One of the weirdest phenomena of the paranormal world is that of what are called Shadow People. The term Shadow People covers a wide range of ghostly phenomena involving mysterious vague specters that seem to lurk just on the periphery of our perceptions for reasons that are unknown, often just appearing to watch or observe. Although descriptions vary, they are typically said to be very tall and thin, all black like a humanoid shadow, generally male in shape and with indistinct features, and often appearing almost 2 dimensional in nature, as if projections that lack any real substance. It’s not uncommon for them to be described as wearing thick cloaks or capes of old fashioned designs, and tall, brimmed hats are often reported as well. Although no facial features are typically noted, some accounts mention glowing eyes. Generally, they are only fleetingly glimpsed, often out of the corner of the eye, seeming to fade or vanish when directly observed, but not always. Although they usually look like a shadowy silhouette of a man, they can also be more amorphous masses, mists, or blobs, sometimes shifting shapes right before a witness’ eyes.
Shadow People are most commonly seen as merely observing, rarely if ever interacting with people or the world around them, and although they don’t seem to do anything to any negative effect they are almost always reported as possessing a malevolent or sinister air about them, emanating a sense of foreboding and dread. They are also known to vanish or flee when detected, and as scary as they are, Shadow People are mostly seen as rather shy and harmless in the grand scheme of things. Yet some encounters can be very intense and terrifying, and among some of the most frightening of these are accounts when these entities appear in homes, often looming over the bed of a sleeping person, who usually wakes to see the demonic looking figure standing there, and finds themselves paralyzed with fear or held in place by some unknown force.
Such weird reports are rather numerous, and share some similarities and common traits in that the witness is faced with a mysterious black figure standing in their room and overcome with a sensation of overwhelming dread, terror, and of being helpless or unable to move. One Reddit account is a good example of this type of report, and comes from a witness who wasn’t even asleep when the paranormal came for him. He says that he had just taken a shower and was settling into bed when things took a turn for the bizarre, which he describes as follows:
One night I stayed up kinda late and decided it was finally time for bed. I took my shower, got ready, turned my nightly podcast on and hopped into bed. Suddenly, I feel like something is watching me. I look up towards the window and I see a large black figure standing there. I'd say somewhere between 6 - 6 1/2 feet tall. He was completely black and I couldn't see his face. Just a dark shadowy figure. I had a sudden feeling of fear and utter terror, I turned my head away from the window, covered my face and attempted to forget about it. I hardly slept that night.
The next night I walked over to my window and checked to see if I could see the figure again. I didn't see anything so I turned off the lights and tried again to sleep. Within minutes of me putting my head onto my pillow I felt like I was being watched again. I peeked up over my covers and saw the same figure standing at my glass door and looking at me. This time I just stared back at him for a little bit before getting scared and covering my face again. He had a pretty fair build, wasn't to big but also wasn't too skinny. Just fair. Again, he had no face and was looking at me.
This kept happening for the next few nights, each time he appeared closer to me. The next he was at my screen door, then the foot of my bed, then in the middle of my room, and finally looking over me beside my bed. I felt so heavy and fearful. I felt as if I was being pushed into my bed. I could move and all but I just couldn't shake the heavy feeling. I started to get irritated and yelled out "BE GONE! I DON'T WANT YOU HERE!" I then prayed over and over till I finally fell asleep. The next night he wasn't there. I have exactly zero idea what it was and that's probably one of the most strangest things I've seen in this house.
It is interesting to note that this encounter happened when the witness was totally awake, making it unlikely that it was all just the result of a bad dream. A similar experience of a witness who would see this phenomenon while awake was reported on Yahoo Answers by an Adam Norton, who relays the strange incidents experienced by his brother-in-law, Victor, of which he says:
He is 48 years old now, and he claims that he has had a dark, hooded figure appear to him, again and again, throughout his entire life. To him, the figure looks like an old, robed, monk. It doesn’t speak. It doesn’t gesture. It just appears, and stares at him. This is not while he’s coming in or out of sleep. This is when he’s wide awake. Obviously, this can be quite startling at times since it’s always unexpected. But he’s not afraid of the figure. He was when he was younger, but over the years it’s just become a part of his life. This is just something he sees at times, and he knows it means him no harm after years of just being watched.
Another tale typical of bedroom Shadow People encounters is told by another witness who says that in the days leading up to her experience she had been plagued by feelings of being watched at night as she lay in her bed, of scarcely glimpsed movement out of the corner of her eye, and that there was an anomalous feeling of negativity and coldness emanating from her closet and mirror. She tried to put this out of her mind, thinking that she was just tired and that it was her imagination playing tricks on her, but then one night it would apparently turn out to be anything but. She says:
When I woke up, the figure was RIGHT in front of me, & the first thing I saw was its hand. I didn't look up at its face or anything, but just from looking at its hand, I could tell that it was dressed in a robe-like outfit, kinda like back in the day when Jesus was alive. I also had the feeling that the figure was very tall. Anyways, when I saw its hand, it was opened, almost like it was telling me to take it. That's not the creepy part tho. The creepy part started when I had a complete feeling of fear come over me. It was almost like my soul was frightened. Then, (get ready for this) it tried to pick me up!
Now when I say that I was being lifted by this black figure, I don't mean my physical body. It LITERALLY felt like my soul was being lifted from my body. (But then again, I'm starting to wonder if it was my soul or just my astral body). Anywho, all I remember saying during all of this was "No! No!" but I also had the thought "please don't take me" running through my mind. It ended up letting me go, & then I woke up again, almost as if I was double-dreaming. Now I'm well aware that astral projection can seem like double-dreaming or lucid dreaming, so I'm starting to wonder if it was just a dream or if I was on the verge of astral projecting. Either way it goes, something was very weird about that night.
There is also the experience of a witness from Ireland who gives her experience on Your Ghost Stories. She claims that she had been haunted by these occurrences for about 4 years, and that they had started rather suddenly, for no discernible reason. It began rather innocuously enough, with the feeling of eyes upon her or of someone being in the room when no one was around, and there was also the odd fact that this bedroom was always noticeably colder than the rest of the house, but it would rapidly escalate from there, and she says of the unfolding bizarreness:
I started waking up in the middle of the night to see a dark figure standing beside my bed, looking at me or sometimes closer up to my face. I couldn't make out a face just a dark figure. I felt it was male. When this happened, for some reason I would wave my hand in front of its face, for it to go away, as if I'm clearing it or something. It went then. I was never afraid of this, I just thought it was an annoyance that I had been woken up! I usually would fall back to sleep straight away after this. I never thought it was anything more than my imagination, when it first started happening. I used to joke to my friends about it, calling it my hallucinations! I always hoped that it was in my sleep!
Then weird things started to happen. I'd be lying in bed and I'd feel my blankets being pulled from the bottom of the bed. I didn't look to see what it was or anything, as I was freaked out. Then other times I would feel like somebody was sitting on my bed, like down by my legs. I could actually feel the indent on the bed. It felt kind of like a parent would sit on your bed. It felt so real. Again I didn't look, as I was so scared, so I would pray really hard and try to go back to sleep. Sometimes when I was lying on my side in bed, I could feel the blankets being taken off me from behind me. It would get cold. Again I'd just pull my blankets back, not look, and try to go back to sleep. Another thing that has happened, on a few occasions, is I've felt as if I'm being tucked into the bed, all the way around me! One of my friends thinks if it is a spirit that it's friendly because of the way they sit on my bed or tuck me in!
Interestingly, whatever this entity was seems to have followed her when she moved away and began living with three roommates. At first there were no further incidents, and she began to feel as though she may have left the strange occurrences behind, but she would soon see that she was wrong. Not only was it back, but it seemed to be becoming more ominous and threatening. The witness goes on to say of this:
Since I've been living in my new house (the one I'm sharing) I've started to experience kind of the same things. I wake up and see the figure standing beside my bed looking down at me. I shake my hand and it goes away. I go back to sleep again. However, the last time this happened, when I waved my hand it didn't go away. So I pulled back the curtain (the window is right beside my bed) and it went away then. The next morning when I woke up, my curtain was open. This really freaked me out, as it was kind of like proof that I am awake when I see this thing! This hasn't happened in a few months now. I've moved to a new bedroom, in the same house, and also I have started wearing eye shades when I'm in bed. I haven't woken up in the middle of the night since then.
Some of these experiences can be quite disturbing and very sinister, with a distinct, hovering sense that these entities mean us harm, despite not actually doing anything to that effect. A very scary account was given by a witness named Matt Cardin on the site Teeming Brain. The experience allegedly happened in 1993, and was so distressful and terrifying that it has stayed with him ever since. He says:
I emerged circa 3 a.m. from a sleep so deep that it was almost a coma, to find myself paralyzed by a dark figure hovering over me at the foot of the bed. When I say I was paralyzed by the figure, that’s precisely accurate: I had the sense that this thing was responsible for the awful state of paralysis that had unaccountably taken hold of me. And yes, I do know, and I think I may even have known then, about the physical paralysis that naturally occurs during REM sleep. In the presence of that dark figure, I was immediately panicked, horrified, positively sickened with terror and dread, in a way and to a degree that I had not only never experienced but had never even conceived. And this horror was a result not only of my paralysis, nor of the figure’s presence and frightening appearance, but of the awful knowledge of its reason for being there, which gripped me suddenly and totally. The thing was a vaguely man-shaped vortex of darkness, and I knew, with a kind of psychological weight that I had never imagined, that it was the anti-me, that it was like my own personal black hole, and that its presence, in fact its very existence, meant my utter annihilation. I actually felt it sucking my entire being into it, like a roaring, devouring hurricane meant for me and me alone.
It is all quite horrific and full of existential dread, and the incident had such an impact on him that Matt has done a great deal of research into the phenomenon. In some instances, more than one Shadow Person are witnessed, such as in the frightening case relayed by a witness and self-proclaimed medium on The Ghost Diaries, who says he began waking up at night to see faces peering at him from the dark, usually two or three of them. This went on for several years, but he claims that he learned to control it with his abilities of mediumship. The witness explains:
Many years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to what I thought were people standing over my bed. I quickly reached out my hands as though to protect myself from an intruder. As I blinked a few times, I realized there was nothing standing there. Every night I would see a different face, sometimes two or even three. This happened for years–I would wake up suddenly and open my eyes to see someone staring back at me. It is something I still have not gotten used too.
Around that time this started happening, my mediumship abilities started to grow really strong. I started learning about my gifts as a medium and practiced doing readings on people. It came easy to me and I was able to communicate with spirits on the other side. I would see them hanging around people at the store, see them in cemeteries, and even speak to ghosts that were trapped here. I became pretty amazing with my gift. But one thing always puzzled me, who are the people standing around my bed at night? Who are these spirits that I can see so vividly? I can see them even more clearly than when I am awake doing a reading. I can see the wrinkles in their skin, their eye color, and even the details of their clothing.
So I decided to start asking them directly: “Who are you and what do you want?” Every night I would get the same answer, nothing. I have been trying for years to get an answer out of these spirits and have yet to hear a damn thing. The spirits that startle me almost every night have nothing to say, which is something I can’t seem to comprehend because when I do readings I can’t get the spirits to shut up.
Then I learned to call in my spirit guides and set up my shields before bed. As I got better at this, I was no longer being woken up at night. Every once in a while, one will slip through, but it has happened to me so many times that I just don’t get scared anymore. I get pissed. I have been know to yell a few cuss words, telling the to get the “F” out. It works every time.
It would perhaps be easy to explain such accounts away by saying that this is all the result of a phenomenon called "sleep paralysis," wherein a person wakes to feel as if they cannot move, often infused with terror, and usually sensing something inhuman in the room with them. It could also be indicative of a state called hypnogajah, which is a realm between sleep and wakefulness during which “waking dreams” can occur, or some other sleeping disorder. This is all mostly written off as having a neurological basis, and that it is more or less all in the head of the one experiencing it, but this does little to explain cases in which the witness was awake at the time, and certainly cannot explain accounts in which more than one person have seen the same entity, of which there are a few. One such report comes from a Reddit poster who says his experience happened to him as a child as he was staying at his uncle’s house. This house apparently had a shadowy black figure that was sometimes said to stare out of the closet of the bedroom, something which his friends had seen and which had disturbed them to the point that they refused to stay over. The witness tells of the series of strange events that followed:
My older brother was babysitting my twin brother and I, and we all played hide and seek, my twin and I went hiding, while my older brother seeked. I ran into my uncles room on the right, and into his closet. I sat down on the floor, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. At the time, I thought it was my twin brother, I remember asking “hiding in here too?”, to which there was no reply. Five minutes pass and I felt cold, so I left the closet THINKING my brother was following me. I went upstairs to the living room and both my brothers were sitting on the couch asking where I hid. They couldn’t believe where I told them because they think that the basement in general is creepy.
Fast forward a few nights, and my older brother was babysitting again, only my twin brother went grocery shopping with my mother and uncle at around 7 pm. We were rough housing and wrestling in his room, and we acted like we wrestled “outside of the ring” and into my uncles room which we considered a backstage. Mid-wrestle, the closet door swung open on it’s own like a blast of wind… My brother and I stopped wrestling, and stared in awe. A tall, dark, shadow man walks out of the closet and my brother books it out of the room leaving me behind. The shadow figure walks towards me, and stops in front of me. I proceed to run out of the room and down the hallway, up the stairs and by then, my uncle, mother and twin brother got home as I started crying on the stairs.
Rent went higher, we moved and that was that, or so I was told from my mother. A few years ago, I get around to asking my uncle if his room was creepy in that house. He told me that yes, his closet would open on it’s own in the middle of the night. He told me that a shadow man would sometimes walk out of his closet and would sometimes stand at the foot of his bed. He also told me that this shadow figure wasn’t evil, and that he had a comforting presence, so he didn’t complain much. The shadow figure only came around once every few weeks. My uncle then told me the house’s grim history and the real reason we moved… My uncles closet, had a cubby hole which lead to underneath the house, and conjoined my brother and uncles closets together which made one long closet. A man was murdered in that house in the 70’s and his body was found in that cubby hole. My mother found out, freaked out and moved us, blamed it on “higher rent”. My uncle knew but vowed never to tell us.
There is also the idea that these frightening figures and sensations experienced during episodes of sleep paralysis could be not just a misfiring of the brain or hyper realistic dreans, but rather have a more paranormal origin. Matt Cardin, who as we have seen has had his own encounters with these nighttime intruders, speaks about this at length in a great article called Shadow Visitors: Sleep paralysis and Discarnate Dark Ones, which delves deep into sleep paralysis and the paranormal, and includes an interesting part from a book by Louis Proud titled Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences, of which Cardin says:
A week or so ago I finished reading Louis Proud’s fascinating book 'Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences.' Published just last year, it argues that sleep paralysis is actually a cousin to spirit mediumship, in that the experience represents an actual visitation by paranormal entities that live constantly among us. Usually we remain in a condition of mutual ignorance — we don’t see these entities, and they don’t see us — but sometimes they become aware of us, and then, if they’re the lower and more craven kind, they latch onto us to feed on our life energy. Sufferers of sleep paralysis thus serve as conduits to the spiritual or daimonic realm in a manner roughly similar to mediums or, in a slightly different context, the teenager that’s typically identified as the focal point for a poltergeist disturbance.
The whole article is rather fascinating and I recommend you read it, but for our purposes here the idea is that these entities are perhaps very real, and are coming between some veil that separates us through the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. It is a pretty weird concept, and it invites speculation on whether they actually cause the sleep paralysis or merely use it as a gateway, as well as the matter of, if these things are real, then what exactly are they and what do they want? If they exist, then some of the theories as to their nature are that they are ghosts or demons, as well as the idea already stated that they are things from some other parallel reality, a different dimension.
As to what they might want, it is impossible to tell, but their generally observing nature suggests that they may be just watchers studying us for inscrutable purposes or even bystanders somehow caught up in the phenomenon themselves, every bit as startled and perplexed as we are. Are these shadow beings lurking out there on the periphery of our reality, peering in at us even as we peer out at them, or the other way around? Or is this really all just the result of hallucinations caused by sleep disorders, trauma, psychological conditions, or sleeplessness? It seems that wherever the answer might lie, it is certainly not something one wants to see looming over you as you sleep.