"The Sleepwalker" Ivan Kramskoi, 1871
The nightwalkers are people like you and me. They are perfectly "normal" during the day, but at night ...
Marcia Wollner woke up at three o'clock in the morning and found herself on a highway at the wheel of an automobile she did not know how to drive. A chronic sleepwalker, Marcia had risen in the middle of the night, gone to the garage, and climbed into her husband's automobile which had a manual shift, though her own car was automatic. After driving twenty-three miles, Marcia awoke in utter astonishment, managed to stop the car, and frantically summoned her husband to come find rescue her.
In Wisconsin, a male sleepwalker was strolling along the street at midnight, wearing only his underclothes, when he was halted by a policeman. "Why don't you let me sleep?" he complained. "Can't you see I'm tired?" And he stumbled on along the street, still asleep, leaving a totally bewildered policeman gaping after him.
A strange spectacle confronted firemen in Oklahoma one night. A naked woman was sitting in a tree, sound asleep, plucking the leaves off one by one while a crowd of spectators gathered, staring at her in amazement. Her name was Ione Weir, and she was a chronic sleepwalker, so her husband was accustomed to her nightly exploits and her tendency to appear in unexpected places. When neighbors called him, he climbed the tree, wrapped his shirt around Ione, and dropped her into the net which firemen had spread underneath the tree.
Weird mental feats are performed by sleepwalkers, too. A completely illiterate woman used to recite long passages of ancient Greek poetry in her sleep. She had once worked as the maid for a minister who read Greek literature out loud, and she had absorbed the words without knowing it.
Other sleepwalkers have written letters, carried on rational conversations, baked cakes, played the piano, or have gone shopping while they were asleep. An army officer used to sleepwalk on his hands on the roof of his house. A Florida man often sleepwalked to the kitchen of his mother's home next door and ate a dozen bananas from her refrigerator. Then he returned to bed.
The situation was somewhat different when 14-year-old Donald Elliott sleepwalked to the refrigerator, took out something to eat, and strolled out the back door. Unfortunately, he happened to be in a camper that was traveling fifty miles an hour along a busy highway. Miraculously, he suffered only a few cuts and bruises.
These cases are not as exceptional as you might think, since more than four million people walk in their sleep and most often they are children between the ages of five and twelve. Usually a sleepwalker's eyes are open, his facial expression is blank, his movements rigid, and his behavior may seem perfectly rational. He does not extend his arms in front of him, as some people believe. If he says anything, it is usually a question like "Have you got it?" or "Where is it?" and when somebody addresses him, the typical sleepwalker answers with just one or two syllables, as if annoyed at being interrupted.
What causes this strange habit?
Sleepwalking may be a symptom of a serious malady, either mental or physical, or it may be hereditary. Such was the case of a German teacher who came from a family of sleepwalkers and who married his cousin. Their children inherited the liability, and the whole family would gather around the dinner table in the middle of the night, all of them still sound asleep. Once, when a daughter knocked over a chair and broke a mirror, all of them woke up, realized they had been sleepwalking and sought the help of a psychiatrist.
Most often, sleepwalking is the result of emotional problems. When a second child is born in a family, the older child may walk to his parents' room because he feels jealous or lonely and is afraid of losing their love. An adult may walk in his sleep after the loss of a job, promotion to a more responsible job, the death of a relative, or a financial problem.
A chronic sleepwalker usually has deep anxieties that have been suppressed from his conscious mind. By day, he may seem happy and well adjusted, but at night, he may engage in such exploits as breaking dishes and furniture, or even committing crimes. A woman in Switzerland used to wonder why her feet were dirty when she woke up every morning and there appeared to be no rational explanation. One night the police arrested her in the local cemetery with a shovel in her hand. She had been robbing graves in her sleep!
In New Jersey, an expert swimmer sleepwalked to his bedroom window, assumed the position of a diver, and plunged down to the concrete steps below. He died from a fractured skull.
A teen-age girl in Kentucky had a nightmare about burglars invading her house, so she fetched a couple of revolvers from a cabinet and fired them, injuring her mother. Another woman dreamed that her house was on fire and so, while asleep, she got up and threw all of her furniture out of the window.
Psychiatrists say that these are not ordinary cases of sleepwalking. Individuals who commit such violent acts in their sleep are often suffering from a mental illness. To stop sleepwalking, some doctors say that a person who has this liability should take a brisk walk after dinner and should avoid watching violent movies or reading exciting stories late at night.
Others recommend rigging up devices that will wake the sleepwalker, such as a dish of cold water placed so that he will step into it when he or she gets out of bed. This is often successful at first, but the sleepwalker quickly learns to avoid such obstacles by climbing out on the opposite side of the bed.
Usually the most effective way to prevent sleepwalking is counseling by a doctor. Only when hidden anxieties are revealed and faced can the chronic sleepwalker be cured of his strange malady. If no cure works, sleepwalkers who commit violent acts must be guarded at night because of their tendency to hurt people.
This happened in one of the oddest cases in sleepwalking history. Some years ago, a body was found on the beach in Le Havre, France. The police could find no witness and no motive, so, since the great detective Robert Ledru was vacationing in the area, they asked for his help. Ledru was glad to oblige. He visited the scene of the murder and inspected it very carefully. There were only a couple of clues: the bullet which apparently had killed the victim, and a footprint in the sand. The bullet originated from a Luger, a very common variety of gun. Even Ledru himself possessed a Luger, so that was not very revealing.
Ledru transferred his attention to the footprint, but that appeared as if it were not going to prove much either, as the killer had not been wearing shoes; only socks. As Ledru studied the footprint with a magnifying glass, he noticed something odd. There was a hole in the murderer's sock. He then remembered that there was a hole in one of his socks as well.
The detective removed his right shoe, stepped on the sand, and examined his own footprint. It matched the other exactly. With growing uneasiness, Ledru remembered that his socks, which he wore to bed on chilly nights, had been soaking wet the morning after the murder.
Ledru removed the bullet that had been discovered on the beach, hurried anxiously back to his hotel room, and shot his own gun into the pillow. Then he compared the pattern of grooves from the two bullets, and as he expected and dreaded, they were identical.
He had discovered the murderer.
Detective Robert Ledru had committed the murder while walking in his sleep, so he turned himself into the Le Havre police, who at first refused to believe his story, but finally had to, in view of the overwhelming evidence. Ledru was not charged with murder. He was still respected as a brilliant detective, but was retired from the police department with a full pension. He spent the rest of his life in a quiet cottage in a rural area, with a guard to watch him while he slept.
1. Ione Weir _______
2. Sleepwalkers ______
3. Sleepwalking _______
4. People who walk in their sleep ________
5. During the day, a chronic sleepwalker _________ .
6. To avoid sleepwalking, a person might try ________
7. Counseling by a doctor ________
8. First, Robert Ledru noticed that the bullet was from a Luger. Then, he determined that the footprint was somewhat unusual. Next,_______________ .
9. Another name for this selection could be _______
10. This selection is mainly about ______
And now, two roommates document their roommate's somnambulism on videotape and submit it to
Youtube. You will be amazed:
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the human species. Dogs walk and bark in their sleep. Here is the strange case of
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