I thought the shadow figure I saw looming in my bedroom doorway as a child was something I imagined… but if I imagined him, why have so many other people seen the same figure?

Personal Experience

Growing up, my family spent a few years living in Connecticut Navy Housing. It was a small split-level home with the kitchen, dining room, and living room on the main floor then up three steps was a hallway leading to the bathroom and three bedrooms. And this cute little house had some seriously bad energy. Bad energy that made me feel safer playing outside if I was home alone, an energy that made the stairs clunk with footsteps when no one was around, an energy that made the Hat Man appear in my doorway each night.

I can vividly remember waking up in the middle of the night and looking up from my bed to the door leading out to the hallway and see, looming just outside, the tall figure of a shadowy man wearing a flat, broad-brimmed hat. He never did anything. Just stood there with hatred and anger pulsing out of him until I somehow fell back asleep.

For the longest time I thought A) the house was haunted and/or B) I’d been reading too much Goosebumps before bed.

But when we moved away, the nightly visitations stopped and I didn’t worry about sleeping with the door open anymore. But a few years ago, (after I had graduated from college) I was having a conversation with my dad about that Navy Housing place and he said, “For a long time, I thought that place was haunted.” I was floored and asked him why. His response, “I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like someone was trying to suffocate me.”

In a way, this can easily be written off. I was an imaginative kid with a passion for spooky reading and my Dad had un-diagnosed sleep apnea. Heck, I’d even write it off, but then one day I was reading Grim Magazine and saw an article about the Hat Man. Which means, I’m not the only person who has seen this thing. Which simultaneously gave me chills and…

Made me curious.

What are the theories behind the Hat Man? Is he a ghost? A demon? An urban legend? A fear or stress response? A scientific phenomenon?

Hope you’re ready for a ride, because my research has led me down quite the rabbit hole.

What are the theories behind the Hat Man? Is he a ghost? A demon? An urban legend? A fear or stress response? A scientific phenomenon?

Shadow People and The Hat Man

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, and, interpreted as the presence of a spirit or other entity by believers in the paranormal or supernatural.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_person

Shadow people are humanoid shapes that often appear to be made of out darkness or don’t reflect light. Sometimes they are seen as silhouettes of people or big masses of shadow. Often they are described as fully silhouetted shapes, but other times they are seen with glowing eyes or teeth. The Top Hat Man or the Hat Man is one particular shape of Shadow Person. This shape is generally of a tall man wearing a broad-brimmed hat or top hat.

Lore

From what I have been reading, the 1st discussions of shadow people were on Coast to Coast AM in 2001. There have also been many stories of them shared on paranormal podcasts such as, Anything Ghost and Jim Harold’s Campfire.

“Coast to Coast AM was the first media outlet to discuss the topic. On 12 April 2001 Art Bell, host of the program, interviewed Harley “Swiftdeer” Reagan. Who implied that Shadow People were medicine men who walked in the spirit world and did harm to the living. But on 01 October 2001 Art interviewed Heidi Hollis. She had written her first book on the topic of Shadow People. “The Secret War” published in 2001, she was reappeared as a regular guest on the show. Which helped to define most modern beliefs of Shadow People.”

https://paranormalfact.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_People

I would like to do more in-depth research on the folklore and history of Shadow People, but until then I feel like, “A Brief History of the Shadow People,” is a good place to start:

Psychology

When discussing Shadow People and apparitions science and psychology quickly come into the conversation. Could Shadow People be caused by a natural phenomenon we don’t understand yet? Or perhaps it’s a manifestation of fear and anxiety.

One explanation people assign to Shadow People is sleep paralysis.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “Sleep paralysis [is the] total inability to move for a very brief period that occurs as one is either falling asleep or awakening from sleep.” And it is during the period of not-quite-awake and not-quite-asleep that people can experience hallucinations.

Sleep paralysis is often experienced by people who suffer from anxiety disorders or PTSD. So it psychologically makes sense that if they woke up feeling pinned down they might also see a dream-projection or hallucination of something that represents their fear.

If this is a sleep paralysis thing, then why are they sometimes seen while people are fully awake?

There are a few theories on this. Some supernatural and some scientific.

Supernatural Theories

Some people believe that Shadow People are ghosts or echos of horrific events. Some believe that the Hat Man in particular is a demon or is drawn to sorrow and anger in a household. I also read an interesting article on Psychology Today that talked about how Shadow People could be Djinn or a glimpse of something from another dimension.

Scientific Theories

One study found that the feeling of being watched and even seeing a Shadow Person can be caused by stimulating a certain part of your brain.

You’re walking down an empty street alone, when suddenly, you have the eerie feeling that someone’s following you. Is your mind playing tricks on you? Maybe so. According to a new study, when a specific region of the brain called the left temporoparietal junction (TPJ) is stimulated, it can create the illusion of a “shadow person.” Given that such experiences are often heightened in psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and paranoia–and even in those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens–the results could lead to a better understanding of these neurological conditions.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2006/09/illuminating-shadow-people

But by far, the strangest thing I found during my research was that these manifestations or hallucinations could be caused by sound.

The “Ghost Sound Frequency,” or “Fear Frequency” is a wavelength that falls into the category of infrasound. Infrasound is low-frequency sound that the human ear cannot hear. But the mind and body can be affected by it. The Guardian did a good job of explaining how the “Ghost Frequency” was discovered, so if you would like to learn more, you can read about it here: theguardian.com/science.farout.

Mykie, from Glam and Gore on YouTube, put together a really in-depth video on the subject or infrasound and some of its terrifying real-life applications:

So, what is the Hat Man?

At the end of all of this, I’ve learned a lot and yet still have a ton of questions. I suppose that is par for the course when researching the paranormal.

Is the Hat Man an urban legend? Yes- at least partially. He is a figure people have seen and shared stories of to a point where his image is recognized by people all over. It and Shadow People are a part of our collective folklore now.

Is the Hat Man a ghost? Possibly. I do believe there are ghosts out there and why wouldn’t they manifest as patches of darkness? And maybe there are evil ones that are drawn to negative energy. I won’t rule it out.

Does the Hat Man have a psychological or Scientific cause? Very possibly. Especially if you consider what stimulating a certain part of your brain or sound waves can do to your perception.

What do you think? Have you ever seen the Hat Man or a Shadow Person? Let me know in the comments below.

30 thoughts

  1. I’ve never researched this before, but it’s certainly a relief to find stories from other people who have also seen the “hat man”. There’s this recurrent memory from my childhood that pops up in my head every now and then. I was about 4 years old. My sisters, who are 8 and 12 years older than me, were having a little gathering with some of their friends. It was raining that day and the group was occupying the living room and dining room. I, on the other hand, stayed in my mom’s room watching TV. To my left was a large window, which overlooked the backyard, and to my right was my mom’s dresser which had a large mirror above it.
    From the corner of my eye, I saw the window being reflected in the mirror and the shadow of a man in a coat wearing a brimmed hat standing behind the window. I couldn’t see any facial features, or any other type of feature for that matter, it was just a a smoky type of shadow and it’s presence was somber.
    I thought maybe one of my sisters’ friends was in the yard, so I went to ask my sisters about it, but they said that no one had been outside. I went to check the back yard for myself, looked behind the bushes and in every possible hiding spot, but found no one.
    I then returned to my mom’s bedroom, looked at the window and noticed that the shadow was gone, then I looked at the reflection of the window in the mirror and there it was… the shadow was in the same spot, staring at me.
    I then realized that I could only see the hat man when looking through the mirror.
    I asked: “why are you there?” and then “who are you?”, and the shadow said: “I’m your grandfather”. I replied, “my grandfather’s dead”. I heard a sinister laugh and the shadow didn’t say anything else.
    I became really uncomfortable and ended up leaving my mom’s room after a while. Since then, I’ve seen shadow people a handful of times, I’m 46 yo now and I can remember it as if it had been yesterday.

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  2. I saw this figure when I was about 6. I had gotten up and climbed in bed with my mum while my dad worked nights. I was awake and saw him walk pass my mums open door to my sisters room, I sat up and looked thinking it was my dad. He then appeared out of my sisters room and walked past, stopped and turned towards me. I was terrified and his under the duvet. This is now where it gets strange… my daughter was sat on our sofa and was listening to music while I folded clothes. She looked up and said she saw the hat man figure stood over me and when she said mum he disappeared, she said throughout the day he kept appearing over me and creeping towards where I was. 😳 I cannot sleep with doors open and get the same unsettled, frightened feeling when I’m in bed or walking in the house at night. When my daughter told me what she had seen I then shared my experience! Needless to say we are a little freaked out.

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  3. I also grew up in Navy Housing in CT and thats where I experienced Hat Man as well. I only had the experience once around the age of four or five but the image of him standing over my bed haunt me to this day

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    1. I also live in CT I live in Milford, my 10 yr old daughter has seen the hat man in the same corner of her bedroom many times. She described him as very tall with a brimmed hat and a coat he had no features but she knew he was just watching. Idk if the hat man she sees has any connections to this black shadowy mass that both I’ve seen and my 10yr old in our basement. It moves so fast and darts out the basement window. I believe in spirts and ghosts since an early age due to growing up in a haunted home. I really wanna know what this man in the top hat wants. It’s a scary feeling she says and she is fully awake. I do say a protection prayer each night. Just very curious why he is here.

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    2. On the night of Nov.11th 2021 I saw a dark figure he was very tall and wore a blacked rimmed hat .He was holding up one hand and telling me shhhhh by putting his finger over his lips .I was terrified at first I could not breath and finally began to scream.My husband has never heard me scream in 28 years of marriage . Freaked him out and God only knows what the neighbors thought.I have never been one afraid of paranormal things.In fact I have experience a few but was never afraid. But this was scared me to the bone.So I though I would look on internet to see if there was anyone else out there,There is no unhappiness or strife in our home and its said thats when he visits .However we live in a apartment building so wandering if maybe he was suposed to go to a neighbor .All I know is I hope to never see him again

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  4. When I was around age 16 I lived in a house with my mom and her boyfriend where someone had committed suicide years before. This house had really bad energy! The dogs and cats would go crazy every night at 3am. When ever I was home alone, I never felt truly alone.. one day I was on the phone, pacing around the house aimlessly and there was a big old projector tv with a broken screen in the living room facing my room. Since the screen was broken if you looked into it closely there was a mirror. I looked in the little mirror and saw my bedroom with the light on, broad day light and there he was, hat man! I blinked, still there. Dropped my phone and turned my head to the doorway nothing, looked back into the TV, nothing. Never saw him again, but I will never forget! He was very tall his hat was almost at the top of the door frame and all black with a long trench coat. Could not make out any features, looked just like a dark shadow in a well lit area.

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    1. I’m a 45 yo woman. I saw what I called The grey man for years late at night when I watched TV . (About 9 yes old to maybe 14) About 8 feet tall, in a grey suit and top hat. Just watching me across the den at the middle of the staircase to the send floor… I just ignored him….I never knew everyone else has seen him too. I completely thought he was a figment of my imagination. I wonder what it really was. The freaky thing is that I was talking to my older brother, and I mentioned the Grey man, and he snapped “Ahhh! don’t talk about him! Don’t ever talk about him”…He saw him too! … I’ve never brought it up since…

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  5. I was 12 years old when I saw the hat man. I’m now 50. I remember it like it was yesterday… I was staying at my grandparents house and woke up and instantly new something was there. In the open doorway was a very tall man with a tall hat,wearing a long overcoat. It was like a very clear but dark shadow & I knew he was watching me. To this day I’m still terrified if I need to go to the toilet during the night

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  6. I used to wake up in the middle of the night(elementary school age) to a silhouette of a man in a trench coat and a hat but the hat was more detective style ( Colombo) sometimes he would stand at the end of my bed. I would pull the cover over my eyes just to go back to sleep , or call my little sister over to sleep with me. He never harmed me, he never spoke just stood there? I haven’t seen him since I was about 10 years old.

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  7. I had this experience a few years ago. I saw him walking back and forth at the foot of my bed. I decided to ignore it and turn my back. I then for whatever reason decided to turn back to look. It was RIGHT in my face. I was soooooo scared, just a evil feeling. I could not move I just stared right into it’s eyes. I couldn’t breathe; it was awful. At the time I had some serious depression due to life events and was actually suicidal. I’m a Christian and my thought on this is that it’s an evil spirit wanting to do harm.

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  8. I had this experience of a very tall slim shadow man wearing a long coat standing beside me and watching me while I slept. It was around 8am, his presence felt cold, evil and very old, like a spirit from 200 years ago. I had the feeling he was deciding what to do while staring at me. I could not see any details, just a shadow silhouette and a top hat. I never forgot about this frightening moment, and every time I walked on that spot beside my bed I felt that eery feeling again. Luckily I was moving houses a few months later. This was in 2014 and I never saw him again. I hope I never do. I know that people are saying these are hallucinations brought on by sleep paralysis, but that does not explain why so many people see him. I think there is more to this experience.

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      1. I can still see the shadow man in my mind to this day.
        I was 8 when I saw him in the hall looking at me from under the brim of his hat. His cape almost touching the floor. I was petrified! I closed my eyes and when I opened them he was actually at the door. I closed my eyes and open them and he was at the foot of my bed. I closed my eyes and opened them and I was mortified to see him reaching for me. I screamed and he was gone. I could here the jingle of coins in my Dads pocket as he put on his pants hopping down the hall to come rescue me. The search was on for the man II had just seen in my room. My mother frightened as well said now tell me exactly what he looked like. When I explained that he had a big black hat on with a black cape that almost touched the floor and . . . a cat on his shoulder. Screech the search was off. I was told to go back to sleep that it was only a dream.
        I know what I saw I know it was after me and I hope I never see him again.

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  9. I am searching for information on this subject. My daughter, at the time 13 and I saw a figure in our living room. The lights were off except for a night night and the sliver of light coming from the crack in my daughters bedroom door. She came to give me a hug goodnight. I was sitting on the couch, she leaned down and gave me a hug, and when she did, over her shoulder I saw a large black figure looking straight at me. He was wearing a black hat. I couldn’t make out the edges of the hat. To me it seemed more rounded although in doing some research, I have found that many seem to have fadora type hats. This wasn’t my first experience seeing something, but in the past it was a shadow from the side, or a figure in the house in the distance, not right in front of me. I didn’t react at all for fear of scaring my daughter. When she turned around she immediately dropped to the floor and grabbed onto my knee. She was fearful for a minute, then stood up and walked right towards it and it was gone. I still am not sure why she did that, she just told me she wasn’t scared.

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  10. I don’t understand why ppl call the hat man evil. I can understand why one would be scared of him simply for the fact that he pops up when he wants and disappears and he’s pitch black with that top hat on.. but he has never done anything to me.. if anything I’ve seen him multiple times just in the world.. not at home.. just in general.. I once saw him sitting at a bus stop from across the street.. I looked. He was there .. I said to myself wtf.. looked again and he was gone.. the only thing about him is he gave me an unsettling feeling when I first realized I was seeing him.. he never spoke just watched me. Just was looking.. he gave off the energy that he was looking and watching me wether he appeared big or small.. far or near.. he always gave the same feeling until I started asking him who he was and was he there to watch me. It was when I started to look for him that I stopped seeing him.. my childhood history did include trauma.. I do think I’m smart but I also feel like I’m your average Joe. I mean I’m no different from the next person. I didn’t suffer from any sleep choking or sleep paralysis but I did have my encounters with him. Just always felt like he was not there to harm me but that he was not supposed to be there, that he knew it. I knew it, he knew that I knew it. He just kept hours distance and looked

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  11. when i was about 9 years old i lived in a house with just my mom. i had always had ghost experiences since i was 3 days old. i was going to sleep because i had school in the morning. i was always afraid of the dark because of the experiences i had. i had a memory foam carpet right next to my bed, & i used to leave my tv on for background noise & the hall light on. my door to the hallway was always open. so i had a pretty good amount of light in my room. i looked down at my memory foam carpet right before closing my eyes & i saw footprints. it was the footprints of a man, & his feet were big. i screamed for my mom, she was downstairs. she came running up & the man was holding me down, i wasn’t able to cry or scream or move. he wouldn’t let my mom get to me. we could tell that he was going to kill me. my mom crawled under my bed & pulled me out from the other side & we tried to run down the stairs, but he pushed us. i turned around & all i could see was this tall man, about 7 ft tall. he was wearing all black clothing, had very long legs, he had no face, & he was wearing a hat, & his arms could stretch. my mom & i just barely made it out of the house & we had to stay in a hotel while we had our house blessed. we had to have someone come to our house & make sure there were no more evil spirits, or ghosts, or demons, whatever the hat man was. that house was the only place i’ve ever seen him. & i’ve only ever seen him that one time.

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  12. When I was 8 years old staying at my grandparents house I woke up in the middle of the night with a strange feeling I get out of bed and peek down the hallway I look past the living room and into the kitchen standing behind the counter see a ghost (what I now know as Hat man) I turn on the lamp next to my bed and lay back down under the covers. I’m not going to lie I was a little creeped out but not scared. I never felt like it was going to hurt me. Moments later he appears at my bedroom door and I get a good look at him. Just like hat man is described I saw a faceless shadow figure wearing a long coat and a hat like a fedora. He also did not reflect any light coming from the lamp. He continues down the hall. I jumped out of bed to see where he was going. He went into the bathroom. The bathroom also connects to the master bedroom. I run in to my grandparents room and hid in corner just in time to see hat man come out of the bathroom and into the bedroom he left down the hall and I never saw him again.
    Today is the first day I ever heard of Hat man or shadow people after 30 years to read the description of hat man blew my mind.
    Before I always felt it was the spirit of my oldest brother who died a few years before.

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  13. I seened it awake. No I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t thinking about Freddie Krueger. I finished using the restroom at a friend’s and I saw 2 of them. One in front of me and the other one to my left.

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  14. Indeed! There was a time when a figure would detach from darkness in corners or behind furniture and form a looming, man-like shape. This was at my Grandparents’ basement. I was quite awake when I’d spot it, but usually alone. I’d run away, and my family dismissed the experiences as youthful imagination. One time, though, my brother was with me when it extricated itself. He grabbed my arm and ran with me. Even though our family scoffed, my brother and I never went back there.

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  15. I used to live in an old apartment building built in the 1940s. I used to see something similar as you mentioned walking out of a hallway wall and crossing the hall and going through the wall on the other side. At the time my next door neighbor had serious health issues. After he left I don’t recall seeing the shadow person, although this was 20 years ago so I maybe I still did. Once I moved out, I never saw it again.

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      1. That’s the impression I got. Caused by it or drawn to it, I’m not sure. Or perhaps caused by my ill neighbor unintentionally. More questions than answers but that’s part of the appeal to this stuff sometime

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