, i tried having sex in my dream. realizing that even if i "forced" myself on the girl, it was just a dream. she still successfully resisted. the other area was flying dreams. i had an amazing soaring dream , but was unable to recreate it. i could get a few feet off the ground and float around . cool, but not the same. so i obviously, was never in total control.

Oct. 20 2016 10:43 PM
Pablo from Arlington

I have had this type of dream to.Mine was that I am stuck in Five Nights At Freddys and the animatronics just stare at me in a scary way they also jumpscare me.this happens usually when I am mad.It is very creepy and I am always trying to make the dream go away.This article is the one that might help me. Thanks!!!

Dec. 23 2015 12:09 PM
tishaelora from London On

amazing! similar to some of the comments above, i also learned to do this at a very young age! i was having intense night terrors and developed a method to aid me in knowing that i was in fact in a dream. now an adult, I also don't use this trick so often. also, like someone else stated, there are those times that i do use the trick and become too conscious promptly finding myself waking from the dream ... but it awes me that people doubt this ability! is it really that not everyone can do it? I had assumed everyone could because they weren't having nightmares like i was.

Dec. 01 2015 10:23 PM
ashley from modesto

this was a intresting story cool you should put it on youtube

Oct. 09 2015 02:09 AM

I really enjoyed this rerun this evening, but it did remind me my nightmares long ago.

When I was a child, I used to have a lot nightmares. Remember Chucky? I had a lot of horrible dreams of this tiny doll chasing me through an endless dark hallway. I'm not sure when, but after some time I was able to know that I was dreaming and woke myself up by move my body upright in bed.

I don't have those dreams anymore, but every once in a long while I would have a nightmare. The last one I actually let out a blood curdling scream in my sleep.

Sep. 21 2013 03:48 AM
Thad from Washington

It would have been good to hear of odd types of dreams. I suffered night terrors as a child and eventually got control. Now, I have more omnipotent dreams where I jump from character to character. Often I'm a totally different person with different feelings, then I "shift" and all of a sudden I'm the person hearing what I was just saying.
I am pretty lucid in most my dreams. However, I tried the method described. It worked for what was about five minutes. Then, I became too conscious and found myself losing the dream and becoming awake. :( obviously lucid is different then conscious.

Dec. 11 2012 07:13 AM
Jason from Rochester MN

When I was maybe 7, I learned to do this from the simple instructions given by Ray in episode 107 of The Real Ghostbusters "Mr Sandman Dream Me a Dream

I can't really do this on demand anymore, but it makes it hard to have nightmares. In the grown up adult world of hard and fast reality where everything is logically bound up into a set of unbreakable rules, I sometimes find it very difficult to have a trancending moment. I appreciate a good nightmare every now and then (the ones I forget to control) I know this may sound a little twisted, but it's one of the few ways that I ever get in touch with that otherworldly sense of awe and mystery that we are so tuned into as children. To wake up from a dream death into this life may in fact be the only life after death experience permitted by the cosmos. Controling my dreams is just another instance of logical reality taking all the fun out of stuff.

Nov. 10 2012 05:06 PM
Rory Antonsson from Sweden

I love this episode, its like a horror-movie that Ive experienced via this fantastically produced episode.

I want to hear more stuff like this, any audiobook or podcast-suggestions? Horror-stuff like this, real stuff.

Sep. 17 2012 04:05 PM
Edie DeWeese from Boulder, CO

In first grade when I was learning to ride a bike, I kept having dreams of falling off. In the dreams I started "re-running" the sequence of events to before the fall so I could make myself stay on the bike. After that, when I had scary dreams I would make myself walk through whatever frightened me and it would disappear.

Jul. 01 2012 06:22 PM
Harlan Johnson from Rockford, IL

For over 30 years I've been teaching people about Senoi Dreamwork - which is a waking state way of becoming the master of your dream universe, being surprised by having wonderful things happen, and bringing gifts back to the waking life. It doesn't have to happen in a sleeping dream.

Jul. 01 2012 03:44 PM
Chaski from Santa Cruz, CA

I was excited to accidentally hear "Haunted Dreams"! Over a period of many years I've experienced the same sort of dream, except that it's positive and not scary. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the recurrent dream's basis and even bought S. LaBerge's book a couple of years ago. I taught myself to lucid dream (only in the hypnopompic state for me). My story parallels Steve Volk's description, and it was so neat to hear that shared experience on the radio. My dream suddenly came and never went away like his did. It has even influenced my life in a number of ways when I look back. Since it's positive and not ominous like S. Volk's, I'd never want it go away. These "haunted" phenomena aren't necessarily negatory as may be implied by the story. Thanks!

Jun. 30 2012 06:09 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.