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What are Shadow People?

Michael Anissimov
Updated: Feb 21, 2024

Shadow people are an alleged supernatural phenomenon involving the manifestation of anthropomorphic shadow entities. They are also known as shadow folk, shadow beings, shadow men, or shades. According to witnesses, they are usually seen only in the corner of one's eye, only to disappear when an attempt is made to look at them directly. There is the claim that shadow people can move through walls. Two common types, according to paranormal enthusiasts, are the "hat man," a shadow person wearing a hat, and the "hooded man," a shade wearing a hood.

Sightings of shadow people usually report them as being near the fringes of a room (where shadows are common), and rarely, standing in doorways or in more prominent positions. They are most often seen indoors at night, though there are outdoor and daytime sightings. The shadow people generally only appear for a moment, quickly departing if closely examined. They have no discernible facial features. The distinction between a ghost and a shadow person is blurry. Generally a ghost is more of a light-colored apparition, while a shadow is dark.

Though some have claimed that shadow people are a component of old Native American belief, the phenomenon seems to be entirely modern, with them rarely being mentioned prior to 1990. In the early 2000s, a wave of interest into the phenomenon led to their introduction to modern culture. People have posted alleged videos of them on the Internet, but none are very convincing, a similarity these share with ghost videos. Paranormal enthusiasts attribute the origin to that similar to ghosts — psychic beings created after an event of great distress or a death. Another proposal is that shadow people are beings traveling from another dimension.

As with ghosts, most scientists are extremely skeptical about the existence of shadow people. It seems as if the phenomenon can be attributed to a mix of pareidolia (the tendency to see patterns everywhere) and the low-resolution nature of peripheral vision. Hypnagogia, the unusual mental state between waking and sleep, is also known to produce hallucinations of person-like entities, accompanied by feelings of unease and lack of control. Many skeptics assert that hypnagogia is likely responsible for most reports of alien abduction, so shadow people would just be another phenomena attributed to that hallucinatory state. Until a convincing video of shadow people is produced, it seems unlikely that the effect will be taken as anything genuinely supernatural by most of the population.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated WiseGeek contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1006715 — On May 07, 2022

I'm not sure how old I was exactly, 8 would be my guess. I was asleep and it was in the early morning hours. The bedroom door was open and it was silent and dark. For some reason, I woke up and looked to the doorway and standing in the hallway. Just outside the bedroom doorway stood an all black figure, not wearing a hat, about six feet tall. I looked at it for a few seconds while it stood still and it seemed to be looking at me. It was about twelve feet away. I pulled the covers over my head for a few seconds and then I looked to see if it was still there, but it was gone. It wasn't a dream. I was awake when I saw it. The experience happened just over forty years ago. It was a one time thing for me. I have never spoken or written about it before now.

By anon1006611 — On Apr 13, 2022

I've been a nurse for 8 years now. Nightshift has always historically been my jam. It's a slower pace and the pay is better. I used to work in a super sleepy nursing home and had a few odd experiences while there. There are two that really stick out in my memory.

The first time something weird happened I was pulling meds to give a patient and noticed a man walk up to me in my peripheral vision. I didn't want to lose track of what pills I had already placed in the cup so I kept working. He seemed content to let me finish before speaking to me. Interruptions lead to meds errors so I just finished quickly. The entire time, if I looked up, I could see him on the edge of my vision. When I was done, I looked over and there was nothing there. Every hair on my body stood up.

The second incident happened when I was about to change a dressing for a patient on her foot. I pulled all of the supplies together, went in the room and closed the door. It was a semi-private room and her roommate was in the bed closest to the door, so I pulled the curtain all the way around us. As I was caring for her wound, the curtain pulled aside just a bit, like someone used just a finger to peek at us. We both looked and each other and back again. The curtain rippled all the way around us like somebody was walking quickly around it on the other side. We looked at each other again with big eyes. I pulled back the curtain and looked around, but there was nothing there. The door never opened or we would have heard it. The roommate had advanced dementia and couldn't walk, so I know it wasn't her. Besides that, she was still curled up in her bed in the same position I last saw her in upon entering the room. My patient asked me "did your see that?".... it was the creepiest thing that ever happened to me. We prayed together and never spoke of it again. I made sure to get in and out of that room while the sun was out.

Both of these things happened to me on the same hall, about 15 feet apart. Before they made it the short stay/ rehab unit, it was the locked dementia unit. There were a ton of other little things that happened to me over my 4 years with the company. The elevator would come up by itself when I was there at least once every week or two. When someone would be close to dying they would sometimes tell me about the little boy coming to visit them. This phenomenon was facility wide. I often wondered if it was the little boy that died in the parking lot. His mom was a CNA who worked there maybe a decade before I started. She left him in her car during her shift one summer day. He passed away from the extreme high temperature inside the vehicle. I didn't believe my coworkers at first when they told me. I figured they were messing with the newbie. A Google search has never made me so sad.

By anon1006590 — On Apr 09, 2022

Hi All

I'm from South Arica.

I was about 14/15 years old when I had my first encounter with a Dark Figure, almost like the silhouette of a man.

It was in the school holidays when I went to my Grandparents on their farm to visit them. A few days into the holiday visit, around eight at night when I went to bed, I was lying on a single bed in the one corner of the room with the light in the room turned off but the hallway's light was on.

I could hear my grandparents talking in the kitchen and I wasn't really sleepy, but it always takes a while for me to eventually fall asleep. When all of a sudden I could see this darker-than-dark male build figure standing on its knees right in front of the bed.

I know that this wasn't a person, it's something else. You just know when you see it.

I'm lying there and this dark figure is going side to side, right to left and left to right, and repeating this movement and the sounds were weird. I can't explain them, but it wasn't voiced.

I turned my back towards it, thinking to myself it will go away and I looked at the wall all the way thinking to myself "wtf" did I just see, from thereon I can't remember anything or hear anything, that feeling when you go in for an operation when you are under anesthetics. Nothing exists, nothing. It's all a blank.

When all of a sudden I got by or woke up, not feeling tired but also not knowing if I'd slept. I jumped up from the bed and went to the light switch to turn the light on. I looked at the clock and it was 6am.

Know I'm wondering what happened to me from 8 pm to 6 am. I told my Grandparents the same morning all about what had just happened and they didn't really respond to me, maybe they thought that I dreamed it. But I called my Dad and asked him to pick me up and that I wanted to go back home.

I did tell him what happened, and he also didn't really say something to me. I told everyone that seemed to listen to me, but I can't seem to find someone to relate to that understands what I went through.

Well, I did go back to visit, but never ever slept over again. And some years later my Grandparents told me the previous owner of the farm committed suicide by shooting himself.

Did anyone ever lose time when something paranormal like happened to them?

By anon1006510 — On Mar 26, 2022

I am 40 years old and I saw a shadow person about 10 years ago. it stood over my bed looking at me while I was completely paralyzed. This caused me to scream every time it visited me. The last time it visited me, it opened its eyes and actually spoke to me. It had green eyes. After saying what it had to say, it jumped into the roof and I have never seen it again.

By anon1006154 — On Feb 04, 2022

When I was five or six years old, I was walking to my grandma’s front door from her backyard, when I turned the corner and saw this dark entity standing on the sidewalk near her front door, almost like it was waiting for me.

It was standing a few feet in front of me, and some reason I decided to walk towards it and it walked towards me. When we were just inches apart, it disappeared. I still see it from the corner of my eye, just following me, but it never appears directly in front of me anymore.

By anon1004729 — On Apr 08, 2021

I have only ever seen the occasional shadow person in the evening walking along the pavement of where I live usually in the very early hours of the morning and then disappearing. However, in late September 2013 I was sitting opposite my husband in our living room and suddenly a shadow person appeared directly behind him. I watched this figure for quite a few minutes and for some strange reason was not scared, but thought it wise not to say anything as at that time my husband had been diagnosed as being terminally ill (he died on October 4th of that year). To this day I have never seen this figure appear again. I have often wondered why?

By anon980572 — On Dec 05, 2014

I feel I must memorialize this story somehow. First, I am very skeptical and must have proof of anything. I will say that I am thinking there is some mental phenomenon that might be occurring, but open minded enough to know that it may be something to this outside the brain, maybe.

OK, here is the story. When my daughter was about 6 she was on the couch watching TV. It is mid morning and a clear bright day in central Florida. I was at my desk behind her working on the computer. I could tell she got up (I was not facing her) and stood there for a few moments before walking out of the room.

When she came back she walked and stood next to me and asked, "was that you?" She said she saw a shadow just outside the door. When it disappeared she went to the bedroom, where her mother was napping thinking it might have been her.

I discounted it as a car driving by or some other reasonable explanation - until I saw an episode of Weird or What. At age 10,I asked her for more details and she said it was a man shape, dark, no features, and it waved to her. She looked at me and then back again and it was gone. She was looking directly at it and it waved to her, not from her peripheral. I didn't ask about a hat and she didn't mention that. I'm not sure I will bring it up again to find out as it may scare her.

That's our story and I have no idea what, if anything, she really saw.

By anon952538 — On May 21, 2014

"According to witnesses, they are usually seen only in the corner of one's eye,"

That is completely false. Where are your sources? Most cases involve People seeing them outside of their peripheral vision -- usually right in front of them. In fact, sometimes people actually get pushed and shoved by these creatures. I'm pretty sure there are even a few cases involving people getting scratched.

Also the picture is a terrible example. "Shadow people are supernatural phenomenon involving shadow entities." At least post something that's been claimed to have shadow people in it, not some guys standing behind a light. Shadow People are 3D in nature, not 2D. If you see a 2D shadow on a wall or something, maybe it's running down the hallway, then it's probably a poltergeist, not a shadow person. Generally speaking.

By anon941211 — On Mar 21, 2014

I had various experiences in a place my family lived when I was young. The one the screams out at me was as follows. I was lying in the bottom of a bunk bed and could not sleep (I was often scared in this house). I used to keep the covers up around my face and if I heard anything in the room I would throw myself completely under them. I'm not sure what time it was, but I don't believe it was that late because people were still up.

Well, I got that "I'm scared" feeling and tossed myself under the covers. After a couple of minutes I peeked out from under and saw a hooded figure walk right by me. Now, while I was petrified at the time, I can say now that it never even looked at me (much less menaced me). But I was so scared and I remember it so well, even to this day.

By anon935098 — On Feb 23, 2014

I am only on this site, as I just had to look up what was this being was that my four children and I, at different times, have seen inside our house.

It is about seven feet tall and completely black, with the slim shape of a male, in a hooded long garment. My teenage daughter saw it peering at her from my upstairs window as she walked back towards the house, about six months ago. She was left very spooked and scared. It moved from the window very quickly. It has also been seen many times reflected in windows on photographs, like it is just watching.

I saw it the other night standing in my kitchen, just by the corner of the sink/window. I heard my cat, but could not see my cat when I looked from my lounge from where I had been resting. I glanced towards my kitchen and saw this being watching me. It just stood there. I looked twice at it, and my brain seemed to be calm, and I just went back inside the lounge. I felt sort of calm but very concerned, in terms of what should I do or say about this.

In the morning, my 9 year old daughter told me that she saw a tall, black ghost that stood near her wardrobe, and then she saw it move towards the wall on the side of the room and then it disappeared. I described, then, what I had also seen that very same night, but downstairs.

As I type this, my 8 year old son has just informed me that he saw it during the night as he made his way to the toilet. My kids now sleep with the light on. They are very scared, and I am shocked. We know what we have all seen.

What does it all mean, though? Are these omens or what? I have told the kids not to tell any other adults, as they would think we are crazy. After all, this seems just too incredible. But it’s the truth.

By anon925814 — On Jan 14, 2014

I have seen shadow people my entire life. I have always called them shadow figures. I am 30 years old and never thought much about them, just passing them off as hallucinations. When and how I witness these does not match up at all how it is described in the article.

I have seen them in many settings and in many places but lately I have seen them primarily outside my house in front of my front door. They are quick, ridiculously quick. They are in my vision and then gone. Again, I always thought of them as just hallucinations but turning to the internet I see so many people seeing the exact same thing as I am, it is hard for me to imagine that many people having identical hallucinations. Now I wonder what could be going on.

By anon356614 — On Nov 26, 2013

Two years ago while driving home, at the time it was sunset, I was driving around a corner and I saw a black figure of a man flying past my car. He was all black with ragged clothing. Then before I could comprehend what just happened another one flew past my windscreen. Neither of them looked at me. What the hell, and what are they?

By anon356252 — On Nov 23, 2013

You are being tricked by demons. There are no such things as ghosts. They are trickster demons again playing games with you. It says quite clearly in Bible when people die, they don't know anything until judgment day!

I have been bothered by these things since childhood in a waking dream state where body is paralyzed on several occasions.

In 2006, in a remote farmhouse we rented, I got the visitations from the shadow black preacher blurry shapes with a broad brim quaker type zorro hat and black suit.

I had peripheral vision sightings in broad daylight of it walking straight through walls accompanied by a cat/small dog shape running behind. I read this is just another demon tricking you. Satan is also known as The Trickster.

There was much strife at the time too in our house. My girlfriend had a breakdown of sorts and we split up. I found out eventually she maxed her credit card using the access number 666 without telling me. Years before, I made her sit through two series explaining why it was stupid going into debt and being an interest paying debt slave, but it didn't register in the 'airspace' between her ears! She was blowing the house cash/rent on paying her debts.

I am a Bible reading Christian. I don't trust corrupt priests enough in these times to attend churches!

By anon348430 — On Sep 16, 2013

I am a Christian myself, and my two brothers saw a shadow thing move up the steps very quickly. If I had seen it myself, I would have just thought I was imagining it, but when I turned to my two brothers, we all said at once, "Did you just see that?" We then heard footsteps upstairs. We looked for every possible explanation, but there is none. It was a very well lit basement steps and we were no farther than a foot away. We were just standing there having a conversation.

I also remembered a story my mom had told me. She had been lying in bed awake at mid morning when she saw a man wearing a old time hat and cape walk past her bed. I remember telling her that she must have been dreaming, but now I think she must have seen the hat man.

The thing that gets me the most is the thought of a ghost wearing a hat; it makes no sense. The most recent experience I had was about a year ago in my own bedroom. My two dogs were on the bed with me, and no one else was in the house when a dog toy on the floor made a sound! Even the dogs heard it. It was one of those squeaky toys that when you press it makes a sound and when you let go of it, it makes a sound. It was quite scary, but I pretended that I did not hear it.

By anon330056 — On Apr 13, 2013

After a conditioned state within a person has been created, usually at a very young age, suggestions are applied. "Do not speak of us" and "Do not see us" are two simple forms of suggestion often used by these people. They have many names from many places. I know them as "her" and the system they use is from Russia. It's called Bolshevism and they've been using hypnosis, telepathy, and teleportation for thousands of years. All they want is the freedom to mess up whomever they want to, whenever they want to, wherever they want to. We see shadows because that is what our brains have been commanded to see. You don't see the guy sneaking in to nail your wife, who doesn't have a choice thanks to "Project Monarch."

By anon329096 — On Apr 08, 2013

I believe I am in a rare situation. My adult daughter and I both saw the hat man simultaneously. We were standing in the dining room after dinner, talking with my wife. Though my wife saw nothing, my daughter and I both saw the thing and reacted in gasps. We described it -- she sharing a piece of information, then me doing the same, piece by piece to see if we agreed. We did.

It was tall, maybe 6'5 - 7' and black as a silhouette and seemed to be wearing a cape. It had a short, broad-brimmed hat (which I later learned looks like a fedora). No facial features or eyes were visible and it vanished as soon as we looked at it. It gave us a feeling of just -- watching. Not a threat, but startling as all heck. We did see it out of the corner of our eyes/peripheral vision, and it was evening (dark outside) and indoors. And it did give a feeling of awareness, or intelligence -- not like being in the presence of a rock or whatever.

I haven't seen it since. Several years after that experience, I decided to Google shadow people, having heard about them on the Coast-to-Coast radio show. I was absolutely floored when I came across a drawing of the hat man. I emailed it to my daughter saying nothing more than, "Does this picture remind you of anything?" She emailed me back, "OMG -- that's what I saw that night several years ago." I confirmed that it was almost exactly what I had seen too.

Clearly this was not hypnagogic in nature. We were wide awake, standing, talking. Pareidolia? Possibly, but why did we both see exactly the same shape? And why are people seeing the hat man shape as opposed to seeing say a bear, or a giraffe, or a woman? Why the same image if it is pattern recognition? And in the years since, I have surely been in many situations that approximated the same levels of light and dark and shadow -- why have I never seen it again if it is explainable by peripheral vision and pareidolia?

I don't know what it was, but I know that two independent observers saw the same thing at the same time and reacted quite visibly and immediately to the the brief experience of there being a very tall, pitch black man standing in the shadows of the living room only 10 or 15 feet from us!

By anon327723 — On Mar 29, 2013

I'm a 49 year old woman my experience with shadow people has been different from anything I've ever read. The first time I have ever seen one I was a young child lost in the system of foster care. I had a very hard life. I wasn't one of the lucky kids who got a good family. No, I got a lot of really bad families. I can't remember the first time I saw shadow people, but they always been there and they were never alone. There were always three, sometimes four of them, to adult size and sometimes there were one or two that were smaller in size like children. I know I sound crazy, but I swear I'm one of the most sane people you will ever talk to. I would see them every night in my bedroom after turning off the light. I don't sleep well, so it takes me a while to fall asleep, so I watch for them. I know they will come; they always do. They don't upset me or frighten me. I've gotten used to seeing them. The bigger ones seem to be more like teachers and the two smaller ones are learning from them. Maybe they are a family from another dimension, like time travelers, and they only can pass through in darkness so they won't be seen so easily.

Most people see them out the corner of their eyes, and when they take a second look, nothing is there, so maybe that's the way shadow people need it to be for whatever reason, but that's another thought for another day. I remember the first time I let them know I saw them. They seemed concerned at first, but it didn't take long for them to lose their concern and become conscious. I didn't see them for a few days, or maybe it was a couple of weeks. I thought I scared them off. Then one night, I could see someone standing against the wall and I said out loud, “I can see you again and I'm glad you came back, as long as you don't want to harm us.” My husband was sleeping right next to me and he is real hard to wake up. Before I knew it, the dark figure was over my bed waving his hands close to my face, moving his fingers back and forth, as if to say, “Oh my god. She can see us.” They never spoke to me or anything like that, and they came back a few times after that.

Sometimes the two smaller ones show up when I least expect it. The smallest is about the same size as an eight or nine year old and the other one seems to be a little older. They are conscious. They come close and I watch them. It's almost like they dare each other to see who will come closer. At first, they were timid, but after a while, they relax and get silly with one another, waving hands in front of my eyes and bringing their faces close to mine, studying me, trying to outdo one another. I lie there still, and watch them. They never make a sound but they are communicating with one another and if I say anything to them, as quickly as they came, they can be gone just as fast.

I don't see them as often anymore. It almost feels like they were making sure I was going to be OK since they watched over me as a child. They never stopped bad things from happening to me, but I knew at night I wasn't alone. They have always been there and sometimes still are.

By anon301424 — On Nov 04, 2012

I have seen many shadow people throughout my life. I find it best to let them be and not even let them know when I see them. I noticed that when attention is given to them they tend to hang around.

One of the most vivid shadows was seen not only by me, but my friend too. I was probably fifteen years old and my friend and I were having a heart to heart one night in my living room at the bottom of the stairs. For some reason, we both looked into the kitchen and saw it run. It was as if the figure was listening to us and we caught it. It was a shadow shaped like a person. It had a head, arms and legs. I think because she saw it too is what freaked me out the most. We ran to my sister who was upstairs in my room with a friend and woke my mom.

I am now 35 years old but I will never forget that happening. I finally had confirmation that the things I had seen were for real.

By anon197354 — On Jul 16, 2011

I saw a shadow person in 1986. It was 4:30 a.m. just before my alarm clock would go off. I was just lying in my bed and I saw a large black figure of a man in the doorway. Just standing there. I could not move.

After a few seconds I decided to turn on my beside lamp. I looked back towards the hallway and nothing. I just had an uneasy feeling after that. I felt like I was in slow motion and going over and over in my mind what it was I saw.

Forty minutes later I got to my mother's house with my child and told her what I saw. She seemed to be concerned and told me to be careful going to work. That morning on my way to work, there was a very bad accident. A gas tanker had skidded on the icy bridge and hit a car head on. The police had not arrived.

I believe that the shadow was there to warn me or slow me down that morning. Because if I had been a few minutes earlier, I would not be here to tell my story.

By anon187787 — On Jun 18, 2011

I have seen shadow people more than once. I have actaully seen humanoid forms on all four legs, and I have seen them standing up right. I was fully awake and alert.

By anon162791 — On Mar 24, 2011

I have seen a shadow person. It totally took me by surprise.

We have opposing stairways in our apartment--I saw a full figure shadow person move quickly from the top of the stairs to the bottom of the stairs, where it disappeared. There were no identifiable features and it had the shape of a male human. This also occurred in the middle of the day.

Have never seen it since, but that day is still clear in my memory.

I would like to add that I do not suffer from any form of mental illness other than depression. I am sleep deprived because I suffer from tinnitus and I do have hypnagogic hallucination occasionally.

By cmsmith10 — On Mar 05, 2011

@medicchristy: It depends on who you talk to on whether or not shadow people are real. It used to be a taboo to discuss the possibility of super natural phenomenon. It has become more acceptable with all of the television shows and movies out now to discuss paranormal activities.

Most people see shadow people out of the corner of their eye. It is a quick movement that happens in the blink of an eye. Only lucky people will have the chance to see a full body apparition if they are into ghostly sightings. For those who aren’t into the paranormal, they can become terrified.

By medicchristy — On Mar 02, 2011

Are shadow people real or is it just your imagination?

By anon26072 — On Feb 07, 2009

Stories relating to Shadow People have been around for centuries in certain areas of the world; while they might be referred to as something other than "Shadow People" the descriptions are the same.

The only thing that is modern is that now the internet has enabled more people to talk about their experiences anonymously without fear of being labeled mentally unstable.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated WiseGeek contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology,...
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