Have you dreamed of this man? Probably not, but let’s not rule it out just yet.
It’s making the rounds again. For whatever reason, such things tend to resurface as new in the internet age, like waves of weirdness crashing on the shores of pop culture. You may remember it from 2006, 2009, or even 2011. This story gets around.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, here’s what the actual story is:
“In January 2006 in New York, the patient of a well-known psychiatrist draws the face of a man that has been repeatedly appearing in her dreams. In more than one occasion that man has given her advice on her private life. The woman swears she has never met the man in her life.
That portrait lies forgotten on the psychiatrist's desk for a few days until one day another patient recognizes that face and says that the man has often visited him in his dreams. He also claims he has never seen that man in his waking life.
The psychiatrist decides to send the portrait to some of his colleagues that have patients with recurrent dreams. Within a few months, four patients recognize the man as a frequent presence in their own dreams. All the patients refer to him as THIS MAN.
From January 2006 until today, at least 2000 people have claimed they have seen this man in their dreams, in many cities all over the world: Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Tehran, Beijing, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, New Dehli, Moskow etc. [sic]
At the moment there is no ascertained relation or common trait among the people that have dreamed of seeing this man. Moreover, no living man has ever been recognized as resembling the man of the portrait by the people who have seen this man in their dreams.”
This Man has become a phenomenon unto itself, with a life of its own. The story has its own website and has been the focus of several internet memes over the years. Even though the story has been told over and over again, across many blogs, including io9 and Neatorama, as well as many lesser known blogs, forums and social networks, its hasn’t really changed since day one. That staying power might suggest something about its verity, but we’ll get to that.
Since its inception, This Man has been an intriguing idea; that multiple people, apparently thousands of people, could dream about the same individual, giving the same description and telling of the same persona. People all over the world sharing a dream? Is that possible?
If Erwin László’s Akashic Field Theory is true, it could be possible that multiple people could share dream elements. In case you aren’t familiar, László’s theory says that there is a fundamental energy or field that contains all of the information of and in the universe, which is accessed by our brains and which is the basis of consciousness. His theory is complicated, and based on very complex mathematics, but it generally cites a phenomenon known in physics as a Zero Point Field, wherein there are no energies or matter present. The problem is that researchers have found that Zero Point Fields actually contain a mysterious and undefinable energy. It is that energy that László (and others) believe is the Akashic Field.
It’s an unconfirmed theory, but if you think about it, should it prove true that our thoughts do not reside within our own heads, but rather exist in the ether, then couldn’t some of us be accessing the same information in our subconscious during dreams?
So, in a sense, it’s theoretically possible, if unlikely, that many people shared dream elements.
Over the years, many have theorised on the various aspects of This Man, and extranatural explanations like Akashic Field Theory notwithstanding, there are some interesting ideas floating about.
To explain such a phenomenon in terms of pop psychology, one could easily invoke Carl Jung and his Jungian Archetypes. According to Jung there are certain characters in our psyche – that is the psyche of all humanity – that tend to reappear in our subconscious and which have an effect on our worldview and the way in which we make decisions and solve problems. The Jungian view is popular with dream interpreters and as such This Man is prime territory.
Looking at This Man as a Jungian Archetype, the suggestion is that the man in question, the man in the dreams, doesn’t exist in reality, but is one of those universal characters that is fundamental to the human psyche. Jungian psychology is one leg of the foundation of modern psychology, though many of his ideas are technically outdated, so this avenue may not go as far as one might hope, but again, it is possible.
Of course, such a discussion would not be compete without invoking inter-dimensional beings, aliens, psychic warfare and all manner of weirdness. It’s even been suggested that This Man is God Himself appearing in people’s dreams. Is This Man an intruder? An actual entity, interacting with thousands of people for its own purposes? It would be so much fun to speculate, but such is not necessary in this case, for you see, this is a hoax.
As reported by KnowYourMeme.com (and other sources), this story has its origins in media marketing. The story is the brain-child of journalist, sociologist and marketing strategist Andrea Natella. Natella, also known as Luther Blissett, is the original owner of ThisMan.org, and is also the owner of an Italian advertising agency called Gorilla Marketing, which specialises in creating subversive hoaxes for media campaigns, among other things. The current whois record for ThisMan.org is private, but it is known that the site was briefly acquired by the horror movie production company Ghost House Pictures, in promotion for their movie ‘This Man’.
If you look again at the story itself, there are some holes that should be noted. Namely, the name of the so-called “well-known psychiatrist” isn’t given in any of the accounts, which as mentioned are consistent between tellings. We also have no idea when the original drawing and subsequent investigation took place, other than the vague notion of the month and year it happened. And to top it off, if a clinician, such as a professional psychiatrist, encountered such a phenomenon as This Man, it’s virtually guaranteed that it would have appeared in psychology journals the world over…it has not.
Here’s the problem though: even though the facts of the case are relatively well known, and that it is a hoax is almost as famous as the original story, there are people who swear that they have dreamed of the man in the picture. The obvious response is that they’re lying or that they’ve tricked themselves into believing it to be true. Leading theories on dream mechanics suggest that the landscapes of our individual dreamlands are populated by memories, therefore it could be that they saw the image and/or the story and had the dream afterward. Could it be, though, that the original hoax has spawned the very phenomenon it hoaxed?
The case for This Man is pretty well closed. It was uncovered as a hoax relatively quickly after its original dissemination, but as mentioned, it seems to be making the rounds again. The idea is, in and of itself, quite interesting, and has generated a good amount of discussion about how such a thing could work. That it didn’t actually happen is almost immaterial…almost that is. As a thought experiment however, the scenario offers much to ponder, so where hoaxes are generally received with a good amount of scorn, perhaps this one deserves some leeway.