The Hat Man Encounters; Shadowy Superstition or Real Phenomenon?

shadow of man standing in dark room

In HBO’s hit series Westworld, Ed Harris plays a sinister character dressed in a black hat, trench coat, and three-piece suit, donning an even darker persona to match. But while Harris’ character is merely that – a TV character – there is a horrifying phenomenon known to many as the Hat Man, a shadowy phantom that haunts people both night and day. Is this nefarious figure real, or a figment concocted by vivid imaginations?

Those who have experienced the haunting phenomenon known as “shadow people” might consider Hat Man encounters to be one in the same. But Heidi Hollis, a woman who has become something of an expert in the Hat Man story, says there are distinct differences in the reports she’s fielded, categorizing the Hat Man as a separate experience all his own.

The Hat Man Story

It’s not clear who first reported an encounter with the Hat Man, but when Hollis began cultivating reports on the “shadow people” phenomenon, she knew she had to distinguish it from reports of the Hat Man.

According to Hollis, the Hat Man typically appears at night, dressed in a long, black trench coat, a black three-piece suit, and a black hat – either a fedora, top hat, or cowboy hat. Witnesses say the Hat Man’s eyes glow red and occasionally he checks a gold pocket watch chained to his belt. He is described as being at least six feet tall, though usually his stature reaches between seven to 10 feet.

Hat Man experiences involve a sense of inherent fear, as Hollis says she believes he is a manifestation of negative energy in a person’s life. She says she has never seen the Hat Man herself, chalking it up to a strong sense of faith and spirituality. Her roommate on the other hand, has in fact seen this wicked figure, resulting in a full-on panic attack.

Hollis said her roommate jumped out of bed and began screaming at the top of her lungs when she saw the Hat Man. But as soon as Hollis opened the door to her room, finding her friend backed into a corner, he immediately disappeared.

The Hat Man is alleged to whisper ominous warnings to his victims, occasionally speaking in enigmatic riddles. Hollis says he is where the buck stops when it comes to negativity.

Unfortunately, there are no hat man pictures, save for the occasional drawing posted online. Though, it seems it would be difficult to capture a picture of such a frightening entity when surrounded by darkness and fear in one’s bed.

Watch this episode of Beyond Belief  in which expert Heidi Hollis explains witness accounts of the Shadow Hat Man:

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What Are These Hat Man Encounters?

It would be easy to write-off the Hat Man as a fabricated entity from someone with clever storytelling skills, and then circulated by an easily frightened group of victims. But in reality, there are a few explanations that might make more sense.

After all, Hollis and her roommate aren’t the only ones to have experienced or heard about the Hat Man and other shadow entities. The late, great Coast to Coast host Art Bell covered the phenomena for years listening to myriad stories of the ilk, until his recent passing. And one would assume that if the experience is shared by a large number of people, there must be some explanation, whether physical of psychological.

One explanation that would seem to make the most sense is a common disorder known as sleep paralysis. It’s believed that somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of adults in the U.S. have or will experience sleep paralysis at some point in their lives, and the incident can be horrifying.

Sleep paralysis occurs when REM sleep – the deep, dreaming phase of the sleep cycle – becomes interrupted, dysfunctional, or occurs too quickly. Understandably, this is why sleep paralysis occurs more frequently with narcoleptics and people who have trouble sleeping.

Our bodies have a mechanism when we sleep that paralyzes us to prevent sleep walking while unconscious. According to one study, the body releases a combination of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine, switching off cells in the brain responsible for skeletal muscle control.

But for some, this mechanism may onset too early or occur while one is in-between lucidity and dreaming. That’s when hallucinations occur. One of the most common hallucinations in these scenarios is the feeling that there’s something or someone else in the room. Some people even feel like a demon is sitting on their chest. Sounds horrifying, right?

Unsurprisingly, one of the experiences people report with the Hat Man involves him jumping on their chest and choking them, much like the sleep paralysis demon. And this phenomenon has been reported for centuries, depicted as far back as the 1700s in such classic Renaissance pieces as John Henry Füsseli’s The Nightmare.

Füsseli’s The Nightmare


But when our dreams are so varied, why would people continue to report seeing the same entity with the same features? One explanation could be that they are archetypal fears shared within our collective unconscious. Why is Ed Harris’ black-hatted character in Westworld so spooky? Because there’s something ominous about his appearance; something that strikes a universal nerve of fear.

An Extradimensional Shadow Man?

But let’s consider for a minute that these entities are more than mere hallucinations – is it possible he could be extra-dimensional entity? Is there potential in the idea that certain people unwittingly manifest entities in their lives that can slip between dimensions as they please?

In the past we’ve written about specific energetic hotspots that seem to manifest the paranormal. In these areas there are greater than average sightings of UFOs, Bigfoot, and other esoteric entities. Are Hat Man sightings more prevalent in these areas? More research is needed to say for certain.

Hollis’ claims that victims’ individual energy and spirituality, or lack thereof, can be responsible for summoning the Hat Man. Surely, we’ve all had experiences in life where we’ve recognized that a negative attitude summoned a negative outcome. But is there really some type of cosmic function in which negative emotional and spiritual input equals the output of a terrifying Hat Man in your closet whispering menacing nothings into your ear?

God, we’d like to hope not. But let’s look at a similar case.

In the past we’ve mentioned, psychonaut, author, and former Gaia show host Daniel Pinchbeck’s experience during a time in his life where he believes he summoned negative entities from a psychedelic experience. And these entities haunted him in his daily life for weeks to come. Pinchbeck says he entered a realm through the use of a DMT analogue, using the experimental substance in a cavalier manner, without respect to its potency.

He had an unpleasant experience that resonated for weeks, in which he believed the entities that tormented him during his trip continued to haunt him in his home and beyond. And while he never mentioned an entity like the Hat Man, his account is nearly as terrifying.

For now, we’ll leave the Hat Man in the unexplained category, lacking sufficient evidence to truly label it real or contrived. Have you ever experienced the Shadow Hat Man?


For more on the phenomenon of Shadow People, check out this episode of Beyond Belief with Heidi Hollis:

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