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Do You See Shadow People? Sleep May Not Always Be to Blame

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Do You See Shadow People? Sleep May Not Always Be to Blame
You awaken one night to the feeling that you’re being watched. As you lie there, you see out of the corner of your eye a dark figure standing at the foot of the bed.

It may look like a full bodied person and usually male, sometimes with a hat and cloak, but it may just as easily be a shadow that fades away as you focus on it. These are what some call the Shadow People, also referred to as “shades.”

TSW recently covered the idea of sleep paralysis causing people to see figures in their bedroom (1), which could be considered Shadow People.

However, a glance at the Internet will tell you that not only do many people experience this strange phenomena, but it doesn’t always happen during or after sleep.

Experiences of Shadow People

As mentioned, searching for the term “Shadow People” will bring up numerous forum threads discussing personal experiences of these entities. Many experiences vary, from the shadow flitting past out of the corner of the eye to the full figure who fades away or moves when focused on (2)(3).

One person claims to witness a shadow man mostly at night when she’s awake and always in different places. Always male and tall and often with a top hat, he could be walking through the house or standing out in the yard watching her (4). Her husband says she has woken him talking about it, which she doesn’t remember.

Another saw many Shadow People as a small child, standing and walking around the room. They are described as dark figures with a soft glow inside them and no features. The person who saw them claims (s)he was definitely not asleep, in fact (s)he walked past the Shadow People to his/her parent’s room (4).

I could argue that I have experienced something similar to Shadow People. When I was a child, I lost my little black dog to old age. Within a week of her dying, I could swear that I saw her running through our house out of the corner of my eye. Whether this was the spirit of my dog or just my brain reacting to the grief, seeing that brought me a little comfort to feel that she was still in the house with us. But what about others who have witnessed Shadow People?

shadow figure

Does the Brain Hold the Answers?

There are a number of explanations for Shadow People, including the rise of the horror films and people’s overactive imaginations, but most are connected to the way the brain, and often peripheral vision, works. One forum thread discussing these shadows includes someone mentioning that a type of anti-depressant drug lists “visual disturbances” as a side effect (5) and that the rise in use of these drugs could account for the increase in Shadow People experiences.

When the person witnessing the apparition while lying down claims the figure climbs on top of their chest restricting their breathing, they are most likely suffering from sleep paralysis. This is a terrifying reaction from the body – between sleep and waking, the person cannot move and hallucinates.

The human mind seeks to find the recognizable in everything (6), especially human faces and features. It’s why so many faces appear in toast, wood knots and vegetables. The edge of vision is controlled by rods which have a poorer resolution than those in the center of the eye, but there is a high sensitivity to movement (7). This means that you might notice something out of the corner of your eye and, because you can’t see it properly, your brain will mesh together the details to make it something recognizable, like a face or dark figure.

Studies have shown that when the left temporoparietal junction (TPJ) region of the brain is stimulated, it causes the person to feel the presence of someone not there. It is suggested that the witnessing of Shadow People is increased in those with certain neurological disorders (8).

Neurologists discovered this when stimulating the brain of an epileptic woman while trying to isolate the cause of her fits. When they reached her TPJ, she proclaimed she could sense the presence of a person behind her mimicking her posture and positioning.

shadow hooded

The Truth Behind Shadow People

So a Shadow Person could simply be something ordinary seen out of the corner of your eye, or perhaps a fluctuation in your brain stimulating your TPJ.

But that still doesn’t account for all Shadow People experiences. Something that jumps out after reading just a few eye witness accounts is that many describe not remembering interacting with Shadow People although they are told by other witnesses in the same room.

As with ghosts, the explanations for Shadow People differ and each personal experience is different.

Whether these are shadowy figures that the brain has created, a side effect of medication, ghosts, time or space travellers, or some strange supernatural beings, in many cases something strange is definitely happening and we may never be able to explain it.

References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: Could Many Ghost Sightings Be Attributed to Sleep Paralysis?
(3) Paranormal Gallery
(4) Shadow People Figures When Awake
(5) Rational Skepticism
(6) The Polite Skeptic
(7) Corner of Eye Phenomena
(8) Science Mag
(9) Shadowman

Originally published on

  • Michael

    They, “The shadow people,” are 4th dimensional or “spiritual realm” demonic entities/fallen angels that are capable of lending themselves to your perceptions in order to mislead you. Shapeshifters (if you will) they are Haters of men, they feed off your fear & will haunt you if you let them. They can present themselves in many forms when upon first encountering them we do not know what to make of them of course, so they appear as these faceless “shadows.” As one begins to seek explanations & looking into various belief systems they will play along with each. They will become what you would make of them. Jesus, (of course, knew & understood this. When asked who he was, he quite often questioned in return, ” who do you say that I am?”
    This is my humble opinion of course, but I’d like to think that I know whereof as I speak. Considering I have had countless encounters & interactive experiences with them.
    I know it’s difficult to imagine. I, previously, would not have believed it possible had I not experienced it for myself.

  • Roy Welch

    Powerful words kept me sane on a hell of a trip

  • Fitnah

    I share your experiences, and more. While some of these figures can be negative, there also are positive ones. Don’t fear.

  • buttercup76

    I don’t just see them at sleep or in bed.. Usually, I am wide awake, and not always in the night either.. Not that long ago I witnessed a shadow crawling across the wall and then hide into a real shadow.. Not only was I wide awake, but it was not night time.. Yes, creepy but I did not let it control me..I think there are many like me looking for the explanation, but I believe many of these are demonic in nature or lost spirits..

  • Nichole

    My shadow person wears a fedora, I know that must sound crazy. I’ve never felt afraid, he just watches me from doorways. I’ve traveled, and he’s followed me. I can only make out his hat and upper features. No face, and his lower half just blends in with the darkness. I’ve seen him since I was about 14, I’m nearly 40 now. He just watches.

  • Michael Lamansky

    my oldest boy got up off of the sofa while watching tv, there is a hallway to the right of the tv and that is where his focus was all of the sudden. he started talking to something in the hallway as he was walking toward it (talk about moving!) I saw nothing at that moment but have saw a dark (I would venture to say shadow person pass through the same hallway myself). makes one one edge to ponder what else might become of unusual encounters in the future….

  • Tammy Eads

    My son sees such figures and has for a while. He also saw human figures or spirits from the time he was 3. I have also experienced seeing spirits and the feel of something sitting on the side of my bed. Two of my grandchildren have saw and talked to things that no one else could see. And my daughter has always complained of whispers or voices that she can hear. My question is, can such abilities run in families?

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
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Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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