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'i dream of covid' Tracks Subconscious Under Quarantine


The other night, I broke into my NPR colleague's apartment and stole all her toilet paper. She had dozens and dozens of rolls - so many rolls - stay with me here - so many I then had to steal a beach towel to carry them all, bundled, bulging, slung over my shoulder Santa Claus-style. This was - yes, thank God - a dream - one of several crazy COVID-19 dreams I have had of late. And it seems I am not alone. Many of us are reporting strange and strangely vivid dreams right now, including Erin Gravley. She has launched a website called, where you can post your coronavirus dreams. Erin Gravley joins me now from her home in San Rafael, Calif.

Welcome. Hey there.

ERIN GRAVLEY: Hi. Thanks for having me on.

KELLY: So I was just looking at the website. You have had responses from all over - all over the world. Give us a couple of the standouts.

GRAVLEY: Yes. So there actually have been recently a lot from Italy. One that hasn't gone up yet was somebody who was driving around in the back of an ambulance, and the driver was getting more and more frustrated until he basically said, this isn't my job; I'm done with this. So that was a funny one.

KELLY: Ambulance anxiety dreams - yeah. I mean, it seems as though - the ones I was reading seem to run the gamut from really sad, tragic dreams - which makes sense 'cause this is such a sad and tragic time - to crazy, you know, like, COVID-19 overlapping with work anxiety dream. I have colleagues who are reporting dreams where everyone is speaking as though they're in a Zoom meeting, and they're all spread out on a screen in the dream. Are you finding patterns that people, wherever they are in the world, are reporting some common quarantine dreams?

GRAVLEY: Yes. So that's what's interesting - is that something about this experience is kind of filtering down into our dreams in similar ways. So one of the earliest patterns that I noticed was people associating hugging with danger or menace. So there are a couple dreams where the dreamers described that someone wanted to hug them, and it made them very frightened and - even to the point where they would yell, like, you're hurting me; you're going to kill me.

There's been a lot with food, too, and restaurants, which was interesting to me because I know that especially in the news, there's been a lot of anxiety about how these businesses are going to maintain while everything is shut down - so lots of anxiety surrounding food.

KELLY: So what does this project look like three months from now, six months from now, a year from now, whenever we are past the worst of this? What will you do with all these submissions that people have sent you?

GRAVLEY: Well, I hope people do continue to submit. I was particularly interested in the patterns. So I had read this book called "The Third Reich Of Dreams" by Charlotte Beradt, and that's where I got the idea. This was a writer and journalist who lived in Germany under Hitler's reign, and she started collecting people's dreams. And she collected enough of them that she was then able to study them more closely. And so the book is organized sort of like these archetypes that started appearing.

And that's the part that I'm interested in - is sort of seeing geographically and as the rules change or the pandemic changes - how that then transfers into our dreams and what patterns might emerge. So I'd like to look at that. I'm not a researcher or data scientist, so it's sort of anecdotal, but it's very fascinating.

KELLY: Does sound like the beginning of a book - why not?

GRAVLEY: Yeah, sure. We have time. We're all sitting around.

KELLY: That's Erin Gravley. She and her sister, Grace Gravley, started the website I Dream Of Covid. Grace Gravley does the illustrations, by the way.

Erin Gravley, thanks so much for talking to us.

GRAVLEY: Thank you.

KELLY: And sweet dreams. I hope you sleep well tonight.

GRAVLEY: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF AGNES OBEL'S "MARY (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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