As with many nightmares, Mary Arnold-Forster was being chased. She seemed to be in London around the First World War, and she had somehow become embroiled in dangerous espionage.
“I had succeeded in tracing the existence of a complicated and dangerous plot against our country,” she noted in her diary. “The conspirators had turned upon me on discovering how much I knew.” Eventually she found shelter, but they were closing in. “The arch-conspirator, a white-faced man in a bowler hat, had tracked me down to the building where I was concealed, and which by this time was surrounded.”
At which point, many of us might have woken up in a cold sweat. But Arnold-Forster was made of steelier stuff. She had discovered a method of “dream control”, meaning that she was perfectly aware that she was asleep, and that everything around her – the pursuer, his bowler hat, the very ground she was standing on – was simply a figment of her mind.
So rather than flee, she decided to immerse herself in the thrill of the chase. “All fear had departed; the comfortable feeling of great heroism, only fully enjoyed by those who feel themselves to be safe, was mine.” The night terror had morphed into “a delightful dream of adventure” – allowing her to fulfil her fantasies of subterfuge and espionage from the comfort of her bed.
Lucid dreaming is now well known, but at the turn of the last century, few had explored its potential. Inspired by her success, Arnold-Forster soon used her nocturnal adventures to touch on some of the greatest mysteries of our slumbers. What happens to the mind in the strange “twilight zone” between waking and sleep? Where do the images of our dreams come from? And why do memories of dreams evaporate like the morning mist?
Read More: Here