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A shadow person (also known as a shadow figure, shadow being or black mass) is the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, particularly as interpreted by believers in the supernatural as the presence of a malevolent entity.
A number of religions, legends, and belief systems describe shadowy spiritual beings or supernatural entities such as shades of the underworld, and various shadowy creatures have long been a staple of folklore and ghost stories.
Several physiological and psychological conditions can account for reported experiences of shadow people. These include sleep paralysis, illusions, or hallucinations brought on by physiological or psychological circumstances, drug use or side effects of medication, and the interaction of external agents on the human body. Another reason that could be behind the illusion is sleep deprivation, which may lead to hallucinations.
The Coast to Coast AM late night radio talk show helped popularize modern beliefs in shadow people. The first time the topic of shadow people was discussed at length on the show was April 12, 2001 when host Art Bell interviewed native American elder Thunder Strikes, who is also known as Harley "SwiftDeer" Reagan. During the show, listeners were encouraged to submit drawings of shadow people that they had seen and a large number of these drawings were immediately shared publicly on the website. Later that year, on October 1, 2001, Heidi Hollis published her first book on the topic of shadow people. On April 7, 2002, Hollis discussed this book on the Coast to Coast AM show and was invited back as a regular guest, which helped to further define modern beliefs in shadow people. Hollis described them as dark silhouettes with human shapes and profiles that flicker in and out of peripheral vision, and claimed that people had reported the figures attempting to "jump on their chest and choke them". She believes they can be repelled by invoking "the name of Jesus".
Although participants in online discussion forums devoted to paranormal and supernatural topics describe them as menacing, other believers and paranormal authors do not agree whether shadow people are either evil, helpful, or neutral, and some even speculate that shadow people may be the extra-dimensional inhabitants of another universe. Some paranormal investigators and authors such as Chad Stambaugh claim to have recorded images of shadow people on video.
In the field of sleep research, this experience is termed sleep paralysis: an individual, in the process of falling asleep or awakening, finds himself or herself completely awake, but unable to move or speak…Frequently, he or she sees a shadowy or indistinct shape approaching and becomes increasingly terrified.