Author Jason Offutt Explains the "Shadow People" Phenomenon

Cover of the book, Darkness Walks
Have you seen the hat man?. Anomalist Books

DO MYSTERIOUS, SHADOWY entities drift into our world from some other existence, another dimension, another time? These shadow beings seem to be reported with more and more frequency. What are they? Where do they come from? We spoke with Jason Offutt, author of Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us, about this unnerving phenomenon.

Q: The “shadow people” phenomenon seems to be fairly widespread. Do you think they are related to what we generally consider ghost and haunting phenomena?

Jason: Yes and no. From my research, I've found shadow people fit into many different paranormal categories, ghosts/hauntings being only one. However, many shadow people encounters do seem to mirror ghost encounters and are the most common [type of] shadow person encounters: a blacker-than-night, human-shaped shadow that people see walking through their bedroom, hallway, living room, etc. These shadow people are the most benign, usually not taking notice of those who observe them.

Q: How far back have you been able to trace written mentions or documentation about shadow people?

Jason: The oldest first-person encounter I've found was a man who told me he saw shadow people as a kid in the late 1940s. The oldest mention of entities like this in literature I've found was in the late 1800s, although shadow people have been reported in various religions throughout history.

Q: Obviously, there must be many instances in which what people assume are shadow people are just plain shadows caused by ordinary means. Do you have any estimate of what percentage might be considered “genuine” shadow people?

Jason: I’m not going to take a stab at the percentage, because the people I’ve spoken with have seen something real, moving and menacing. The millions of people out there who got spooked by ordinary shadows eventually realize that’s what it was and forget about it. However, there are many, many encounters that are misidentification, sleep paralysis, and other psychological manifestations that aren't real shadow people encounters – although they seem to be.

Yes, some shadow people sightings are just a coat rack, a trick of light and shadow or the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, but these reports are from people who wake up in a haze or just see something in the corner of their eye. In Darkness Walks, all the shadow people encounters are genuine – many of them are while people are wide awake or are during the daylight.

Q: Can you briefly describe the empirical or scientific evidence, if any, that shadow people might be real?

Jason: There is scientific evidence shadow people aren’t real, and I explore that in the book. The behavior of shadow people doesn’t correspond to any laws of physics. They can be explained away through psychology and experiments that have been conducted on epileptic patients. However, the vast amount of first-hand accounts where these entities have left physical evidence (broken glass, misplaced objects, pain when touched) makes me certain these entities exist; science just hasn’t caught up with them.

Next page: The mysterious Hat Man

Q: In Darkness Walks you categorize eight types of shadow people, one of them being the very curious “Hat Man”. I have received many such accounts on my website as well. What do you suppose this type of shadow person is or represents?

Jason: The Hat Man isn’t just one type of entity. There are numerous cases where the shadow person is wearing a hat—always an old-style hat—and behaves like a ghost is reported to behave, such as standing still or fading away. People who witness this type of entity almost never report fear, so I believe this is simply a ghost sighting.

The other type of Hat Man almost exclusively wears a fedora and is much more unnerving. People report stark terror when confronted by this entity and feel it is feeding off their fear. This menacing entity occasionally has red, glowing eyes and doesn’t fade away like a ghost; it walks away like a physical entity. This type of Hat Man is not a ghost; it is something much more malevolent.

Q: One theory is that shadow people are not really ghosts in the traditional sense, but that they are living interdimensional beings or even time travelers. What are your thoughts?

Jason: The physicists I posed this question to got quite a chuckle out of it, but the hundreds of people I polled felt interdimensional beings is the most logical explanation. This would explain the behavior of the vast number of shadow people reports of an entity that simply seems to be walking from Point A to Point B, completely oblivious to things like people and walls. Maybe shadow people are simply images of interdimensional beings that are bleeding through into our realm.

Astral projection is another similar explanation. Maybe these entities are what we can see of a person’s astral form. Shadow people being time travelers doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It doesn’t hold with the many scientific time travel theories out there. But who knows?

Q: Can you briefly relate one of the most unnerving or unsettling shadow people encounters you’ve come across?

Jason: In the past couple of months, I was contacted by a woman whose husband was dying of cancer. As the cancer progressed, he reported seeing shadow people standing around his bed. No one else could see them. Weeks from death, the number of shadow people in his room increased to more than 20. Although weak, he convinced his wife to take him to a hotel 150 miles away. When they got to the hotel room, he told his wife he wanted to go on the trip with her to hide from the shadow people, but they’d followed him. After praying for the entities to leave her husband, they vanished and he died.

I’ve come across a number of shadow people stories where they seemed to be waiting for someone to die. Frankly, that gives me the willies.

Jason Offutt is also the author ofand his website is From the Shadows.