The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, c. 1790


Nightmares, as we use the word today, are vivid, personal terrors whipped up by a person’s subconscious just for them—a giant snapping turtle, a car that starts backing away from home on its own, a rocket ship with two witches in the backseat eating a potato/voodoo doll that causes the front seat to disappear with every bite.

But in centuries past, a night “mare” was a very specific type of frightening nocturnal visitor, a spirit or demon that would sit on a person’s chest and suffocate them.

Read the rest of the article at Atlas Obscura…

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