Me and My Shadow: A Ghostly Encounter?

Unsolved mystery .- Just as your heart-rate quickens and breathing slows, you see a shadow-like figure from the corner of your eye, darting across the room.  By the time your head snaps around to take in the full fear of what you've seen, the shadow vanishes right through the wall, never allowing you full scope.  Suddenly, you're overcome with feelings of terror and trepidation.  Could it be you've been paid a visit from the elusive Shadow Beings?  Have you been singled out, targeted, and spied upon by this dark force?  Maybe - but maybe not.
Shadow beings - also known as shadow men, shadow people, shadow folk, and a multitude of other names - have been reported periodically throughout human history.  However, escalated reports over the past decade or so have increased our awareness, interests, curiosities, tales, and fears of these unknown entities.  What are they?  Where do they come from?  What do they want?  Why are they here?  The theories of these paranormal phenomena are as wide-spread and varied as one could imagine.  However, there are also a few potential scientific explanations with origins firmly rooted in the non-paranormal reality in which we live and function.
These are the traits most commonly associated with Shadow People from varying reports:
• Dark, shadow-like substances lacking mass
• Sometimes appearing in child-like form, not much taller than three feet
• Generally associated as males
• Can be reported as having red, glowing eyes, but also as having no discernable   
                features such as mouth, nose, or eyes
• Most often seen through peripheral vision, rarely directly with center-forward
• Can be accompanied with severe feelings of dread
• Have been known, though rarely, to "attack" people, although "attack" has not
                been clearly defined.  Some people report seeing Shadow figures with weapons,
               although the weapons have not been clearly described or defined.
• Have been reported as humanoid silhouettes, shapeless masses, or dark mists
• Movement is described as initially slow, and then lightening quick
• Are usually attached or drawn to one particular person or place
• Have been associated with smells such as sulfur, rotten eggs, or decaying flesh
• Can sometimes appear as animals, such as "shadow-cats"
• Animals are said to react violently to the presence of shadow figures
• Have personalities ranging from timid and wary to downright nasty
• Have been identified as pranksters, toying with human emotion for entertainment
                (ex: pulling down the covers when a person is in bed)
Shadow people are said to differ from ghosts and ghostly apparitions because, unlike
ghost sightings, shadow people cannot be described as having recognizable features or
manners of dress such as period clothing.
Now that we know their supposed character attributes, let's take a look at some of the
theories about where these shadow people come from:
• Demonic in source
• Spiritual representations of live people engaged in out-of-body experience, or
                "astral-projections", the traveling souls of live humans
• Time travelers from the future whose technological time-travel techniques limit
                them to shadow substance in our time
• Quantum leaps from "otherworlds" - beings from parallel dimensions, alternate
                universes, who have found a way to transport between realms, such as elementals
• Aliens, of course
• Manifestations of negative energy
• Jinn, Dijinn, or Genies
• Guardian angels warning of impending doom
Which of these theories you believe can tie directly into your religious concepts.  In order
to believe these beings are either demonic or angelic would require one to believe in
certain religious concepts such as God and Satan.  To believe these are creatures crossing
between the veils separating dimensions, one would have to believe in faerie-lands and
otherworlds.  The alien theory requires one to buy into inter-galactic travels, and if
leaning toward the Genie or Dijinn theory, then who uncorked the bottle or rubbed the
magic lamp, and why?  None of these explanations offers a solid, tangible, logical,
scientific explanation for the origin of shadow figures.  That's not to say shadow figures
don't exist, or that these theories are "wrong", but it does leave room for reasonable
doubt and most of these theories cannot be applied to humanity as a whole based on their
varied belief systems.  However, there is a bit of rock-solid scientific evidence for where
these shadow figures might come from, and why they may not be paranormal pranksters
or peeping Toms.
Shadow people are most often reported as having been seen "out of the corner of the
eye", or through peripheral vision.  Well, there's an explanation for how this could be
possible without being paranormal.  There's a condition known as Pareidolia.  Peripheral
vision is connected to the area of the brain that recognizes patterns, but provides less
detail to the brain than something seen in full view.  In this circumstance, the brain
wrongly interprets patters of light and shadow.  It reminds me of optical illusion artwork
where we're asked whether we see the face of an old woman, or a vase of flowers. 
Another condition which could account for shadow figures scientifically versus
paranormally is called Hyponogogia, a form of waking sleep when dreams and reality
overlap one another.  In this state, your body is awake and your mind is attuned to your
physical surroundings, but at the same time, the dream-state drapes over that reality,
blending fact and fiction.
Neurological factors could explain many shadow people encounters.
In addition to these physical, psychological, and neurological contributions to the
existence of shadow figures, there's also the consideration of electromagnetic fields. 
Electromagnetic fields have been suggested to influence the human brain, causing
"misfires" of information and hallucinations.  Maybe you're not encountering a shadow
figure at all, but instead, are sitting or standing in an electromagnetic "hot spot".
Of course, then there's the obvious.  If you've just smoked a fatty, popped a pill, or
downed a pint of Vodka, chances are, what you saw was NOT paranormal, but
chemically induced.
Most reports of shadow figures can be explained away by these scientific or logical
explanations; most... but not all. This leaves room to believe in the possibility that amidst
the ample false reports, some encounters may actually be true.

Read More Other Unsolved Mysteries article!

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