Picture the scene. You awake from an uneasy sleep, drenched in sweat, heart pounding, guts churning, gasping for breath, with one foot in the world of nightmares and the other tangled in a suffocating duvet.
You look at the clock: it reads 3 a.m. You feel spooked like something terrible is going to happen but have no idea why. All you know as your mind races and you nervously eye the shadows is there'll be no sleep for you tonight.
And it's not because you've eaten something exotic, taken something you shouldn't, or overdone it on the booze. It's because you've awoken into the twilight zone that is 3 a.m., also know as the Devil's Hour, also regarded by paranormal experts as a time when pure evil in the form of demons and entities from the spirit world really like to make their presence felt.
Of course, it could all be superstitious nonsense, but in the early hours of the morning, when reality is but a dream and you're wide-eyed and open to suggestion, there's plenty of things not just to make you go "mmmmm," but to make you scream the house down in white-knuckled panic.
According to the myths of ages, the Devil's Hour is very real, and when we awake at 3 a.m. with a fretful stirring in our soul, it's because an evil as old as the hills is deliberately taunting us and mocking the death of Jesus christ, who, according to ancient manuscripts, died in the middle of the afternoon -- at 3 p.m.
Yahoo News reports that just like turning the cross upside down mocks ridicules the Christian faith, the inversion of 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. is considered a time-honored tool used by demons to plague and torment humans with.
Psychics suggest that at 3 a.m., the veil between our world and the one beyond the grave is lifted completely, and in a state of deep slumber, our minds are very susceptible to paranormal activity.
The founder and president of Mystic Investigations, Xavier Remington, is a firm believer in the supernatural explanation for the 3 a.m. jitters.
"Legend has it that if you wake up at exactly 3:00am for no reason in a state of terror then the Devil has paid you a visit literally or in your dreams.
"A mere state of heightened agitation might indicate demonic or poltergeist visitation."
The Amityville Horror was based on Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr., a man who butchered six members of his own family at 3 a.m. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is also supposedly based on true events and portrays multiple strange occurrences taking place during the Devil's Hour. In The Conjuring, the clocks stop just after 3 a.m., and things go downhill in a big way.
The number three also has strong associations with Christianity, namely the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and paranormal researcher Ben Eno believes we directly fuel the power of the Devil's Hour through our own belief.
"The belief in such a time, the Devil's Hour, could be fueling its power.
"If you go on thinking something spooky is going to happen, something spooky will probably happen."
It can't be denied that most of us have woken up at 3 a.m. to a world where delirium and devils hold sway, but isn't there a more scientific reason for our agitated state of wakefulness?
Apparently so. After several hours of deep slumber, our bodies may enter a lighter sleep at about 3 a.m., ensuring we are more easily roused from our restful reverie by the drip of a tap, the prowl of a cat, the roar of an engine, or a flatulent pillow companion.
Additionally, it's been programmed into our DNA to raise our weary heads when the moon sinks and the sun rises, and 3 a.m. is typically the time when night peaks and daytime is preparing to enter the stage.
Whatever the real reason behind the Devil's hour is, be it demons, indigestion, the nagging feeling that you've left the car door unlocked, or hardcore amphetamine addiction, there can be no denying that either way you slice and dice it, three as they say, is the magic number.
Now turn the lights off and get to bed.
[Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]