Among the strange urban legends out there, the Hat Man stands out for being reported with the same consistent description, and the inability to discern whether the Hat Man is actually a hallucination or some kind of paranormal entity.
The Hat Man, sometimes referred to as the Grey Man or the Shadow Man, is an entity that is described as a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a long trench coat. In some encounters, the Hat Man is described as wearing a cowboy hat, a fedora, or an older top hat, and sometimes wearing a black cloak, suit, or even a beard. When Hat Man does appear, the witness is usually sleeping in the early morning hours, although users of Ouija boards have also described encountering the Hat Man, as well as alleged victims of alien abductions.
Regardless of when or what situation the Hat Man appears in, the entity seems to be drawn to, causes, or predicts misfortune, bad luck, ill-health, or even death. Even stranger is that the Hat Man has been reported to make himself visible to multiple generations of the same family, or a to a witness’s friends and family.
Some suggest that the Hat Man is actually one (or many) members of a phenomenon known as the “Shadow People,” which are entities that appear to be humanoid silhouettes. Although legends of Shadow People have existed for centuries, in modern times the entities are often reported by victims of sleep paralysis, and particularly by methamphetamine users due to sleep deprivation. Initially, Shadow People are described as appearing in people’s peripheral vision, over time appearing more in full view, despite having no discernible features. While these encounters are occurring, the individuals report an accompanying feeling of anxiety and paranoia, and sometimes tactile or auditory hallucinations may occur as well.
To see Shadow People, it is reported that benzydamine, diphenhydramine, harmala alkaloid, and psilocin can cause the effect, although it is strongly not recommended taking them to find out. However, while there are similarities between the Shadow People and the Hat Man, there are no definite connections between the two although the Hat Man is often viewed as a separate or individual entity.
Others, such as Heidi Hollis, the author of The Hat Man: The True Story of Evil Encounters, suggest that the Hat Man is a demonic entity, or a minion of the Devil. This belief is very similar to the historical view of the Hat Man and the Shadow People, which argued that such entities were actually shades (the spirit of a dead person) from the underworld.
To collect and help share people’s encounters with the Hat Man, individual Tim Brown began the website The Hat Man Project, which asks visitors to the site “Have you seen the Hat Man?” According to Brown, the website’s creator, administrator and researcher, he had a personal encounter with the Hat Man, which led him to seek out others who had similar experiences. On the site, Brown describes the experience that introduced him to this phenomena, which occurred in 1994 when he was 14 staying with his grandmother and great-grandmother. Lying in bed at around 2 a.m., Brown describes what he suddenly saw in the hallway:
“I saw a tall human-like figure and the figure looked like that of a man. The man had no distinguishable features whatsoever. I could see no eyes, no nose or mouth, only blackness. He looked like a shadow, only darker- much darker. He had a very wide brimmed hat and a long trench coat that flowed as he moved.”
The next day, Brown found out that both his grandmother and great-grandmother had seen the entity before, although for many years Brown wrote off the incident as his imagination. However, in about 2013 Brown said he heard a program about “shadow people” on Coast to Coast AM, which showed him that there were many others who had seen the entity, and the Hat Man wasn’t a product of his imagination after all.
While it can’t be said for certain if Brown’s encounter was a hoax or real, it does seem to fall in line with the reported qualities of the Hat Man, such as the entity’s appearance to different generations of Brown’s family, or the accompanying feelings of fear and paranoia as well as appearing in the early hours of the morning while Brown was trying to sleep.
In recent years, the Hat Man has seen a resurgence in popularity through the Internet due to the Japanese PlayStation 1 videogame LSD: Dream Emulator. Aside from the game’s psychedelic imagery, which is based on an LSD user’s 10-year long dream journal, the only enemy in the game is an entity called the Gray Man, which is based on the real-life reports of the Hat Man.
The Gray Man will randomly appear and silently follow the player, never saying or moving while hovering closer. If the Gray Man touches the player, the player will have their previous dreams erased and will wake up. Other times, the Gray Man will disappear in a flash upon touching the player or simply float past the player into a wall and disappear.
Like most legends, the Hat Man has no clear answer. It can be explained as a hallucination due to substance abuse, sleep paralysis, and sleep deprivation. However, that doesn’t explain why different generations of a family or friends of a witness will report seeing the same entity, or why scientific explanations such as substance abuse will produce the same entity reported by users of Ouija boards. The legend of the Hat Man will likely never go away, and may inspire new urban legends, such as Slender Man.