In 1998, I was 16 years old and still living in my childhood home in rural Tennessee. This is when I saw the Hat Man for the first and only time.
Of course, I had no previous knowledge of any kind of Hat Man or Shadow Person up to that night. It wasn’t until weeks (months?) later when a friend of my parents informed me that what I saw was indeed an occurring phenomenon, and it had a name – Hat Man. She had learned about it herself from a Coast To Coast radio show. Since then, I’ve read many similar accounts like mine, where one discovers this wasn’t some unique, one-off nightmare but something universal, random, and frequent enough that it’s a “thing.” At that moment of realization, the event finally sinks all the way in. I still get chills thinking about it myself.
To me, that’s the real story here—the phenomenon. As much as science tries to explain, rationalize, and demystify this happening, it fails to explain ‘why the Hat Man?’. To my knowledge, this nightmarish character expands cultural barriers, age, and sex. It can happen to anyone at any time, anywhere. To me, that fact alone is just a little too weird not to be anything other than supernatural.
Here’s my Hat Man story:
Like I said above, I was 16 (possibly 17) and living at home. I grew up in this house. It was a new structure—my parents designed and built it themselves before I was born. It sat at the edge of the woods off a small, quiet street in a rural part of Middle Tennessee. My bedroom was on the house’s second floor and at the end of a long hallway directly across from my parent’s room. The wall closest to the foot of my bed had a large window covered in metal blinds that let in a little bit of the street light ~150 yards away. Other than that and the red numbers from my digital alarm clock, my room was dark. I liked it that way.
Sleep is my friend. I love it and need a lot of it. It’s rare that I have trouble falling off to dreamland. Usually, as long as I’m horizontal, it’s easy to find slumber. However, this particular night in 1998 was different. For some reason, that night, I could not go to sleep.
I remember being extremely tired when I went to bed, but it never happened. This might have been the first time I had insomnia. I tried all the tricks: hundreds of sheep, breathing exercises, and my favorite, the make-your-eyes-tired-by-staring-at-a-point-for-as-long-as-you-can game, which my dad had taught me. The point I had picked out to stare at was a tiny part of the window at the foot of my bed where light was getting through the heavy blinds. It was coming at 4:00 AM, and I was praying that I could at least get a few hours of sleep.
Out of nowhere, a figure appeared at the foot of my bed. It wasn’t as if he just popped into existence or dissolved into being in my room. I didn’t see him walk in or float in from a wall or a window. I must have blinked or looked away for a moment, but now he was there. He was directly in front of the window I had been staring at. His black silhouette contrasted with the striped horizontal light leaks of the metal blinds. I distinctly recall that he was wearing what I used to call a Pilgrim hat and a cloak. The hat wasn’t too tall but had a large, flat, evenly round brim. He was tall and stood very still, with dominion.
Up to this point, what I’ve described is similar to all the other accounts I’ve read, but here’s where my story gets interesting: I was lying on my back, arms to my side, eyes wide open. I was very awake. Aware. I could not take my eyes off of this man, obviously terrified—petrified. I was too scared to scream, too scared to move. Upon further research, I’m positive that I was experiencing sleep paralysis, but it felt like the man controlled that part of me.
I remember thinking that this could not be happening. My goal was to try to simply disappear. I thought he would leave me alone if I didn’t move. If you’re getting attacked by a bear, play dead, right? Well, he was no bear, and he could very much see me, and I felt very much alive.
My eyes were glued to the man’s face. I was trying to make out as many details of a human face as possible. I guess I wanted a description to give the police when they were filling out a breaking and entering report. The harder I looked, the more I could make out his eye. One normal-ish eye. It wasn’t red or all-black or anything like that. It is possible that he had two eyes, but all I could see (all he allowed me to see) was one eye—his right eye.
At first, the eye was hard to see—blurry. As his eye became more focused, I realized that my body was moving closer to him. I realized that I was lifting out of bed toward him, like a telephone pole being raised upright into position—feet still on the bed. The closer I came to him, the more detail I could make out of his eye. It was wild and kinetic. His eye was rolling, fluttering back and forth in his head really fast. When I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt myself lowering back into bed. In bed again, I rolled over to my left side in a fetal position and got all the way under the bed covers again, hoping again to disappear. I fell asleep like that, with the feeling that he was still in the room.
The next day, I told my dad about my experience, and he must have thought I was crazy. He had never seen the Hat Man.
A few years ago, around Christmas, I was visiting with my mom. We were sitting at the dinner table eating a nice home-cooked meal. She lives in a new house now. We moved out of my childhood house after my dad passed away in 2003. Somehow, the Hat Man story came up, and I realized I had never told her about my experience. Just when I got to the part of the story where I explained what the Hat Man looked like, she stopped me. “That’s the old man that used to live in our closet!” my mom exclaimed. According to her, her childhood house was haunted, and the ghost lived in the closet of her and her sister’s room. Cold chills washed over my body when she told me. Could it have been the same Hat Man I saw and all of you have seen?
Since that night, I’ve experienced sleep paralysis two other times. Once when I was 19 and the other when I was 20. Both of those times happened to me in the middle of the day, during nap time, at a summer camp I was counseling at. The entities were different on those occasions—more demonic. The last time it happened, it shape-shifted from my girlfriend at the time to a demonic hairless being with crazy Baraka from Mortal Kombat features. Both were equally terrifying and real as the Hat Man encounter.
I understand how hard it must be to believe such stories if this has never happened to you, but this was as real as me sitting here typing this. I hope my story is further evidence in a growing body of similar accounts of the possibility that this phenomenon exists far beyond our understanding of the current scientific worldview and into possibly the spiritual or multi-dimensional realm. Until this mystery is solved, let us rest in the cold comfort of our common experiences with the Hat Man.