Nov. 30, 2007 -- Somewhere in between the Cinderella school of dreaming and the darker dreamscape of "The Matrix" lies Stephen LaBerge, an expert in a technique called lucid dreaming.
He believes that what happens to people in their dreams is as real an experience as what happens in real life.
By becoming aware that they're dreaming while they're asleep, lucid dreamers say they can learn to consciously control and manipulate the dreamscape, allowing them to live out their wildest fantasies in a virtual reality with no earthly boundaries.
A renowned lucid dreaming expert, LaBerge spent more than a decade researching the science of lucid dreaming at Stanford University. In his most groundbreaking experiment, he showed that lucid dreamers can consciously signal from the dream world while in REM sleep.
The author of several books on the topic, LaBerge developed a plethora of techniques to help people gain lucidity, including the NovaDreamer, a special sleep mask.
LaBerge believes that, with proper training, people can actually control their dreams, provided they learn how to recognize that they're dreaming while still asleep.
In a way, he is teaching people how to live their dreams.
"All you have to say is, 'This is a dream. Anything is possible.' If there's somewhere I wanna go, I'm there," LaBerge said.
Dreams as Adventure Sports
In lucid dreams, one can fly like a superhero, master martial arts with no fear of injury, or have a tryst with a total stranger.
"[It's] the place where you can do anything without external consequences. So it's a place you can safely explore how to live, what to do, what you might want to do," LaBerge said.
You might seek out a dead relative, try to conquer a lifelong fear, or you might even try to hold a conversation with God.
"There's sort of two activities that people like to do the most in lucid dreaming. … The first is, all right, you can violate the laws of physics and say, 'Look, I can step in the air, and I can fly,'" LaBerge said. "The other part is saying, 'What about the laws of society?'"
People also approach LaBerge about learning to have vivid dream sex.
"You know we have T-shirts that say 'Dream Sex is the only Safe Sex' … the lucid dream gives you an opportunity for that kind of simulation experience where you know you're safe," LaBerge said.
Learning How to Control Your Dreams
LaBerge teaches others how to master lucid dreaming at his Dream and Awakening Retreat held at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii, a setting picture perfect for dreamers. "Nightline" followed him for a week and meet several aspiring lucid dreamers, acolytes who came from far and wide.
Among them was New Yorker Chris Moss, 34, founder of the Moss Real Estate Group.
"I think the benefits of lucid dreaming are just totally profound," he said.
"I actually came on a whim," said Katherine Schneider, 28, who owns a health food store in Las Vegas. "I saw an advertisement on Yahoo and read about the Lucidity Institute and just decided to come down here and check it out."
Frank Pascoe, 49, an aspiring dream researcher from Oregon, said he already has the ability to control his dreams but wanted to learn about the lucid dreaming community.
Others expressed the wish to fly, or to take a spiritual journey to find out more about who they are.
Homemaker Evetta Hauser came from Arkansas because she had been studying lucid dreaming. She told "Nightline" about a recurring nightmare she's had her whole life.
"There was this zombie. And he was getting closer and closer and he grabbed me. And I knew I couldn't get away from him," Hauser said.
According to Hauser, lucid dreaming allowed her to confront her monster.
"And I said, 'This is a dream, and I'm going to turn you into a blue butterfly.' And I slung him over my shoulder and turned him into a blue butterfly," Hauser said.
Teaching people how turn their zombies into butterflies is a big part of what Dream Camp is all about.
"All you have to do is recognize, 'This is a dream. Of course, I'm being chased by this person who's gonna chase me as long as I run.' So what do I do? I stop and say, 'Wait! I'm afraid, but I'm afraid of something that can't hurt me, because it's a dream. I know that,'" LaBerge said.