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A shadow person (also known as a shadow figure, shadow being or black mass) is the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, particularly as interpreted by believers in the paranormal or supernatural as the presence of a spirit or other entity.
History and folklore
A number of religions, legends, and belief systems describe shadowy spiritual beings or supernatural entities such as shades of the underworld, and various shadowy creatures have long been a staple of folklore and ghost stories.
The Coast to Coast AM late night radio talk show helped popularize modern beliefs in shadow people. The first time the topic of shadow people was discussed at length on the show was April 12, 2001 when host Art Bell interviewed Native American elder Thunder Strikes, who is also known as Harley "SwiftDeer" Reagan. During the show, listeners were encouraged to submit drawings of shadow people that they had seen and a large number of these drawings were immediately shared publicly on the website. In October that year, Heidi Hollis published her first book on the topic of shadow people, and later became a regular guest on Coast to Coast. Hollis describes shadow people as dark silhouettes with human shapes and profiles that flicker in and out of peripheral vision, and claims that people have reported the figures attempting to "jump on their chest and choke them". She believes the figures to be negative, alien beings that can be repelled by various means, including invoking "the Name of Jesus".
Although participants in online discussion forums devoted to paranormal and supernatural topics describe them as menacing, other believers and paranormal authors do not agree whether shadow people are either evil, helpful, or neutral, and some even speculate that shadow people may be the extra-dimensional inhabitants of another universe. Some paranormal investigators and authors such as Chad Stambaugh claim to have recorded images of shadow people on video.
Several physiological and psychological conditions can account for reported experiences of shadowy shapes seeming alive. A sleep paralysis sufferer may perceive a "shadowy or indistinct shape" approaching them when they lie awake paralyzed and become increasingly alarmed. Neuroscientists Baland Jalal and V.S. Ramachandran have recently proposed neurological theories for why people hallucinate shadow figures during sleep paralysis.
A person experiencing heightened emotion, such as while walking alone on a dark night, may incorrectly perceive a patch of shadow as an attacker.
Many methamphetamine addicts report the appearance of "shadow people" after prolonged periods of sleep deprivation. Psychiatrist Jack Potts suggests that methamphetamine usage adds a "conspiratorial component" to the sleep deprivation hallucinations. One interviewed subject said that "You don't see shadow dogs or shadow birds or shadow cars. You see shadow people. Standing in doorways, walking behind you, coming at you on the sidewalk." These hallucinations have been directly compared to the paranormal entities described in folklore.
In popular culture
- In Season 1, Episode 16 of Supernatural (2005) called “Shadow,” Sam, Dean, and John Winchester are attacked by a daeva— or a Zoroastrian demon that can only be seen as a shadow person.
- Shadow people, described as "Shadow Men", feature prominently in the 2007 novel John Dies at the End. When they kill a person, that person is retroactively erased from existence, and history is rewritten as though they were never born.
- The 2013 horror movie Shadow People depicts a fictional sleep study conducted during the 1970s in which patients report seeing shadowy intruders before dying in their sleep. The movie follows a radio host and CDC investigator who research the story, and the story is claimed to be "based on true events".
- In the online game Deep Sleep and its sequels, shadow people have existed since the dawn of the human race and lurk in lucid dreams. Players who realize that they are asleep can be paralyzed and possessed, and the character's dream self will be turned into a shadow person.
- An episode of the 1985 Twilight Zone series titled "The Shadow Man" dealt with a teenage boy who had a shadow person living under his bed. The episode portrayed the shadow man as fitting the "hat man" appearance commonly ascribed to shadow people and notably added to the shadow people mythology that shadow people can kill human beings but will not harm those whose beds they live under.
- The 2015 documentary The Nightmare interviews people who suffer from sleep paralysis and stages their hallucinations with actors. Shadow people are mentioned several times, and appear in the reenactments.
- Episode 59 (Oct 2017) of the Timesuck podcast by stand-up comedian Dan Cummins features the shadow people.
- The second episode of the 1994 Filipino horror movie Shake, Rattle & Roll V, named "Anino" is based on a shadow person who attacks everyone in the house.
- Ahlquist, Diane (2007). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Life After Death. USA: Penguin Group. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-59257-651-7.
- Michael Kinsella (17 May 2011). Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong's Hat. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 117–. ISBN 978-1-60473-983-1. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- Bell. "Art Bell - Shadow People". Archived from the original on September 25, 2001. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
- Heidi Hollis (October 1, 2001). The Secret War: The Heavens Speak of the Battle. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595203314.
- "Heidi Hollis - Guests". Coast to Coast AM. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
- "Shadow People & the "Hat Man"". Coast to Coast AM. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "Shadow Beings". Coast to Coast. 2006-03-27. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- Greg Jenkins (1 February 2005). Florida's Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: South and central Florida. Pineapple Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-56164-327-1. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- Luiz, Joseph. "Paranormal investigator holds book signing". February 18, 2013. Hanford Sentinel. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Extreme Ghost Stories. ITV. 2006. Episodes 1 and 2.
- Shelley Adler (15 January 2011). Sleep Paralysis: Night-mares, Nocebos, and the Mind-Body Connection. Rutgers University Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-8135-5237-8. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
In the field of sleep research, this experience is termed sleep paralysis: an individual, in the process of falling asleep or awakening, finds himself or herself completely awake, but unable to move or speak…Frequently, he or she sees a shadowy or indistinct shape approaching and becomes increasingly terrified.
- Jalal, Baland; Ramachandran, Vilayanur S. (2017). "Sleep Paralysis, "The Ghostly Bedroom Intruder" and Out-of-Body Experiences: The Role of Mirror Neurons". Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 11: 92. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00092. ISSN 1662-5161. PMC 5329044. PMID 28293186.
- Jalal, Baland; Ramachandran, Vilayanur S. (2014-12-01). "Sleep paralysis and "the bedroom intruder": The role of the right superior parietal, phantom pain and body image projection". Medical Hypotheses. 83 (6): 755–757. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2014.10.002. ISSN 0306-9877.
- Jalal, Baland (2016). "How to Make the Ghosts in my Bedroom Disappear? Focused-Attention Meditation Combined with Muscle Relaxation (MR Therapy)—A Direct Treatment Intervention for Sleep Paralysis". Frontiers in Psychology. 7: 28. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00028. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 4731518. PMID 26858675.
- Jalal, Baland; Romanelli, Andrea; Hinton, Devon E. (2015-12-01). "Cultural Explanations of Sleep Paralysis in Italy: The Pandafeche Attack and Associated Supernatural Beliefs". Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. 39 (4): 651–664. doi:10.1007/s11013-015-9442-y. ISSN 0165-005X. PMID 25802016.
- Clare Oakley; Amit Malik (15 November 2011). Rapid Psychiatry. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-118-29418-5. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Anderson, Scott Thomas (2012). Shadow People: How Meth-driven Crime Is Eating At the Heart of Rural America. Coalition for Investigative Journalism. ISBN 978-0615551913.
- Herbert C. Covey (2007). The Methamphetamine Crisis: Strategies to Save Addicts, Families, And Communities. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-0-275-99322-1. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- Rubin, Paul (18 December 1997). "Methology - Part I". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- Vila-Rodriguez, Fidel (September 2011). "Methamphetamine, Perceptual Disturbances, and the Peripheral Drift Illusion". American Journal on Addictions. 20 (5): 490. doi:10.1111/j.1521-0391.2011.00161.x.
- Bergin, Nicholas. "'John Dies at the End' has limited showing in Omaha". March 07, 2013. Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Liebman, Martin (March 19, 2013). "Believe in the boogeyman? Prepare to die". Shadow People Blu-ray Review. www.blu-ray.com/. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "Following Freeware: July 2014 releases". Adventure Gamers. 29 August 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Alexander, Chris (5 November 2015). "Interview: Joe Dante Reflects on '80's TWILIGHT ZONE Episode, 'The Shadow Man'". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- "59 – The Shadow People – Timesuck". timesuckpodcast.com. Retrieved 2017-12-01.