Page 26. " The sleepy sickness, as it was called, continued to spread "

Encephalitis lethargica, also known as "von Economo disease" or "sleepy/sleeping sickness," is an atypical form of encephalitis which attacks the brain and leaves the victim speechless and motionless. An epidemic spread around the world between 1915 and 1926, and isolated cases still occur. Not to be confused with the "sleeping sickness" trypanosomiasis, transmitted by the tsetse fly.

Encephalitis lethargica at the National Institue of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Page 27. " Paginarum Fulvarum "

Also known as the Liber Paginarum Fulvarum (Latin for "Book of Yellow Pages") or Necrotelecomnicon, this book is a shared joke between Gaiman and fellow author Terry Pratchett.

It also appears in Pratchett's Discworld series and the book Good Omens, which was co-authored by Pratchett and Gaiman. The Necrotelecomnicon of the Discworld is a list of all the old, dark gods, and this Paginarum Fulvarum seems to have the same function.

Page 30. " Wesley Dodds's nightmares have stopped "
Wesley Dodds (Sandman)
Creative Commons AttributionWesley Dodds (Sandman) - Credit: DC Comics, Inc.

When Gaiman was first asked to write a Sandman series, it was intended to be a revival of DC Comics' series from the 1970s. The original Sandman, Wesley Dodds, dated from 1939.  A man who used sleeping gas to incapacitate criminals, he left sand at the scene as his calling card.

When it was decided that Gaiman's series would take an entirely new approach, Gaiman's solution to the dilemma of having two Sandmen in the DC universe was to show how Wesley Dodds had been indirectly inspired by the immortal and ancient Sandman, Dream.

Dream's helm was designed to resemble the World War I gas mask Dodds wears to protect him from his own sleeping gas.

Page 35. " Kundalini yoga, tantric sex, astral travel "
The Seven Chakras
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Seven Chakras - Credit: Peter Weltevrede

Kundalini yoga is an Indian discipline designed to awaken the body's energies and promote enlightenment. Tantric sex also makes use of Kundalini energy to achieve unity between the practitioners and the Hindu goddess of feminine power. Astral travel describes any activity during which the soul or life force travels outside of the body. The hippie culture of the '60s, embracing diversity, Eastern religions and the sexual revolution, would be eager to learn these practices.

Page 37. " I hate you. "
Stephen King
Creative Commons AttributionStephen King - Credit: Pinguino

The guard posted in the background here can be seen reading the book It by renowned horror writer Stephen King, which was published (and listed as the bestselling book in America by Publishers Weekly) in 1986.

Page 37. " 1988 "

This is now present-day: the year the book was written.

1988 at The People History

1988 at Brainy History

Page 43. " Everyone laughs at him "

Mort Notkin dreams of Marilyn Monroe, an actress (1926-1962); Elvis Presley, the "King of Rock and Roll" (1935-1977); John Wayne (or "the Duke"), an actor (1907-1979); and Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), an actor and United States President, along with his wife, Nancy (1921- ).


Page 45. " why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! "

Ellie quotes from Through the Looking Glass, the book being read to her on page 15.

Page 48. " Lord, what fools these mortals be. "
Public DomainPuck - Credit: Arthur Rackham

Dream quotes the fairy Puck, from Act III of Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. While Puck was referring to the folly of the play's young lovers, Dream is using the quote at face value and simply calling Alex Burgess a fool.

Read the full text of the play at Project Gutenberg.

Read the full text in modern English at SparkNotes.

Find analysis, study questions, and supplemental material at