Shadow People. What are they? We discuss these mysterious entities on this week’s edition of Unpleasant Dreams!
Cassandra Harold is the host of Unpleasant Dreams.
EM Hilker is our principal writer and researcher with additional writing by Cassandra Harold. Jim Harold is our Executive Producer.
Unpleasant Dreams is a production of Jim Harold Media.
Want to spend some time curled up with a book or your kindle and getting terrified? Here are some great books to start with:
The Paranormal Researcher’s Guide to Shadow People by Charis Branson
The Hat Man: The True Story of Evil Encounters by Heidi Hollis
The Hatman and the Shadow People by Dominic Kelly
Shadow People: Who are they and where did they come from? By Dr. Terry King
Is browsing websites more your deal? I recommend the following sites to start with:
Of course, you can find true tales of shadow people and other creatures on Jim Harold’s Campfire podcast
You can find EM Hilker’s full article that this podcast was based upon HERE and a transcript of the podcast version below:
Shadow People: Darker than the night itself, moving silently in the shadows. They skulk furtively in the periphery of your vision, sometimes lurking darkly at the foot of a sleeping person’s bed, sometimes watching almost unnoticed from a corner of the room. They are enigmatic in more ways than simply the obvious. There is little agreement in the paranormal community on who they are, what they want, where they come from, and why they’re here; in fact, there isn’t much in the way of agreement on what constitutes a Shadow Person in the first place.
There are, of course, agreed upon characteristics. They are nearly always humanoid in form (though there are reports of them in the form of cats, spiders, and other small creatures). They are even blacker than the surrounding darkness, such that they appear to be distinct three dimensional figures even in an unlit room. They almost always appear initially out of the corner of the eye before moving into full view. In some, though not all, cases they may have red eyes, glowing like embers in the dark.
Many researchers have attempted to sort through the varying accounts and traits of shadow people by breaking them down into categories: Rosemary Ellen Guiley divided them into seven classifications based on their role or intention (sentinels, lurkers, minding-their-own-business, predators, visitors, omens, and haunters); Dr. Terry King demarcates five categories based on appearance (humanoid, hat man, animals, black smoke, red-eyed), and Heidi Hollis, who was the originator of the term “Shadow People,” famously demonstrates the difference between regular Shadow People and The Hatman in her book of the same name.
These classifications are useful for study, to begin to wrap our collective head around what Shadow People are or what they are not. However, classification in and of itself does not and CAN not go very far in solving the mystery. Certainly it highlights the potential for there to be an entire society of shadow people, as diverse as human society or perhaps even as diverse as our own class, mammalia. We need to delve deeper than mere classification, perhaps even back through time itself.
As difficult as it is to categorize and define what makes an entity a Shadow Person, it’s equally difficult to say when the phenomenon began. The history of shadow people can be told briefly, if only because it came about in modern day in such an explosion of reports. Certainly Shadow People entered the zeitgeist in 2001 after they were discussed on the popular radio talk show Coast to Coast, though individual reports of Shadow People predate that. Supernatural investigator; Heidi Hollis herself saw her first shadow person in 1990, while in the company of a friend who had been followed by that very creature since her own childhood. Since then, a number of pre-2001 sightings have been reported.
Brandon Michaels writes that the earliest Shadow People can be traced through folklore to 600 BCE in Egypt, where they believed in a form of Shadow Person called a “khailbut.” Fast forward to ancient Greece and Rome, where they were believed to be of the Underworld. Then in 600 CE there’s reference in the Quran to beings created from flame that are fully, solidly black. None of these are the type of Shadow Person we see today, precisely, but surely there’s enough commonality to make us wonder what larger truth or phenomenon these ancient tales refer to.
Perhaps, then, the best way to further seek answers is to speculate on what they are, beyond simply beings made of shadow that may or may not be ancient.
The explanations of what people are seeing when they spot a Shadow Person are wildly varied. There is, of course, the Skeptical explanation that they are a figment of imagination, pareidolia (the tendency of humans to see faces or forms in random patterns). A false perception of stimuli. Meanwhile, other skeptics claim accounts are outright lies.
One commonly offered explanation by believers is that they are ghosts or demons. Charis Branson observes that they walk through solid objects as ghosts are said to and can vanish in a blink, and both of those characteristics are certainly common to ghosts. Unlike ghosts, of course, are they in colour (or lack thereof). They also lack solidity or resemblance to any specific individual. Heidi Hollis is very clear that they are not ghosts. She supports her belief with the accounts of several accomplished ghost hunters who later encountered Shadow People and were quite convinced that they were very different beings.
The theory that they are demons seems a little more solidly based. As he writes in his harrowing real-life tale, The Hatman and the Shadow People, Dominic Kelly resolved his issue with a shadow person, by blessing his house with holy salt, believing it was a demon attracted by negativity. After the blessing his life became much more positive and he hasn’t had an encounter since. Hollis agrees that Hat Man feeds off negativity and that the Hatman itself is in fact a direct analogue of, if not literally, Satan.
Another very popular theory suggests that the Shadow People are in fact extraterrestrials. Heidi Hollis is a very strong proponent of this theory. She believes that the Shadows who haunted her were sent by the Greys, with whom she’d had considerable contact with in the past. She eventually found herself able to stand up to the Greys to exact a sort of psychic/psychological revenge. Other contactees and abductees have also reported feeling strongly that there was a connection between the two, though in general there seems to be very little solid evidence of a relationship.
Charis Branson and others raise the possibility that they are time travelers, sent to watch the past as unobtrusively as possible, and these shadows are all that we see in our world to mark their presence.
Another fascinating theory by that of Dr. Terry King, claims that Shadow People are in fact us. Each of us, traveling through time and space to observe our own pasts and other lives we’ve lived.
There are, of course, variations on all these explanations; some paint the Shadow People as good, some as bad, some as entirely indifferent. Sometimes they have a plan, a motive, a goal; sometimes they’re carrying on with their own business, simply living their own shadowy lives. It’s impossible to say with certainty. Perhaps all of these are, in a sense, correct, and we’re not looking at a single type of being at all. Perhaps it is two or ten or two hundred types of beings that appear to be similar-but-not-identical to human eyes. Beings that in actuality are very much their own creatures.
It’s clear that there aren’t any easy, immediate answers to what a Shadow Person is. In fact, many on the internet have taken to calling them Shadow Beings, on account of the different forms that have been reported.
Aside from the commonality of these creatures appearing as three dimensional solid shadows, there are no clear conclusions to be drawn. Except perhaps for one. Late at night, I’m careful not to look too closely into the corners of my darkened rooms for fear of seeking them out. And I suggest you do the same.