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The first thought that crossed Steven Paynter’s five-year-old mind was that someone had broken into the house in Bury, Greater Manchester, England. “Around 1986, my mother took me around the local estate to her friend’s house,” Paynter said. “I believed that she had been burgled because her kitchen – her entire kitchen – was covered, and I do mean covered, in big black handprints. Almost animal like.”

He didn’t say anything about the obvious black handprints, not until years later. “I mentioned the incident to my mother, what I saw. She looked at me and said, ‘nothing on the wall Steven.’” He didn’t know how that could be. The prints were there, and his mother’s friend said she saw shadows and the image of dark faces on the walls. His mother was immune. “There was nothing on the wall from her point of view.”

From that point, dark images have followed Paynter. The animal-like prints he saw when he was five have turned into entities. “I’ve seen a big black mass with red eyes always at my door,” he said. “The Hat Man always in the background, and typical shadow people just like our shadows on a sunny day.”

These “typical” shadow people have become so commonplace to Paynter; he’s given them a nickname, “Joeys.” He sees these “Joeys” mostly in his dreams, and his dreams are violent.

“Every time after this that I’ve encountered these beings I’ve always been in a sluggish state and able to see my body in bed,” he said. “Always I’ve been chased. They have blocked my doorways and tried to scratch or make physical contact with me.”

Doctors have told Paynter these dreams are caused by a sleep disorder, but he knows they’re not. When these entities appear to Paynter, the room seems to buzz with electricity, and he knows something is there.

“The situations are like an out of body experience,” he said. “I can see myself in bed.” At sixteen, he dreamt he was outside being chased through his garden, into the house, and onto his bed that started to envelope him. “I awoke but I couldn’t move. I felt like I’d just run the London Marathon. I had a cramp in my left leg.”

More recently, he’s discovered physical marks. “I have awoke usually feeling like I’ve been active all night. Muscles tense, aching, even fingers hurt,” he said. “On two occasions I’ve had small scratches on my side, my right side, always after an encounter.” During these encounters, his “Joeys” are the ones to approach him; the Hat Man simply stands in the background, watching.

None of these encounters, however, equal what Paynter calls “the attack.”

“It was around three years ago, I went to bed as normal and got my usual pre-attack buzzing, and I fell asleep,” he said. The next thing he knew he stood at the side of his bed looking at his body lying next to his then-girlfriend, his eyes frozen open. “I know instantly what’s going on and try and wake up. I panicked because I never have seen myself like that and thought I was dying.”

Paynter’s dream self turned and saw three shadow entities in his room, two “Joeys” and the Hat Man. “I’m now confused and scared more then usual.” One of the shadow entities lunged at Paynter, the other reached out to scratch him. As usual during this dream state, Paynter’s movements were slow, like he was moving under water, but Paynter, a jujitsu instructor, fought these entities nonetheless.

“I’ve never done it before or since but I went for them and they put up no resistance,” he said. Paynter wrestled with the shadow people, landing enough punches they retreated behind the Hat Man. “I then turned around and for the first time I saw a line, a silvery line like a tail almost from my back, then I awoke wet through, and heart going very fast.” He could still feel the shadow beings’ presence in the room, but he could no longer see them.

Paynter’s fingers were sore from the attack. When he checked his face in the mirror, the left side bore a slap mark.

Since the attack, the encounters, that occur every two weeks, have changed. “After the fight, all they do now is circle me,” he said. “That’s like you or I would to an object we never seen before.”

Paynter can’t accept the fact that these encounters aren’t real. “I’m told it’s my brain,” he said. “Science tells me it’s a fault with me, but my heart tells me it’s not and I don’t know how or what the hell is going on. I’m 31 now and I know I’m stuck with it, but I’d like an answer.”

He recently received one. When talking with an ex-girlfriend he’s still close to, she told him these encounters aren’t all in his head. “A few years ago I was in hospital with a bacteria infection and was very ill,” he said. “She told me something that she never mentioned before, so this is first time I ever heard of it.”

The night before she took Paynter to the hospital, he lay in bed sweating with a fever. Paynter began breathing heavily and she leaned over to wake him, but when she did, she saw something she didn’t expect. “She caught in the corner of her eye a large man, a shadow that was lit by the streetlight.” She blinked, but the shadow man was still there. She blinked again and it was gone.

Paynter awoke and said, “Did he scare you? Can’t even stop while I’m ill.” Due to the high fever, Paynter doesn’t remember that night, but that incident convinced his girlfriend his stories of shadow man attacks were real. “After that I never believed what the doctor said to you,” she told him. And she always kept the light on.

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Jason Offutt is paranormal investigator, an author of several paranormal books such as “What Lurks Beyond,” “Darkness Walks: Shadow People Among us,” “Haunted Missouri,” and “Paranormal Missouri” and a teacher of journalism at Northwest Missouri State University.
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