Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Afterlife of Darkmares

Nightmares, Darkmares and Demons
What a wonderful, fascinating  place the world of dreams appears to be. But an even more extraordinary place is the world of nightmares.
For the stuff of nightmares - or night terrors, as they are often called in children - is where many horror/supernatural stories appear to emanate from.  Of course, the scientists amongst us know perfectly well that nightmares or bad dreams are simply the subconscious mind making sense of scary, worrying things that happen to us. They are no more a precursor of bad things to come nor an evil sign of impending doom than dreams about fairies or paradise are harbingers of marvellous happenings. Ah, but here’s the rub – no one can actually prove that and so the workings of the subconscious mind remain a wonderful fertile ground for paranormal thrillers.
Nightmares in and of themselves are basically bad dreams that often can and do cause much distress. But the nightmare has it’s origins in folklore. The night part is easily explained but what of the other word mare? What is that? In Norway the Mare is a female shape shifter who can take the form of an animal or dwarf and who can change into a wind that can slip through windows and keyholes to get to intended victims whilst they are sleeping. By day the Mare is a normal woman but at night the urge to find and control victims is strong. The Mare enters a person’s bedroom and sits on their chests, causing tightness, troubled breathing and horrible dreams. In American folklore this Mare spirit eventually became the nightmare of which we are all familiar.
For myself, I used this motif in my latest book but called the nightmare a ‘darkmare’ as the character was not only troubled at nighttime.  My book - "The Afterlife of Darkmares" by PJ Newcombe - is now available from
Have you ever used folklore/mythology to garnish or deepen your stories? Have you ever used nightmares as a major part of your story?


  1. What an interesting post. I have had my fair share of nightmares and never knew where the word came from. Can I also say that the picture of that tree, is eerily like the tree that appeared in many of my recurring nightmares as a child. Very creepy!

    Night terrors in children are a little different to nightmares. My youngest has had them a couple of times. They look awake, eyes open, sat bolt upright and generally looking at the corner of the bedroom as if something terrifying is there and screams and cries and they don't recognise you and your voice can't soothe them, it's a matter of waiting it out. It is one of the most awful things to watch as they look genuinely afraid. The next morning they remember nothing about it.

  2. I've had nightmares off and on for years. Naturally, when I'm stressed. It's a fascinating process to interpret them, and I can usually pinpoint why I had them. Great post.

  3. I love your questions because they always make me think! NO, I don't think I have - I don't have many nightmares, thank goodness. Now that I've said that, though...

  4. Hi Pat - such a thought provoking post! I am going to check out your new book! - Maeve

  5. I did not know the history of nightmares. Thanks! I learned something new today.