and the Man in
by Uncle Morty
In which our own Uncle Morty advises you about your existential and metaphysical problems. Please remember the advice is free when judging its worth.
Dear Uncle Morty,
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, The Last Podcast on the Left, and they were recounting listener stories about a faceless man with a hat who appears during sleep paralysis. (Sleep paralysis is that feeling that you’ve just woken up, but you can’t move. A lot of people who have it say they see a shadowy figure coming towards them.) Anyway, after listening to a bunch of emails where people describe this shadowy figure as a faceless man with a tall hat, I realized something. I know that guy.
It sounds odd to say, but I’ve met him a few times in dreams. At first, I had sleep paralysis like the people who wrote the email and I had the vague feeling of being menaced by…you guessed it…a faceless man in a tall hat, but since then I’ve seen him a couple times in my dreams! Seriously. I’m walking through a deep forest full of evergreens with a weak, filtered green-gold light so that I can’t really even tell what time of day it is. I’m not sure where I am or where I’m going, only I get the feeling that I’ve been here many, many times before but I can’t remember anything.
Anyway, as I’m walking along the terrain starts rising, getting hillier and rockier. Just as I think I’m too tired to go on, I see a cavern on the side of the path. The man with the hat is sitting outside, still with no face wearing his tall, weird hat. He’s roasting marshmallows on a fire and he calls me over. Since he has no face…I’m not sure how that works, but he does it somehow.
It turns out he’s not so bad. He always offers me a marshmallow. I always refuse. Then he says that the reason people feel poorly disposed towards him is that they are moving from the dream state back to reality. He badly wants to explain he’s not actually the feeling of being dragged down and oppressed. He seems kinda upset that no one likes him very much. We talk for a while. He thanks me for listening, gives me directions, then I wake up.
So, he’s an okay guy, I guess for a dream entity. I wouldn’t really give it another thought except this. I saw him the other day at a café. In real life. I pinched myself, and I think I’m awake?
He gave me a little wave and tipped his hat. Here’s the thing…his face was still blank. And no one else noticed.
Am I going crazy? After all, I’m writing to a skeleton for advice about a guy I’m pretty sure isn’t real. Am I even awake or am I still trapped in a dream? What the heck is going on?
First of all, let me assure you that I have received your letter in this mundane reality where I am imprisoned - feeling the same way about it as you do when trapped in a dream. Sigh. But that’s my cross to bear.
A few things. First of all, don’t worry one bit about seeing the man with the hat in this reality. He may have crossed over for a few moments for a good cup of coffee, a delicacy somewhat difficult to find in the dream world, the Netherworld, or even fairy land. Even creepy faceless guys get a day off now and then and we can hardly begrudge them. Since you’ve met him in the dream world, you’re probably attuned to his presence and thus you can see him. Give him a wave and go about your business. Unless, that is, you’d like people to think you’re insane for having a conversation with an entity that is not palpable to their senses.
The dream entity you have met is known as a waker. As the faceless man tried to express, the wakers are not trying to cause you harm, at least it’s not in the job description. There are plenty of them in the Netherworld and they are tasked with pushing you out of the dream world and back into your physical reality. It’s entirely possible that the oppression you feel is simply that your physical body is having a glitch between waking and dreaming as the faceless man pointed out. On the other, some of the wakers are not particularly good at their jobs…and there are a few who may not have the best interest of sleeping humans at heart. There’s no job that doesn’t have its share of psychos, eh? But you’ve met your waker and you seem to be building a relationship. He is quite obviously giving you directions out of the dreamworld after you meet him in front of the cavern, which I suspect is his home. (Don’t be afraid to take the marshmallow by the way…the dreamworld doesn’t have quite the same rules as fairyland, though there are doors into each by way of the other. Although, it may simply be that you don’t care for marshmallows!)
I suppose the biggest question is…what can you, or others do to keep from feeling afraid as you wake up if you get caught between dreams and waking life?
As a general suggestion for sleep paralysis, I would say there are several things you can do. The first thing to do is simply to acknowledge the nonreality of it, quit struggling, and slide back into the dream space. You can more effectively control your reactions from there. Always set an alarm, even for a nap if you suffer from sleep paralysis. This reminder from the real world usually brings you back - whether you want to come or not. Most of the time, the problem is with the physical body that you are wearing and the way the consciousness has been situated in it. Some of you are simply more prone to glitches and difficulties moving from dream space to waking. (On the other hand, there probably are a few wakers who are just marking time to retirement or who just aren’t terribly good at their jobs…nothing you can do about that. Yours sounds like he has made a special effort to find a comfortable way to wake you and you should thank him for that when you see him next!)
You, or anyone who suffers sleep paralysis, might also consider becoming adept at the practice of lucid dreaming. This will allow you to spot the difference between the waking and dream realities you inhabit. Lucid dreaming involves an odd form of consciousness that allows your mind to straddle the dream and waking worlds. It’s tricky to achieve. Those who have vivid memories of their dreams will have an easier time achieving this state, but those who don’t may be able to practice the skill by keeping a dream journal.
Once you have some memory of your dreams, ask yourself some questions. Are there places in your dreams that you often go? Symbols that reappear? You may be able to make a map of your dream landscape…to recognize the difference between it and the waking world the same way you know the difference between the beach when you’re on vacation and the sidewalks of the city in which you live.
You can also look for dream signs. Look at your hands and see if they appear normal or look into a mirror. If you can’t see your hands or there’s something off about them – perhaps they are claws or you’re missing fingers – you’re dreaming. The same is true of your mirror reflection. I once looked into a dream mirror and saw Ringo Starr looking back at me. Definitely a dream. I can only hope in his dream he saw me in his reflection. How droll for him!
Once you’ve achieved lucid dreaming, it allows you to have a certain amount of control in your dream world. Yes…it will allow for you to wake up but there’s so much more. For instance, you may be able to fly if you choose, or change the trajectory of your dream so that you make friends with a monster instead of running from it.
I would caution a certain amount of care though. Dream creatures have their own hopes, goals and agendas. Please treat them with respect. For instance, if you have a dream that you are in a haunted house and you’re being plagued by ghosts, ask them if you can help instead of dissipating them or simply barring them from your dream home. I once inhabited a lovely Victorian dream home with three ghosts who continually threw books off the shelves in the rather nice library and howled up and down the circular marble staircase at all hours. Terribly annoying. They also played Pavarotti’s version of “Vesti La Giubba” on the Victrola all night long. That’s almost another post in itself, but I digress.
I considered simply using my lucid dreaming powers to banish them, but I decided to speak with them instead. It seems that their graves had been covered in a pile of rubble by the last inhabitant during a renovation. I neatly solved the problem and it became a peaceful abode for all of us. I bought them a few more records, and they agreed to limit their music appreciation to the daylight hours.
Whatever steps you take, try to remain relaxed about what, at the time, is a very scary experience and remember that you have the power to change things in your dream world.
See you on the Other Side,
Your Uncle Morty
Links to more advice from Uncle Morty:
Am I a Werewolf?
Some Haunting Advice
Need Advice from Uncle Morty? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line AskUncleMorty. He will do his best to answer your question.
Mortimer Richard Wolcott is, quite frankly, not very forthcoming with his bio. We're not even sure if that's his real name. His work during his previous embodiments is not something he'll willingly share. He also won't explain why he's currently assigned to the world of the living. His deathography only somewhat clear from the point at which he showed up at Sacred Chickens Farm for a Halloween Party and never left. He is occasionally pressed into service to help write the blog and you can search the archives here for his wisdom. He enjoys hanging out with cats, the occasional cocktail, and dispensing sarcastic remarks to the living.