The Hat Man – What are shadow people?

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.


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.


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.”


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:


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 Encyclop├Ždia 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.


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.

4 replies »

  1. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

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