The Hat Man: Documented Cases of Pure Evil
Directed by Kyle J. Macias
Over the past few years, my son and I have forged a little tradition – Friday and Saturday nights are now, invariably, paranormal movie nights. We usually stick to found footage horror movies – we don’t care if they are good or bad – and honestly, we go in expecting the worst, and are always pleasantly surprised when we find a good one. The bad ones get riffed on by us, à la Mystery Science Theater 3000. So either way, we have some scary fun. But every now and then, we will watch a paranormal documentary, usually a Small Town Monsters film, but we’re always on the lookout for something new. We try to watch the trailers first, to see what might be good (or just good riffing fodder), and this weekend, The Hat Man: Documented Cases of Pure Evil was suggested to us by the almighty Amazon algorithm. The trailer obviously focused on the eponymous Hat Man, the tall, shadowy entity that wears a hat. This piqued my interest, but not for the reasons one would assume. The Hat Man as a phenomenon is not something I was really aware of. But the figure itself was something I was familiar with. I hadn’t really heard stories of the Hat Man, but I did see him. About 30 years ago. But I’ll get to my personal story after the review.
The Hat Man: Documented Cases of Pure Evil details the bizarre phenomenon of a shadowy figure called the Hat Man. This entity appears superficially to fall into the shadow person category of paranormal phenomena, but with some easily identifiable differences. The Hat Man is described as being tall, usually 6′ or taller, clad all in black (usually a trench coat, a full black suit, an overcoat, etc.), and obviously, wearing a brimmed hat. The hat is usually described as being old-fashioned, like a fedora or cowboy hat. Other features that are described are glowing red eyes or sunken, blackened eyes; long, claw-like hands and fingers; a wide, toothy grin full of sharp teeth, and sometimes long, straggly hair. Witnesses usually encounter the Hat Man at night, mainly while trying to fall asleep or having been woken up by him, and some studies have linked the Hat Man to sleep paralysis. But other people have allegedly seen the figure while wide awake. So who is the enigmatic Hat Man?
The film features interviews with a variety of eyewitnesses, all who claim to have had an encounter with the Hat Man. Creepy (and very well-done) recreations are used to illustrate the eyewitness testimony, and some witnesses even allege to have photographic proof of the Hat Man. But for me, the most intriguing part of the film are all of the drawings and sketches people have done, a nice visual representation of the creature they encountered.
The stories are all basically the same, so I won’t recount different examples here. And that’s not a knock at the film or its director. It just highlights the fact that different people, from all walks of life, from different places in the world, all seem to be seeing this same apparition. They all describe him as looking the same, acting the same, and feeling the same sense of evil when they run into him. In a nutshell, people usually encounter him in a darkened bedroom, mostly at night, and he always has the same basic features – tall, a living shadow, wearing a hat, with piercing eyes (or at least the feeling that he’s looking at the experiencer), and then he slowly retreats back into nothingness. His movements tend to be subtle, slow, but intentional. Occasionally, people will report other shadow people accompanying him, but these shadow people are of the more popularly reported variety – the skinny, almost alien-like shadow entities. In fact, there is some mention here (notably by the late paranormal researcher Rosemary Ellen Guiley) that there is some correlation between alien abduction reports and reports of encounters with the Hat Man or other kinds of shadow people. An interesting tidbit to say the least.
Ultimately, the film does a great job of exploring this truly unsettling phenomenon. The witnesses all come across as sincere, and the recreations are (for better or for worse, depending on how easily you get creeped out) wonderfully disturbing in their subtleties. The sketches provided by eyewitness are, quite literally, the stuff of nightmares, and it’s fascinating to see how many people have pretty much seen the identical entity. The photographic evidence, on the other hand, is flimsy at best, even laughable in some cases. Drawing a face in red on a blurry, low-resolution photo of a darkened room doesn’t mean there’s a shadow person there. It’s purely pareidolia, as without the red markings, there is usually nothing visible in the shown photo at all, or simply what looks like it could be a hat (or anything else) and the witness has filled in the blanks. Classic matrixing. Sadly, there’s nothing in the photographic evidence presented here that is in the least bit convincing or interesting. I understand why these photos were included, but the sketches, for me at least, are far more intriguing. The music is very befitting of the subject matter, yet any and all captions in this film are frustratingly and bafflingly tiny. Unless you’re watching this on your computer and are literally inches away from your screen, even viewers with the clearest vision will have trouble reading what the captions say. It’s a minor thing, but annoying to have to keep pausing and getting up to get closer to the TV to see what is written.
And lastly, while there is mention of sleep paralysis included here, I do wish more time was spent fleshing out that aspect of it regarding this phenomenon, as I do feel like there is something to it. Yes, it’s completely fascinating that people all over the world are seeing the same shadow man. But why does that automatically mean it’s paranormal? Perhaps there is a deeper psychological component to this, a primal, shared memory that has entered the modern zeitgeist? To me, both possibilities are equally as compelling. The film ends with some interesting notes and stories about unusual occurrences that happened to the crew while making the documentary, and while I always take stuff like this with a grain of salt, it’s a very cool way to end the film. Final verdict? Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in shadow people or just lesser-known paranormal phenomena, and a really cool scary flick for your horror movie-night viewing pleasure.
In the introduction to this review, I mentioned that I had my own Hat Man story. For me, it occurred approximately 30 years ago. The phenomenon of shadow people was not nearly as widespread back then as it is today. I had my share of paranormal experiences when younger – a knock on the door here, some voices there, a fleeting glimpse of an apparition – all stories for another time. Startling experiences to be sure, but not really frightening. One experience did stand out to me though, enough where it was probably one of the few times where I actually documented it after the fact – I drew a picture of what I saw. I just took a pen and sketched it on the last page of a notebook I had been using at the time. After I drew it, I showed the drawing to my closest friend, and explained to him what I had seen. The drawing was just a best-guess representation – I had more gotten a sense of what I saw, rather than seeing the details, if that makes sense. Almost like an image being pushed into my mind, rather than seeing it physically with my own eyes. Anyway, we discussed it, debated what it could be, but as the years went on, it got largely forgotten about. I had some other various writings in the notebook, and so I held on to it, and it’s been packed away ever since.
Fast forward to this weekend, when I see the trailer for The Hat Man. The dots connected in my mind, and my wife and I went up into our attic to dig through my boxes of old stuff, until I finally found the notebook – and the drawing. I showed it to her (she said it looked like me), and then my son, and then we settled in to watch the documentary.
Most of the drawings in the film were less detailed than mine. Largely they were simple silhouettes, showing off the tall, thin features, the black clothing, and of course, the hat. Some had the same eyes or the evil, toothy smile, but there were some images towards the end of the film that made me do a double take. First, here is the picture I drew back when I was in high school:
Then, as I’m watching the film, I see these on my TV, drawn and submitted by Hat Man eyewitnesses:
I took screenshots and texted them to my wife, who was upstairs. We were both taken aback (her text in reply was “Omggggggg”). Sure, the other drawings superficially match what I saw, mainly due to the hat. But these pics? Not just the hat, or the clothes, but the sunken, blackened, almost cat-like eyes. The sharp, toothy smile. The claw-like hands. The long, straggly hair. It was as if these people had seen the same exact entity that I had seen. Only I drew my picture some 30 years ago.
To be fair, I did used to suffer from sleep paralysis. And when I say “suffer,” I mean I experienced it maybe 3 times – twice quite vividly, the third time is a bit more hazy – but all three times, my experiences felt more like the classic alien abduction scenario. I was paralyzed, and felt like there were a number of small, humanoid creatures milling around my apartment, chattering softly. Pretty much the complete opposite of a solitary, tall, dark man wearing a hat. But these sleep paralysis incidents happened to me mostly towards the end of my college days, when I was in my early 20s. I encountered and sketched this figure when I was probably about 16 or 17. Also, I didn’t feel like this figure was “evil,” per se. Ominous, yes, and there was a warning he gave me. But I never felt like it was a demon or evil in any specific way. I’ve seen two of the more “standard” shadow people since (while completely awake), but again, stories for another time.
I haven’t had much time to do a deep dive into the Hat Man mythos, but from my cursory research, I can’t find much of anything prior to the year 2001. Sure, there have been legends of shadow people for much longer than that, but I cannot find anything so specific as a Hat Man. There is some similarity here to the Grinning Man, first documented by John Keel in 1966, but that entity is green, hatless, and usually was reported outside the home. Plus, there’s some speculation that Keel either wholly invented or highly embellished the entire Grinning Man story. This will surely take up some of my free time moving forward, and if you have any good information for me on the subject, I’d love to know more. Feel free to reach out to me 🙂