Date: Mar 1st, 2009 9:53:15 am - Edit
In Laos (Hmong), residents believe in a nighttime phantom called a Dab Tsog, pronounced “da cho”. This spirit comes to you in your sleep and robs you of your breath. You experience a form of paralysis that happens while you feel as if you are awake and something heavy is pressing on your chest. In the United States, Ireland and Newfoundland, people call this nighttime visitor the Hag, or the Old Hag, due to the fact that people claim to see an old woman present when this happens. The Hmong have rituals and customs that they believe prevent this from occurring. They believe the Tsog Tsuam, pronounced “cho chua” is the phenomenon itself, with Dab Tsog being the spirit.
After the Vietnam War I in the 1950’s, over 100,000 Laos residents immigrated to the United states. Over time, the rituals the traditionalists used to pacify the ancestors that would protect them from the Dab Tsog were lost due to the influx of western culture and laws in the US. In 1977, we began to see a sudden increase in death related to something referred to SUNDS or sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome. Over 100 adults (only one of which was female), perfectly healthy ages 32-34 that had originally immigrated from Laos. They died silently in their sleep with no known causes. The Hmong believe this is due to the spirit being angry the rites and offerings to the ancestors had diminished. If a Dab attacked, at times a family would seek to find the cause of the attack and make offerings to make amends. If this wasn’t done, the Dab would keep returning until the victim died.
Most other cultures have a similar name for this spirit, although the list is too great to place here. The difference with the Hmong is that they originated at a fairly recent time from a small area and were able to be monitored. Also, as their belief system is so rife with folklore, when their men began dying, they were vocal in their thoughts. This led to an investigation that is documented. Most other cultures are so widespread and diverse, tracking SUNDS in difficult. Of the Hmong that immigrated to the US, over 50% have experienced an Old Hag incident. This is higher than the general population by 2 to 3 times. When the Hmong converted to a Christian religion, the rate increased to 75%. Once the original immigrants relocated from the cities to more rural areas, creating Hmong communities, they were able to begin their ceremonies again, reducing the rate of incidences to nearly nothing.
Symptoms that are believed associated with this spirit are an extreme panicked feeling, paralysis, you feel, see, smell or hear someone in the room with you and you feel pressure on your chest, making it impossible to get a breath. If one is not woken from this experience, it is believed that you die.
Is this real? Who is to say? The science community has no answers that are consistent. No true answer was given for the Hmong outbreak. However, do not assume that if you have experienced a similar symptom, that you have been targeted. It wouldn’t hurt to pay closer attention and be diligent in your health. Some doctors believe that stress is the leading cause. Among the Hmong, where while living in cities, they were not able to perform their rituals, this resulted in a psychological phenomenon that led to their deaths. They believed this would happen, therefore, it did. They were literally scared to death. Not all believe this is the true reason behind it, for if it were, why then were others from other cultures with similar beliefs, in similar situations, not afflicted with SUNDS. Most cultures report a version of the Old Hag but most do not die from being visited by the Hag. The Hmong were unique in their high number of SUND cases reported in just a few years.
There is plenty of research available on The Old Hag, Dab Tsog, Hag. Whatever you choose to call it. Once you begin to research the phenomenon, you will see the variations in beliefs, yet the symptoms remain steadily consistent. Is this a coincidence or merely a yet to be explained scientific observation?
SOAR Team Member: Julie