by Chris Soucy
When I was 15 years old I had a strange encounter in the ruins of an old church just across the border of South Carolina. Reportedly haunted as only old church ruins could be, the location was too alluring for me to pass up. The drive there seemed to take forever, we went down empty highways and through caves formed from the heavy limbs of ancient trees. Once there, my intrepid friends spread out in the dim moonlight. As I approached the remains of a brick wall I thought I saw something moving in the darkness. It was a shadow that stood out from the darkness around it. I could see that it was the shape of a person. I froze in my tracks. The figure was almost mimicking me. Standing there staring at me with a featureless face. I could hear the cracking of dry twigs and leaves under the feet of my friends. I wanted to call out. My voice caught in my throat. I made a sudden move toward the shadow and it disappeared. Swallowed by the night as I approached it. It was uncanny enough for me to consider that it hadn’t happened at all. Despite my doubts, it stuck in the back of my mind like a splinter.
As I continued to seek out the strange and the paranormal, I began to hear other accounts of Shadow People. The lurking darkness that sometimes befalls unwitting people in the dead of night. In my life I have had numerous encounters with these entities. Over time I developed my own theory about what these apparitions are. I do not put forth my theory as anything more than my own musing about it, that being said, here is what I think might be behind the Shadow People phenomenon.
I, like many ghost hunters, think of spirits in different categories. I have used the terms poltergeists, intelligent haunts, residual haunting and even demonic presences to describe different types of activity. And I almost always count Shadow People in the intelligent haunt category. I have come to believe that spirits rely on us as observers to help map out their path. I believe that it is our own minds that help spirits retain their form. When Aunt Gracie passes away we may see her in familiar places and because we recognize her she draws from our living memories her appearance. She is using the energy of our active minds to reinforce her form. Some spirits may have a better sense of who they are than others, explaining how their appearance might survive generations past any who actually knew them.
But as time passes, knowledge of these individuals fade and so does their image. Their features become washed away. They go from being a kindly old woman with silver hair to a woman in the corner to a dark shadow watching from the corner that you have a vague sense might be a woman. And this is where I feel that Shadow People might be the most dangerous of entities. It is my belief that Shadow People crave identity. Whatever it was that kept them here is long forgotten. They are yearning for purpose. And in our minds we can ascribe a shadow a myriad of possible purposes. When faced with a shadow person we may respond with fear. And they, in turn, become fearsome. We try to define them. And they, in turn, find definition. We are creators, the human race, we are capable of such amazing feats of psychic acrobatics. We literally define the reality we live in without even trying. And when faced with spiritual energy we can forge the very thing we seek. Shadow People prey on our beliefs. The strength of faith helps define them. And fear is one of the most potent and curious forms of faith. It is possible to fear something we know doesn’t exist. But if the knowledge of it not existing cannot assuage our fears, then what are we dealing with? Something deeper than knowledge, a dark faith in the impossible.
Somewhere in my forming of this theory I realized that I was tiptoeing around Gozer the Gozarian. The big baddie in Ghostbusters – the 1984 version, of course. Gozer was an entity that took on the form of whatever it was you were thinking of to come and kill you. I am not suggesting that all Shadow People are trying to kill you. But if you encounter a Shadow Person, be careful that you don’t think “It’s a demon!” You could inadvertently give the shadow a form. And an unpleasant one at that.
Christopher Soucy is a paranormal enthusiast, storyteller, writer, director, producer living in Savannah, Georgia
Background image via Pixabay.com