This Man, according to a hoax website created in 2008 by Italian marketer Andrea Natella named Ever Dreamed This Man, was a person who, since 2006, was claimed by more than 2000 people around the world to be repeatedly seen while dreaming but never found in real life. Natella created the site in 2008, but it wasn’t until October 2009 that it gained attention from the press and online internet users. This Man's notoriety spawned several internet memes that spoofed flyers of the website, references in films and television shows like The X-Files, and a manga series based on the hoax by Weekly Shōnen Magazine. In 2010, Natella confirmed that This Man was a hoax that was part of a guerilla marketing stunt; some sources it was meant to promote a film of the same name by Bryan Bertino and Ghost House Pictures that never came into fruition.
Story of the hoax
As Ever Dreamed This Man, the website under the domain ThisMan.org, explains, This Man was first drawn by a “well-known [psychiatrist]” from New York (the site doesn’t identify which) in January 2006, while dealing with a female patient that claimed to keep seeing This Man in her dreams. A few days later, one of the psychiatrist’s male patients recognized the man from the drawing and said he also saw the man while sleeping. Both patients claimed they never saw him in real life. The psychiatrist then sent the picture to four other colleagues who were dealing with people having repeated dreams, and four of those colleagues’ patients identified the man and described him as “This Man.”
Later on, more than 2000 people from other major cities across the world such as Los Angeles, Berlin, São Paulo, Tehran, Beijing, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, New Delhi, and Moscow claimed to have seen the man while sleeping. Stories from those who dreamed him, who remained anonymous, suggest he was a Brazilian school teacher who had six fingers on his right hand. These dreamers’ experiences of the man varied from romantic, sexual, or deadly situations to flying with the man to just seeing him staring at the dreamer and doing nothing.
Andrea Natella, when interviewed by Vice magazine for an article that took the myth seriously (thus making Natella answer the questions as if for real), explained that he first dreamed This Man before he was aware of who he really was; it was in the winter of 2008, and This Man “invited [him] to create a website to find an answer to his own appearance.” Following This Man’s instructions, he not only made the site but also produced the mysterious man’s identikit using the mobile device application Ultimate Flash Face.
An actual living human that looked like This Man was never identified, and there were some who dreamed of him who had no relationship with others also seeing him in their dreams. His voice was also unidentifiable, as it’s much harder for someone to remember the audio part of a dream than the visual; it was also rare for him to speak in the dreams. However, Natella claimed that he received letters and emails that compared This Man’s look to that of fictional characters such as The Man from Another Place and The Dummy and famous real-life figures such as Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Andrew Lloyd Webber. He also claimed that some, including an Indian guru named Arud Kannan Ayya, claimed themselves to be This Man, but with no evidence.
ThisMan.org suggested five theories of the phenomena:
- This Man was an example of Carl Jung’s concept of the unconscious “archetypal image” people see during very difficult life situations.
- This Man was a manifestation of God.
- A corporation was mentally conditioning multiple people to dream the same man.
- Some people dreamt the man only after learning about others seeing him.
- Because it’s hard for humans to remember people’s faces in dreams, people are inaccurately using Natella's identikit of This Man to describe the person in their recurring dreams.
The story of This Man started gaining attention from internet users and the press in 2009. It wasn’t until October of that year that views of the site skyrockted. In a short amount of time, it garnered more than two million visits and 10,000-plus emails from others sharing experiences with This Man and sending photos of those who looked like him. On October 12, 2009, comedian Tim Heidecker made a Twitter post about This Man, tweeting that it was “scaring the shit outta me.” While Natella's previous marketing stunts only garnered local attention, This Man was the first time he performed a stunt that spread across the globe.
Upon This Man's initial widespread exposure, there was suspicion from not only 4chan users but also blogs like ASSME and io9 that it was a guerilla marketing stunt, as they discovered ThisMan.org was hosted by the same company that also hosted a site named guerrigliamarketing.it, “a fake advertising agency which designed subversive hoaxes and created weird art projects exploring pornography, politics, and advertising,” described Natella. Nonetheless, some sources presented the argument of it being a hoax as simply being one side of the discussion instead of a real fact. However, a 2010 post from the “artgency” website Kook, which Natella became a partner of while This Man was gaining traction, and a published paper he wrote in 2012 titled “Viral ‘K’ Marketing” finally confirmed that This Man was not real but rather a stunt.
However, while Natella made it official was ThisMan.org was simply a marketing ploy, he never revealed what it was promoting; however, some sources, including The Kernel, suggest that it was meant to promote a film of the same name by Bryan Bertino, writer and director of The Strangers (2008). If the press release for the film is any indication, it would’ve been about a person who hears about other people he’s never meet before dreaming about him. Ghost House Pictures bought ThisMan.org in May 2010, who announced that they were writing and directing a film about This Man, with Bertino contracted as writer/director. No further announcement has been made about the film since.
Even after Natella's confirmations, serious coverage of This Man continued into the mid-2010s from publications like The Epoch Times and Vice magazine. Both of them contacted the site, and Natella answered their questions as if the site wasn’t a hoax. His response to The Epoch Times did bring up others’ claims of This Man being a marketing ploy but said they were from people who were afraid of the man. He also claimed in that same response, “We are involved in a legal issue with the psychiatrist because of a phone call from a journalist. But we really believe it’s not important. Patient zero is just the first patient we discovered, not the first who dreamt this man.” However, Vice, on the same day they published their interview with Natella, released an announcement to its readers that This Man was not real: “we run a story, it turns out to be something that was denounced in 2009 and could be easily verified as fake with a single google, a few people call us dickheads and the editorial team drown in their own tears.”
io9 writer Annalee Newitz called This Man “Natella's greatest masterwork,” reasoning that it was only “uncanny,” “cheesy and a little bit scary” instead of having “artsy pseudo-intellectual "politics" like a lot of his other art does.” Vice explained that while This Man doesn’t exist, he “properly looks like the kind of dude you might see in a dream,” where “he pats you on the back[,] you feel warm and nostalgic[, and] you wake up with an erection you can't explain.” A 2014 article from Mysterious Universe also believed multiple people experiencing the same type of dreams is possible; it cites not only Jung’s archetypal theory but also Ervin László’s theory of the Akashic Field, an mysterious energy of the Zero Point Field: “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?” Vice described the purpose of the hoax as “Kind of like Inception but with memes,” as it “prim[ed] people to dream what they've never dreamed before.” Mysterious Universe reported in 2014 that it work, explaining that “there are people [that are not quoted on the site] who swear that they have dreamed of the man in the picture.”
In other media
Upon This Man's initial popularity, internet users posted several internet memes spoofing flyers for the myth, which replaced This Man’s facial compositions with head shots of famous figures such as Robbie Rotten, Karl Marx, and Barack Obama. Comedy Central also produced their own parody of the flyer that used Daniel Tosh’s face.
This Man’s identikit makes brief appearances in the beginning of the 2017 South Korean film Lucid Dream and The X-Files episode "Plus One," where it is on the upper right part of a photo of The Lone Gunmen seen previously in the show without it.
The MMORPG Rift has a set of collectibles inspired by This Man called "Twisted: The Dream Traveler" in its Nightmare Tide expansion.
In 2018, Weekly Shōnen Magazine began running a manga based on This Man and named after the hoax. Illustrated by Kouji Megumi of Bloody Monday fame and written by Karin Sora, it follows a police officer named Hakaru Amano and his case that involves the urban legend of This Man. The first volume ran from April 25, 2018 to April 3, 2019.
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