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Paranormal Paramours

The Good Word

Karen Stollznow

March 14, 2011

Things that go bump in the night

From the television series The Ghost and Mrs. Muir to the cinematic classic Ghouls Gone Wild, popular culture is enamored with stories of ghostly girlfriends and beaus from beyond. However, there are some who claim their stories of paranormal love and sex are fact, not fiction.

In the community of believers, paranormal sexual encounters are known as “spectrophilia.” Whether it’s invisible kisses and caresses, sex with Satan, phantom fornication, or obscene phone calls from the dead, let’s explore some claims of anomalous amorous phenomena.

The Devil Made Me Do It

From the invisible demon in The Entity, an allegedly true story of a woman molested by a paranormal entity, to the father of Rosemary’s Baby—Satan, lusty demons abound in books and movies. Demon lovers are also featured prominently in Western mythology, most notably the incubus and succubus. As exorcist Bob Larson explains, an incubus is “a demon assuming human physical dimensions and sexually cohabiting with a woman. Succubus is the counterpart, when the demon assumes female proportions and actually cohabits with a man.”1 One belief in Christian demonology is that demons shape shift into succubi to collect sperm from human males before morphing into incubi to impregnate female humans.2

Carl Sagan shows that supernatural lovers feature in the mythology of other cultures too, including the Arabian jinns, Greek satyrs, Hindu bhoots and Celtic dusii.3 Some are hybrid creatures, while dusii can supposedly impregnate both women and nonhuman female animals. Male skeptics need to fear Popobawa, a demon that has a preference for sodomizing nonbelievers. Joe Nickell calls this beast “the skeptic-raping demon of Zanzibar.”4 However, the locals don’t believe in Popobawa any more than Americans (other than Bob Larson) believe in incubi and succubi today.The Skeptic’s Dictionary’s Robert Carroll observes that alien-abduction accounts offer a modern-day version of demon lovers, given victims’ claims of sexual abuse and anal probes.5

The (Too) Friendly Ghost

Randy entities aren’t always demons; sometimes the supernatural suitors are spirits.

In his book Otherworldly Affaires: Haunted Lovers, Phantom Spouses, and Sexual Molesters from the Shadow World, Brad Steiger writes about hyperdimensional love and sex.6 There are “true stories” of dead lovers who seek vengeance from beyond the grave, ghostly wives and husbands who return to warn their widows of risky relationships, apparitions of lovers who return for a final “goodbye,” and sex offenders who come back to earth to continue perpetrating their crimes.

Gina Lanier, who calls herself a paranormal investigator, also believes that sexual deviance is carried over to the other side. Lanier specializes in studying supernatural sex and alleges that “inter-paranormal relationships” are common:

Lanier claims to have investigated a vampire with a blood fetish, a ghost with a penchant for bondage that required a “safe word” to keep him under control, and a stalker who sends racy text messages and makes sexually explicit phone calls from beyond the grave. Lanier shares the story of a Malaysian man who suffered the sexual advances of a female ghost for sixteen years. The ghost appeared to the young man every night, assuming different forms in which to ravish him. These visits began to affect his relationships and career, so a psychic medium was consulted. According to the psychic, the ghost was the spirit of a woman who had committed suicide thirty years before over unrequited love, and with the medium’s assistance the spirit was able to pass over to the other side.

But sometimes the haunted want to stay haunted. In a surreal and graphic article, Maryanna Chatelaine Moresby warns against the dangers of ghost hunting:

As far as dangers to the ghost hunters themselves, we’re not talking the practical dangers of trespassing on private property or breathing in asbestos in old buildings. Moresby believes that ghost hunters risk having their genitals possessed by the ghosts they hunt. She advises that ghost hunters abstain from sex after a stake-out, lest they infect their partner with any supernaturally-transmitted diseases. Moresby proceeds to report some cases of “anomalous anal phenomena”:

Moresby also shares her own personal experiences and provides some home remedies to cure these conditions. I recommend readers read the ludicrous article “Paranormal Sex” in its entirety.

Wooed By Woo

Some ghostly lovers are lovelorn spirits with the same urges they had in life, while others simply don’t know they’re dead. But it seems all have forgotten their manners. In most cases, there is no courtship; the amorous spirits simply slip into bed with the victim. The late model and actress Anna Nicole Smith reveals her alleged experience with a spectral Casanova:

A Valentine’s Day episode of Ghost Adventures featured an investigation of a “horny spirit.”10 Jerusha Howe “died of a broken heart,” and now her wanton ghost fondles men who dare to sleep in Room 9 of the Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Ghost Adventures’s Zak Bagans explains that “There is a horny spirit in here that apparently likes to have intimate encounters with men in this room, and that’s a fact.”

But if it’s a fact, where’s the evidence? The Ghost Adventures boys were convinced by her “love letters” tucked into the ceiling beams and stashed in drawers in Room 9, even though these notes were not examined critically and, according to the hotel website, were written by guests, not ghosts.

The Ghost Adventures gang then captured their own evidence, an electronic voice phenomena recording of the spirit saying, “They look strong.” Their video footage supposedly recorded a “figure of a lady,” but it seemed to be nothing more than low-quality video with bad lighting.

Determined to have an erotic encounter with the sexy ghost, Zak tried to raise the spirit’s spirits: “If she wants love, I’ll give it to her!” Disappointingly, his rendezvous consisted of a demure “two taps” on his right leg, but he interpreted the experience as profound, saying, “When I was in Jerusha’s bedroom I had an experience I’ll never forget. It was a different feeling; that environment was ecstasy. It was, I just felt very loved.”

In the Travel Channel’s documentary Ghostly Lovers, Melissa recounts her repeated encounters with a ghostly lover. When she was alone in bed she would detect a darkness and heaviness in the air. Soon she would feel something breathing on her, then a kissing sensation on her neck and “weird tingles” all over her body. “I felt somebody grabbing my arms, pushing me down on the bed. My heart started to race, my breathing became deeper and I just went through all the motions of actually having a sexual encounter with somebody.”11

In the documentary we see a “recreation” of the events: Melissa writhes about on a bed in lingerie while in voiceover she describes repetitively the “heat,” “warmth,” and “energy” of the encounter because “you literally have sex” with the unseen force. “It eventually turned into an orgasm that was so intense in my whole body. It just was amazing.” Few would deny that Melissa was experiencing erotic dreams.

Just a Dream

No one has ever presented anything other than only anecdotal evidence for paranormal sexual encounters. For example, no woman has ever been impregnated by a ghost. There is no single story and therefore there is no single explanation for these claims. Barring pranks, a number of possible natural explanations can be posited. Our biggest clue is that most of these experiences occur at night when the victim is in bed, suggesting that an erotic dream or hallucination has taken place. Such hallucinations may be associated with a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, otherwise known as a “waking nightmare.”

Sleep paralysis is a common experience for many people and is also a symptom of the sleep disorder narcolepsy.12 Sleep paralysis is an interruption of the REM stage of sleep; the individual awakens prematurely yet remains in a dreaming state. An episode can present a wide range of visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. This may explain many alleged paranormal encounters, from ghost sightings, vampires, and alien abductions to the claims in this article.

Sleep paralysis is occasionally known as Old Hag Syndrome, taken from the superstitious belief that an “old hag” sits on top of her victim’s chest while he or she sleeps. The hag renders them immobile and breathless, and indeed many sufferers experience a sense of suffocation. Guy de Maupassant appears to describe an episode of sleep paralysis in his novel La Horla:

Occam’s razor is a useful principle to apply here. Is it more likely that the claimant had a sexual encounter with a ghost, or did he or she simply experience an erotic dream or hallucination? However, rationalizing or understanding an erotic dream may be problematic for some people. Attributing sexual dreams or sexual thoughts to a supernatural force is a guiltless absolution for those with moral objections.

Hallucination may also play a role when people believe they’ve experienced a sexual encounter with a deceased lover. The concept of sex after death provides hope that there is life after death and that the pleasures of life are still obtainable in death.


1. Larson, Bob. 1995. Spiritual Warfare Action Training I: Side 1. Denver: Bob Larson Ministries.

2. Incubi and succubi. 1996. In Angels A to Z. Edited by James R. Lewis, Evelyn Dorothy Oliver, and Kelle S. Sisung, pp. 218–19. Visible Ink Press.

3. Sagan, Carl. 1995. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Random House.

4. Nickell, Joe. 1995. The skeptic-raping demon of Zanzibar. Skeptical Briefs 5(4). Available at; accessed February 15, 2011.

5. Carroll, Robert. Succubus. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Available online at; accessed February 16, 2011.

6. Steiger, Brad. 2008. Otherworldly Affaires: Haunted Lovers, Phantom Spouses, and Sexual Molesters from the Shadow World. Anomalist Books.

7. Lanier, Gina. Inter-paranormal relationships. Available online at; accessed February 16, 2011.

8. Moresby, Maryanna Chatelaine. Paranormal sex. Haunted America Tours. Available online at; accessed February 16, 2011. FHM. July 2004. Issue 46. Interview with Anna Nicole Smith. Available at; accessed February 15, 2011.

10. Travel Channel. Aaron’s vlog: Valentine’s Day (video). Available online at; accessed February 25, 2011.

Travel Channel. Tales of a Ghostly Lover (video). Available at; accessed February 25, 2011.

12. Carroll, Robert. Sleep paralysis. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Available online at; accessed February 25, 2011.

13. de Maupassant, Guy. 1988. Contes et Nouvelles (Vol 2, 1884–1890). Paris: Robert Laffont. In James Allan Cheyne. “The Cultural-Historical Transformation of the Alien in Maupassant’s Le Horla.” Available online at; accessed March 1, 2011.

Karen Stollznow

Karen Stollznow's photo

Karen Stollznow is an author and skeptical investigator with a doctorate in linguistics and a background in history and anthropology. She is an associate researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and a director of the San Francisco Bay Area Skeptics. A prolific skeptical writer for many sites and publications, she is the “Good Word” Web columnist for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the “Bad Language” columnist for Skeptic magazine, a frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, and managing editor of CSI’s Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. Dr. Stollznow is a host of the Monster Talk podcast and writer for the Skepbitch and Skepchick blogs, as well as for the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Swift. She can be reached via email at kstollznow[at]