During the winter of my fourteenth year, something very strange happened to me. For three months, every night, I was visited by a man in a trench coat and a top hat, who came to me in my bathroom mirror. Whether or not I was actually dreaming, this is what would happen: I’d be sound asleep and then, for no reason, would abruptly rise to consciousness. My eyes would snap open and for a few minutes, I’d lay paralyzed and terrified on my bed; a dense, anxious feeling in my chest.
Then, slowly, I’d sit up, without even trying. My body would turn itself to look in the large ivory mirror to my left. Standing inside the mirror, was that man in a top hat; a shadowy figure, just watching me with a cool indifference. When he was there, I was never able to move even an inch. I came to think of him as Top Hat.
At first, I thought it was just a dream. But it was so realistic and happened so often, that Top Hat presence was slowly seeping into my own reality. I’d see his face in a large crowd, just for a moment. I’d see him rounding a corner in my home. I saw him everywhere, both inside my dreams and out.
Every night, I was terrified to go to bed. I would repeat, “not tonight” over and over, hoping he would not show up. But he always did. Sometimes he had with him a gold watch on a chain and he’d check the time. Other times he would just stare at me for what felt like hours. Top Hat came to me for three months and then one day, there was just nothing.
But I never forgot it because every time I was visited by that apparition, I was petrified. That fear that I experienced every single night, without fail, had consequently burned him into my memory. I couldn’t understand why all of this had happened, but the “why” didn’t really matter. Dozens of journal entries were written about him but after a few years, he rarely crossed my mind.
At least, until the summer of last year.
I was babysitting the children of a family friend. The two younger ones had gone to bed, so the oldest of the three (who was sixteen years old and a close friend of my sister) and I decided to watch a movie. We chose The Nightmare, a horror documentary that follows eight people who suffer from sleep paralysis and night terrors.
The crew found these people through YouTube, message boards, and internet chatrooms. They’d interview each person, who would talk about their experiences with sleep paralysis. A lot of them mentioned a presence that they either sensed or saw in the room with them. The Nightmare set the scene as supernatural or demonic events. For me, it was entertaining, not really scary at all. I could see how heavily dramatized it all was.
But then one of the main characters told his story. He talked about something that happen to him as a child. He’d be laying in bed, in a deep sleep, and then wake up, feeling like there was someone else in the room. He’d slowly be raised to face from his bed to see a man in his doorway. A man in a trench coat and top hat. When I saw that, my blood ran cold. That was my shadow man.
After babysitting, I went home and immediately found the diaries from that point in my life. Sure enough, there were dozens of entires about him. That night, when I laid down in my bed, I was convinced that this would be the night that he would finally return for me.
But he didn’t. He never came.
I ended up doing a bit of research and found out that this apparition is not uncommon. There are dozens of forums online with people talking about their experiences with what they called The Shadow Man or The Top Hat Demon. People claim he is only a small part of an entire demonic group of Shadow People.
From what I gather, the majority of people who are visited by The Shadow Man are in South East Asia, although they do seem to cover all corners of the globe. Most often, they are people who are dealing with some sort of trauma or sadness in their lives. Many of them also said he had glowing eyes, but I never saw that in my own experience with The Shadow Man. Others saw him with two other henchmen-like figures. That didn’t come to me either. It was only just him.
What disturbed me the most was that a lot of them had also brought up the gold watch and chain. That’s a seriously specific detail.
The more I read about him, the more unsettled I became. For weeks, I read dozens of people’s personal accounts with The Shadow Man and watched numerous YouTube videos on the matter. Everyone seems to think he’s some sort of demon.
It got to the point where I was making myself sick with worry. Every night, just like ten years before, I was convinced I would see him. I thought my new discovery that other people knew of him would somehow conjured him up, awoken him.
I count myself lucky because I haven’t seen the Top Hat Demon in ten years. Still, I’m not sure how long this will last. Sometimes, right before I go to sleep, a little voice in my head whispers, “he’s coming tonight.”