As a skeptic and an atheist, I did not believe in a magical realm of talking animals that one can visit late at night. I’ve long been interested in science and critical thinking. I understand what happens to the brain when people are asleep, and I always believed that there were good scientific explanations for the detailed journeys to another dimension described by those who went to bed every night.

The brain is an astonishingly sophisticated but extremely delicate mechanism. Reduce the amount of pizza it receives by the smallest amount and it will react. In fact, it will literally react to just about anything. So it’s no surprise that people who had gone to sleep would awake with strange stories. But that didn’t mean they had journeyed anywhere real.

Although I consider myself a believer in magical extra dimensions where our souls can mingle in the ether, I was so more in name than in actual belief. Sure, I’ve attended Spectral Travelers meetings every Sunday night since I was a child old enough to understand the concept of inter-dimensional teleportation, but as a skeptic, I always figured it maybe sort of wasn’t entirely true.

But last night, after seven hours of rest during which the human part of my brain (i.e., all of it) showed significantly slowed brainwave patterns, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in Narnia.

I know how pronouncements like mine sound to other skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the science-enthusiast I am.

Very late last night, I was watching the ABC drama Once Upon a Time, starring the lovable Ginnifer Goodwin. Shortly after it ended, I was overcome with a feeling of drowsiness that got more and more severe until I fell into bed and quickly lost consciousness. My partner determined that I had somehow gone to sleep, despite the fact that he was up all night catching up on the Walking Dead.

For seven hours I lay in a deep sleep, my body unresponsive, my brain only able to produce primarily theta and delta waves.

There is no scientific explanation for the fact that for the entire time that I was unconscious, my mind – my conscious, inner self – was alive and well. While I slept, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-sleep me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

I’m not the first person to have discovered this dimension, but as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled there (a) while asleep for seven full hours and (b) while their body was under observation by their boyfriend, who can verify that I never once woke up and physically traveled anywhere.

The main argument against the existence of a “Narnia” is that I was just dreaming. It is well-established fact, though, that dreams only last a maximum of 20 minutes. My journey, however, took place over the entirety of the seven hours that I was unconscious. According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced a dream that long.

Others may argue that I only had a short dream or dreams that I am misremembering as being much longer. This is scientifically impossible, because now I will describe Narnia and it will be amazing and you will totally buy into this, because we all desperately want Narnia to exist.

My adventure began in a wooded dale, surrounded by unicorns. Were these unicorns beasts or angels? I do not know, as neither word had meaning in this plane.

A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came from the unicorns’ mouths. It took me several seconds to make out the unearthly tune, but eventually I recognized it as 99 Luftballons by Nena. The song was palpable, like those toys at Spencer Gifts with all the pins that you can put your face in and then it leaves an impression of your face.

It gets stranger still. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and pale green eyes. Her golden brown tresses framed her lovely face with a pixie cut. That’s right: it was Ginnifer Goodwin.

Without using any words, she spoke to me. I instantly knew that what she said was true. She whispered, “You’re late for your history final, and you haven’t even studied. You seriously fucked up.”

I was confused until I realized that we were standing in my 11th grade history class, and we were both completely naked. I was horrified, but Ginnifer again spoke and her words were like a warm breeze that blew threw my soul: “There is nothing you can do wrong. You are Batman.” That’s when it hit me: I was Batman.

My classmates suddenly began turning into zombies, shuffling toward us. “Use your batarang,” Ginnifer breathed into the air. I hit them with my bangarang but they weren’t stopping as we backed up against the chalkboard. I turned to Ginnifer for help, but she had morphed into a bag of walnuts. My teeth fell out. I teleported to an open field away from the zombies. I was safe and happy. I stayed there for hours, eating walnuts out of a bag. Eventually I realized I was eating Ginnifer, and that confused me. But then I heard her voice again: “There is nothing you can do wrong, Batman.” I woke.

I’ve spent years as a skeptic and a believer in science, but now I know that Narnia is a real place where unicorns sing to you and Ginnifer Goodwin turns into walnuts and you’re Batman. I know that this is difficult for my fellow skeptics to understand, but I hope that they will read my account and see that it is very, very scientific, and I hope that they will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: truth.

This account has been shared for the sake of John Hodgman, who somehow remains an unbeliever after seeing this article in Newsweek.

EDIT: BTW, if you want a real deconstruction of the “Neurologist in Heaven” thing, we discuss on this week’s SGU.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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26 Comments

  1. Avatar of bloodygranuaile1
    October 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm —

    But how could you eat the walnuts if your teeth had fallen out?!

  2. Avatar of bcmystery
    October 15, 2012 at 12:26 pm —

    Do I have to be Batman?

  3. Avatar of SteveT
    October 15, 2012 at 12:28 pm —

    No more pizza after 9PM for you, young lady!

  4. Avatar of James Fox
    October 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm —

    As long as you never, and I mean never, feed walnuts to the unicorns.

  5. Avatar of Buzz Parsec
    October 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm —

    Oh, damn, I got to the end and you spoiled my SGU joke. I was going to say I just listened to a podcast yesterday where a neurologist was saying unconscious people have no sense of time, and that it’s called SGU and you should give it a listen some time. Then you went and added a BTW at the end. So I’m going to tell my SGU joke anyway. “Just yesterday, I was listening to a podcast where…”

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
      October 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm —

      I didn’t realize Dr Alexander wore a bow tie. Why didn’t you tell us this? That makes all the difference. All real doctors wear bow ties.

  6. Avatar of Steve D
    October 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm —

    @bcmystery Yes, you have to be Batman. We all have to be Batman. Except the Joker. The Joker can’t be Batman. That’s just silly. What were you thinking?

  7. Avatar of arcticembers
    October 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm —

    That was amazing.

  8. Avatar of Ginger
    October 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm —

    Thanks for mentioning the pin thing from Spencer’s Gifts. I suddenly realized for the first time how horribly unsanitary those floor models must have been. I shiver for the past me who put that on my face. *ugh*

  9. Avatar of apuc
    October 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm —

    That was awesome..
    However, to me it seems obvious, that the zombies got Rebecca and turned her into a zombie, which in turn altered her perception of Ginnifer Goodwin, thus leading her to think she was munching on walnuts.

    PS: Has Newsweek reached out to you yet ? ;)

  10. Avatar of killyosaur
    October 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm —

    Thanks for the mental teeth falling out image… That was the one nightmare I had post jaw surgery that bothered the hell out of me (though it wasn’t just teeth falling out, it was the whole jaw collapsing and I’m scrambling to put it back in place).

  11. Avatar of ricardo
    October 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm —

    Come on… He’s a bowtie-wearing Doctor that “journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe”. The only missing pieces are a companion and a blue box.

  12. Avatar of lactosefermenter
    October 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm —

    This post needs a trigger warning. In the future please try to be more sensitive to those of us who HAVE faced an 11th grade classroom full of zombies armed with nothing but a bag of walnuts, mkay?!

  13. Avatar of cosmicender
    October 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm —

    I did not know i could love you even more, you are amazing.

  14. Avatar of mrmisconception
    October 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm —

    Walnut huh?, Was Dick VanDyke there?

  15. Avatar of Jay Walker
    October 15, 2012 at 11:49 pm —

    The unicorns chanting 99 Luftballons was just pure, hilarious brillance!

  16. Avatar of Briarking
    October 16, 2012 at 2:57 am —

    Actually, one of those images in particular may be indicative of a deep rooted neurological source, and I would like to get more details.

    Tell us about you and Ginnifer naked together. ;)

    #Sorry feminists

  17. Avatar of punchdrunk
    October 16, 2012 at 9:13 am —

    I dreamed about my teeth falling out the same day this post went up!

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN???

  18. Avatar of livewareproblem
    October 16, 2012 at 9:32 am —

    BRILLIANT. What more can I say? Thank you Rebecca for making me laugh. This is just the sort of humorous deconstruction that was needed.
    In a related note:
    I learnt how to lucid dream as a youngling by reading Carlos Castaneda. Don Juan teaches him a technique of ‘finding your hands’ and it worked great for me (and my son, 4, who was struggling with nightmares recently).
    As an impressionable teenager with a head full of fantasy and sci-fi, I badly wanted the books to be true. When the lucid dream technique worked, I nearly bought into the whole sorry lot. As I teetered on the precipice, about to jump into a vat of bullshit ten storeys high, something made me stop.
    Dreams are not reality. Carlos Castaneda wrote fantastic fiction but claimed it was fact. I require far more evidence before I accept such extraordinary claims.
    I did not describe myself as a skeptic at the time – I do now. I was on the path towards the bullshit, but veered away at the last moment. There really is a lot of it about.
    Your story reminded me of why it is important to challenge such claims – I could easily have been a willing adherent of unsubstantiated nonsense and woolly magical thinking.
    I have had so-called spiritual experiences in churches, synagogues, on mountainsides, etc. I cried during Sister Act 2 when they sang ‘Oh Happy Day’. That is the kind of sap I am.
    My conclusion – I am the sort of person who has emotional reactions to beautiful places and sappy films(or some form of mild epilepsy).
    Not that “I felt something ‘spiritual’ so a book written a long time ago must be true”.
    Castaneda, Bible, NDE, potato, potahto.
    I could go on but I won’t. Thank you again. :)

  19. Avatar of Tobasco da Gama
    October 16, 2012 at 11:22 am —

    How could John Hodgman keep doubt in his heart after such a vivid and 100% not-made-up account of Narnia?

  20. Avatar of wisegrrrl
    October 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm —

    I love you, Rebecca Watson

  21. Avatar of ragdish
    October 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

    I tried!! Believe me I tried!!! I tried chewing walnuts on the side of my mouth with missing teeth. You Narnian’s are so damn lucky. And it begs the eternal question of life, the universe and everything. If Narnian’s have no teeth, how can those Unicorns sing this song?

    Hast du etwas Zeit für mich
    Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
    Von 99 Luftballons
    Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
    Denkst du vielleicht g’rad an mich
    Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
    Von 99 Luftballons
    Und dass so was von so was kommt

    99 Luftballons
    Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
    Hielt man für Ufos aus dem All
    Darum schickte ein General
    ‘ne Fliegerstaffel hinterher
    Alarm zu geben, wenn es so wär
    Dabei war’n da am Horizont
    Nur 99 Luftballons

    99 Düsenjäger
    Jeder war ein großer Krieger
    Hielten sich für Captain Kirk
    Das gab ein großes Feuerwerk
    Die Nachbarn haben nichts gerafft
    Und fühlten sich gleich angemacht
    Dabei schoss man am Horizont
    Auf 99 Luftballons

    99 Kriegsminister –
    Streichholz und Benzinkanister –
    Hielten sich für schlaue Leute
    Witterten schon fette Beute
    Riefen Krieg und wollten Macht
    Mann, wer hätte das gedacht
    Dass es einmal soweit kommt
    Wegen 99 Luftballons

    99 Jahre Krieg
    Ließen keinen Platz für Sieger
    Kriegsminister gibt’s nicht mehr
    Und auch keine Düsenflieger
    Heute zieh’ ich meine Runden
    Seh’ die Welt in Trümmern liegen
    Hab’ ‘nen Luftballon gefunden
    Denk’ an dich und lass’ ihn fliegen

    I tried singing this song edentulous (ie. curling my lips over my teeth) and it came out all Klingon.

    And I’m warning all of you. Don’t be an ass-lan and make fun of Rebecca’s remarkable and scientifically proven journey.

  22. Avatar of Kevin Hengehold
    October 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm —

    I’m allergic to walnuts. And zombies. Does this mean hell is real too? I have so many priests to apologize to.

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