The Weirdest Things That People Have (Literally) Dreamed Up

by Amber Leventry
Originally Published: 

I have heard stories about folks having some vivid and wacky dreams since the pandemic started. Our fears and anxiety are presenting themselves when we’re trying to sleep. Add our disrupted sleep schedules (because what is even a schedule anymore?) and folks are bound to come up with detailed and strange dreams. Doctors and professors reassure us that this is normal, but waking up from a stressful alternative reality can be overwhelming. One pandemic dream was too bizarre to not try to replicate, though. A man from Wisconsin dreamed he had created a recipe called King’s Hand, which was a hollow, hand-shaped M&M cookie that was stuffed with … Greek salad.

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His Twitter feed details how he made this, um, delicacy and also reveals the falafel hand he baked after it was suggested to him.

While the absurdity of this viral dream-to-reality story was fun, I wondered how many other good, bad, or ugly realities were born from unconscious states. Turns out great ideas don’t just happen in the shower or during a long car drive; if you can remember your dreams—which I often don’t—you may be sitting on the next great invention.

Take the sewing machine, for example. Elias Howe had a dream he was being chased by cannibals who wanted to cook and eat him but when we woke up all he could think about were the spears the cannibals held. They had holes down the shaft and when they moved up and down something in Howe’s brain leapt from I’m going to be eaten to how can I use this to make a needle and thread more efficient? He invented the sewing machine in 1845 and got the patent in 1846.

Dreams have held the answers to scientists’ discoveries too. James Watson dreamed of two intertwined serpents, and that led him to consider the double helix as the shape of DNA. Dmitry Mendeleev came up with the periodic table during a dream and the idea for Google came to Larry Page in a dream. I dream about the bad haircut I had in high school, and sometimes the possibility I didn’t turn off the iron after melting perler beads for my kids’ creations. But sure, 22-year-old Page just came up with a search engine while in and out of nocturnal erections.

Plenty of creatives have credited their sleep to their best work. The Beatles claim dreams inspired hits #9 Dream and Yesterday. Jack Kerouac composed a book of his dreams. Steven King’s Misery and Dreamcatcher were inspired by dreams, and so were Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory was also born from a dream. I thought it was inspired by drugs or lead paint, but it turns out the melting clocks are a nod to the fact time is arbitrary during our dream state.

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But what about the rest of us? Maybe I haven’t been able to crack the code to the next great invention or viral recipe, but I wanted to see if my friends have ever made dream-inspired decisions.

One of my best friends dreamed a way to memorialize her brother. He was murdered in 2010 while biking home after a late shift at the restaurant where he worked. He was mugged, shot, and left to be found by a pedestrian who was walking through the park. My friend later dreamed she got a tattoo of a fork, knife, and spoon to remember her brother Neil, so she did. Several of my writer friends said they have dreamed story ideas, memes, and jokes and have been able to write down their thoughts after waking up. Teacher friends have dreamed lessons and then implemented them into the classroom.

An old rugby teammate, best known as Camper, said this: “I had this truly excellent zombie dream in college where the zombie outbreak was just another fuckin daily hassle. I still have a series of cartoons I wrote about it, and let me tell you, the CDC in those cartoons is a lot more on the ball with safety PSAs than we are currently seeing. AHEM.” Dreams can be confusing and cathartic in their mysterious ways. For others they can prepare us for unpredictable outbreaks before they even happen.

But where were the other recipes? Was the cookie hand dude from Wisconsin the only one who dreams about recipes? I found an article called Recipe Dream Interpretation that seemed to indicate that wasn’t the case because there was a full analysis of why a person may dream about creating recipe ingredients (symbolizes creativity) or what it means if they dream about certain types of recipes. Dreaming about a family recipe may mean you have a strong desire to continue family legacy; it could also mean you’re trying to break out of the dreams your family has for you. If you dream about a recipe that is missing ingredients, it may indicate you are missing knowledge to finish a task. But with instinct and existing skills, you will figure it all out!

The article also digs into what it means to dream about a meat, salad, or dessert dish. Cookie hand guy dreamed about salad and dessert combined, so that could be interpreted as his desire to have a healthy lifestyle balanced with a devotion to leisure.

Look, I didn’t say this was a scientific article. I am fully aware we can spin our dreams to mean anything. I am also aware that not all weird recipes were created in the bedroom. Sometimes nightmares start in the kitchen and end at someone’s potluck. If you are interested in bologna cake, ham and bananas hollandaise, or a SpaghettiOs-and-wieners gelatin mold, find the recipes here. And good luck sleeping after your mayonnaise-and-cream-cheese-based meal.

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