by Kimberly Bouchu
One crisp, clear night in my early twenties, I found myself walking from my friend's apartment through her parking lot, and through another adjacent lot, to my car. Due to a lack of visitor parking in the complex, I often parked my car in this lot, which belonged to a park and pair of ball fields – dark and deserted at this hour. This walk always made me a little nervous. This was not a good place to be after hours when most good and honest people were asleep. The 7eleven across the street cast very little light into this lot, but I was moving with purpose and already had my car keys ready, visually scanning the area for movements, listening for voices or noises in the darkened fields. My pulse thudded in my ears as I closed in on my car, pausing just long enough to check the locks and backseat before throwing myself into the drivers seat, locking the door, and keying up the engine. Safe. I started to relax a little as I pulled out of the lot and drove the five or six blocks back to my house. I had forgotten my uneasiness as I parked in my usual place, grabbed my notebook and bag
from the passenger seat, and pulled my keys from the ignition. Out of habit, I glanced at my drivers side mirror as I unlatched the door to exit. For a split second I saw him reflected clearly, tall and black against the night - no more than ten or twelve feet behind my car; then the door swung open, throwing the reflection out to the street. My heart hitched in my throat and terrified, I turned to look where he was standing. There was no one there. I do not remember shutting the car door, and I'm fairly sure I didn't lock it. I only remember sprinting through the yard to my house and locking the deadbolt before daring to look out the windows for the figure, who had vanished without a trace. I knew that I had seen something that was not a living person, but I began questioning whether or not it was a ghost I had seen, or something other. After a few days, I wondered if I had really seen anything. I didn't realize then that my encounter would be the first in a series of strange encounters. My second encounter occurred only a couple weeks later and began exactly as the first. This time I had just stepped onto my sidewalk when I felt like I was not alone. I looked around to my right and saw a tall, featureless shadow standing against a telephone pole about 20 feet away, looking back at me. I could see the telephone pole through the shadow, which looked to be easily over six feet tall. The figure looked like a silhouette, and was somehow blacker than the surrounding darkness, just as before. In that moment, time seemed to stop, then panic took over and I ran for the front door of my house, still looking at the figure, afraid it would give chase. It didn't. As a watched, it seemed to shift sideways into the street and disappear completely. This encounter left no doubt in my mind that the figure was not just my imagination, but I still had no clues as to what or who it could be. Several weeks passed without incident, then one night I received a panicked phone call from a friend. She was nearly hysterical as she related to me what she had experienced only moments before. She had been leaving work after her shift ended, around ten or eleven pm. She had parked her car that morning in the overflow lot next to her work place. Upon leaving, hers was the only car left in the unlit parking lot. She said she had been fumbling her keys out of her purse when she looked up across the empty lot and saw a dark shape that looked like a man leaning against her then new car. Fearing he was a thief, she yelled at him and started running towards her car, pushing the panic button on her keys hoping the noise would scare him off. She said the shape was quite dark, even in the dark parking lot, and she couldn't see his face. The panic button didn't seem to be working. As she got closer, the shape slid towards the front of the car. A moment later she reached her car and unlocked it. She turned on her headlights, illuminating the lot, but she saw no one – there was no movement of any kind anywhere in the lot. She called her husband, who decided to meet her en route to investigate and escort her home, then she called me while she drove to meet him. She said she could kind of see through the shape, that he seemed more like a shadow than a man, and moved differently than a person would. Also, she said she should have been able to hear someone running away in the deserted lot, but there was no sound. Lastly, in such a big lot, a person wouldn't have been able to disappear so swiftly or completely, yet there was no one. Her car showed no signs of attempted theft, there were no scratches in the paint, no prints on the glass. Fearing she had been hitting the trunk release instead of the panic button, her husband throughly checked the trunk and undercarriage, but there was nothing to be found. As we went over the details again and again, we both became convinced that we were experiencing the same thing. This was, after all, the same friend whose apartment I had been returning from when I'd had my encounters. Over a month later, I was talking to another friend when the subject of the shadow men came up. I related my own experiences and the experience of our friend and to my surprise, we weren't the only ones having these encounters. This friend said that she had been asleep and had woken suddenly in the early morning, feeling uneasy. She sat up in bed and looked around her room. She noticed a dark shadow crouched in the corner of her bedroom, in the space next to her closet. The shadow shot up the wall and darted across the ceiling, slipping out her open window. She got up and immediately shut the window, then went room to room sprinkling salt in the corners. It never happened again, but she said the corner of the room remained a little spooky and gave her an uneasy feeling. Her cat would stare into that corner and prickle. A few months later, she moved into a different apartment.
My curiosity had finally gotten the best of me and I went online looking for other people who had similar experiences. I wasn't expecting to find much information, but after a couple quick searches, I was sifting through dozens of encounters similar to my own. Patterns started to emerge in the stories, similarities that other stories of the supernatural don't seem to share. A few more recent searches revealed even more information and many new theories about these shadow beings, and also hundreds more stories from people who have encountered them. What I've tried to compile here is a list of attributes, theories, and references regarding these beings in hope of generating conversation and sharing encounters. Shadow people are most often perceived as being male or genderless (almost never female), are either very tall (in excess of 6 ft) or conversely, very short (child-sized). Shape varies from orb-like, to humanoid, with humanoid being much more common. Some people report hooded figures or figures with hats. Red or yellow eyes have supposedly been reported, though I have yet to find any encounters that mention them. Most encounters state that the figures are visible at the edge of one's vision, or in the peripheral vision, and that the figures flee with amazing speed when noticed. I have not found any encounters (to date) that mention communicating with shadow beings. Many encounters mention the shadow being in a corner, or peeking out from a corner (IE: around a building). Shadow beings do not seem to be dangerous, though I am finding references to encounters of a more dangerous kind, I am not finding those encounters in my research. So what are these shadow people? Theories abound. The most common theory suggests that they may simply be a manifestation of spirit energy; a ghost who manifests as matter not visible to the human eye, but that has mass, and therefore, casts a shadow that we can perceive.  Others deny that these beings were ever people and therefore cannot be ghosts, but maintain that they are some other type of manifestation of the paranormal.  Still others believe them to act as portents of misfortune , though I cannot see a correlation from the encounters I've read through. Other possibilities are that they are thought forms (literally the form of focused thought energy that becomes sentient to some extent) such as an egregore or tulpa and that they may be the culmination of violent or traumatic energies in the area they occupy, feeding on fear and negative energy.  For me, this last one may be true for some, but seems inconsistent with the majority of encounters. Many people have theorized that these shadow people may be demonic in nature, but I also feel that this is a rather unsupportable assessment. I have found another popular theory that suggests that shadow beings may be from another dimension or plane of existence that overlaps with ours and which we cannot perceive clearly.  References to shadow beings can be found in Cherokee mythology (Raven Mocker – a thief of souls) and in Middle eastern culture (the Jinn who appear to humans as shadowy figures). Some dismiss these encounters as interruptions in the electromagnetic field which humans perceive as paranormal phenomena. Two other possible (though not in my opinion, plausible) explanations are hypnagogia and pareidolia. Hypnagogia is the transitional state of sleep where a person experiences dream imagery, but is capable of rational thought.  This doesn't seem to be a possibility for many of the encounters, but may hold true for some of them. Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon where we perceive importance in random stimuli, for example: seeing faces in random patterns or hearing distinct words and phrases in white noise. This can be a way of explaining away EVPs and photo anomalies, but is more difficult to apply to shadow beings because it doesn't explain the movement of such beings. In closing, we may not know what these beings are or what their motives are, but it seems like there have been huge strides over the last few years in defining them, which gets us ever closer to understanding them.
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This article Copyright 2010 Kimberly Bouchu
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