Imagine you’re in a dark room, the ambient light from the neighborhood seeping through your blinds. You can see just enough to make out the shapes of the furniture. Shadows adorn every corner, varying shades of gray and purple. But one shadow in particular stands out.
This shadow is darker than the room, darker than the unlit corners. You focus on it, willing your eyes to adjust to the dimness, and then—it moves. Startled, you quickly flip on the switch or pull the chain or turn the knob, anything to flood the area with warm, blessed light. And of course, there’s nothing there. This is easily chalked up to imagination, or “trick of the eyes” (whatever the hell that even means), but in reality, the phenomenon occurs more frequently than you might guess. Thousands of reports from all over the world address this event, these entities. They even have a name: Shadow People.
Shadow People are described in many ways but, interestingly enough, three types claim the majority. They are almost always seen at night, with a fair amount of sightings taking place as the observer either drifts off to sleep or is just waking. There seems to be something about that transitionary period between the conscious and unconscious that increases the chances of an experience.
The first type is a formless, inky blob that floats across the ceiling or next to the bed. These dark entities seem relatively benign and do not often stir too much fear in the observer. In fact, it may even appear that they lack any type of intention or intelligence at all. Some witnesses report very fluid lines that lack any definition, while others have reported seeing “tentacle” like appendages projecting from the body. They may be as small as a dinner plate or as large as a St. Bernard. Not much of a Shadow Person at all: let’s refer to them as Shadow Anomalies, shall we?
The second type that is often reported are childlike figures. These Shadow People prefer to watch the observer until noticed–and then disappear. They are usually described as being around four feet tall or so and very fast. People who have witnessed these small, but unnerving, creatures often report a feeling of being watched before they even see the entity. There is definitely a more intelligent nature to the Shadow Children, but they don’t necessarily seem intent on harming anyone. If anything, they appear to simply be curious. That’s not to say that their presence should be brushed aside, but it certainly makes sleeping at night a tad easier.
The third type most commonly reported, and by far the most terrifying, is that of The Hat Man. The Hat Man is almost always seen lurking in doorways, watching people sleep. He brings with him a feeling of doom or oppression and sometimes even paralysis. Many people describe this particular entity as being abnormally tall, usually around seven or eight feet. He is almost always seen wearing a hat or perhaps a cape. Even worse are his eyes, which are described as a deep, burning red. The Hat Man is not friendly. The Hat Man is not benign. To some, he is demonic and sleep is dreaded each night as the victim fears his return. A simple Google search will show The Hat Man’s effect on people all over the globe. Visit The Hatman Project by Tim Brown to read individual stories and see for yourself.
The skeptic inside us should look for a reasonable answer, and medical science has provided one. Sleep Paralysis, a fairly common sleep condition, affects more than three million Americans. Sleep Education Org. claims that Sleep Paralysis is linked to Narcolepsy and can be caused by stress, substance abuse, or even genetics. The symptoms are usually the same: subject experiences total body paralysis either falling into or coming out of a deep sleep. Often times, hallucinations, both visual and audial, accompany the immobilization. A deep rooted sense of fear takes hold, and the subject swears that someone—or something—is watching them. This diagnosis is comforting to those who have suffered, maybe for years, with this ailment. After all, a medical condition is much easier to handle than the alternative might suggest.
But others aren’t so sure.
What about the individuals who don’t experience paralysis at all when seeing these anomalies? What about those folks who aren’t even sleeping when this occurs? Then the answer becomes the obligatory “It’s only your imagination”.
While there are undoubtedly cases that can be confirmed as imagination or poor lighting or stress, what about the others? There are individuals living in different countries, with different backgrounds: men, women, Christians, Atheists, the elderly, the young—all reporting similar experiences. Incredibly similar. The sense of fear, the tall man in the door way watching them, the small, darting Shadow Children in the corner of their eye. How many witnesses does it take to justify acknowledgment?
Many have questioned the diagnosis of Sleep Paralysis as an answer to these experiences. The documentary The Nightmare, currently available on Netflix and directed by Rodney Asher, offers a terrifying, but eye-opening, perspective.
Others have suggested that perhaps Shadow People aren’t something so sinister. In fact, some claim that they are angels, visiting deceased loved ones, aliens, or even a side effect of astral projection. These theories are gaining strength in the paranormal world, with individuals searching for answers.
This field (that of the paranormal) is one with more questions than answers, and probably will be for some time. But we are making progress. There have been scientific advances, which are pushing believers closer and closer to legitimate proof of the supernatural. Until then, skepticism is to be expected and should even be welcomed—it keeps us grounded. But we also need to remember to ask ourselves what the alternative could mean.