Hallucinating Lilliput

Lilliputian hallucinations are where small figures of animals or people appear as visions, often in the bottom half of the visual field, sometimes as dancing, playful creatures. Last year the German Journal of Psychiatry published a fascinating English-language article about these curious perceptual distortions.

They can appear in a number of conditions, including psychosis and schizophrenia, during alcohol withdrawal-induced delirium tremens, or when part of the retina starts to degrade in macular degeneration.

The article has three case studies that give a flavour of these often surprising hallucinations and goes on to discuss what we know about their cause.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the case studies of an alcohol dependent man (who was drinking about 50 units a day!) who suddenly cut-down on his drinking and started experiencing striking withdrawal effects as a result:

Following this, his sleep had markedly reduced and he started seeing little people all over the house. They were about a foot high, with funny colorful dresses, weird faces, big eyes and mouths. Some of them were also wearing spectacles. They would follow him all around the house and he could hear their footsteps. Patient would also see them drinking his blood (did not elaborate further) and complained of physical weakness as a result. Initially, patient attributed his experiences to some evil spirits present in the house and changed the house. But the experience continued.

Perhaps one of the most surprising causes of these hallucinations is macular degeneration, sometimes diagnosed as Charles Bonnet syndrome, owing to the fact that simple damage to the retina can lead to complex hallucinations that seem to take on a life of their own.

Link to ‘Lilliputian Hallucinations. Understanding a strange Phenomenon’.

6 Comments

  1. Posted November 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    One very interesting thing about delirium tremens is that the person often dreams of snakes. Why snakes? I am also curious whether the famous German chemist who discovered the structural formula of the Benzene ring in a dream in which he saw a snake putting its tail into its mouth, was actually having DT. Obviously, not all of us who dream of snakes are DT patients.

  2. Christopher Charles
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Funny how this topic mentions Psychosis.I went through a few episodes of Psychosis myself and I had a few hallucinations, one of them was very frightening indeed, I was looking at the sky and I saw literally a wall of snakes coming at me, thousands of them, I also had hallucinations of insects and spiders crawling over me. I never had hallucinations of little people however. Historically our ancestors had similar experiences, the Mayans worshipped Quezacotl (Pictured as a god of Snakes and Insects.) and also the Greek “Medusa”.

  3. Posted February 12, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    A few years ago, in 2007 I had a seizure and as a result I started taking some supplements to make up for the way the seizure left me feeling, ginkgo biloba (500mg), vitamins and other herbal supplements. About a full year later I suddenly stopped taking all this at once and I started hearing full blown voices and hallucinating. Once at work I heard these voices talking to me that sounded like my coworkers and I felt they attacked my brain. I felt as if something started eating me up from the top of my brain to the top of my neck inside and after that I immediately felt I was having trouble making sense of my surroundings. Eventually I started feeling better.

  4. Tonya Geddings
    Posted March 19, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I just want some answers about why i hallucinate snakes,people,&hear voices. I have experienced this for the most part of my 34 years. I have tried many medications and it always comes back.Stronger than the time before it.

  5. Brandon Harry
    Posted May 13, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    I’m currently having with-drawls right now. I had a dream earlier that I was at work gettiing chased my hundreds of mutated scary looking animals And was covered with spiders.

  6. mario garcia
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Well Guys, I’am currently having a Delirium Tremens from sudden withdrawal from alcohol. I should have gone to the hospital,I know better, I’m a biologist with alcoholism. It started yesterday and the experience is continuing right now. Last night was intense with visual hallucinations (VH)that were carefully orchestrated,very intricate,complex. Some features of this experience which i have heard others report as well: Intensity,color and vividness of VH intensifies more in the dark than in ambient room light. The more interesting,at first terrifying,were Human Forms, male&female forms from really small(one about 12″) to 6’5″ they can float across room,camouflage themselves around furniture,room fixtures,etc. It was important to them to make eye contact with you. Some of their faces grossly distorted in front of me with exaggerated facial features. they seemed to ware contemporary clothes, a few females were in lingerie and looked like street whores. this visual display included a variety of puppet-like,cartoonish characters (sm.- 6ft.) that had moving facial parts. There were some freaky octopus creatures with long, spongy,tube-like tentacles that reached across the room. some resembled moving bushes. there also appeared to be
    a thin film of moving water over ceiling and one wall. Soon a variety of fish with weird full-bodies(very colorful) were moving parallel to wall
    A few snakes and rats were present.

    That was last night. Today, it was less eventful. About 3-4 human forms (normal adult size)were running strings over my bed and me and across room .
    there are other details. but, I’m tired. Good news
    most of the hallucinations disappear when bright room light turns on. Delirium Tremens from alcohol withdrawal is very dangerous and life-threating. I was not using any other drugs. Im over the worst now. and leaving lights on. They are not real but entertaining once you get over the fright. A lot of people freak out and run out of the house. There is a physiological and biochemical reason for this. look it up. To me these creatures were from hell.


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