Hi. My name’s Sammie. This is going to sound crazy, but I’m pretty sure that something is planning to kill me. I don’t know what it is, but he’s been toying with me for years. I say he because that’s what I can most assume from its shape, but honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that he’s terrifying and every time I see him, he’s somehow more intimidating.
I don’t really remember the first time he visited me, but I first recall his visitations shortly after my father died. I think I must have been five or six years old at the time. I woke up late in the night. It was an extremely peaceful night which is why I think I remember it so well. There was no wind or noise from traffic, no strange lights to cause unnatural shadows. It was so peaceful, I almost immediately fell back asleep. However, just as I was closing my eyes, I heard a brief creak from across the room. My eyes opened back up just enough to see that my closet door was open just a crack. I stared at it for a while, and then after nothing, began to close my eyes again. This time, however, just as my eyes began to close, I saw the door open just enough to see inside.
At first, I thought I saw nothing, just blackness as one would expect from a closet in the middle of the night. I stared at the blackness for a bit and after a time of seeing nothing, I started to roll over and saw him. Not instantly, mind you. What I noticed was that the darkness at the top of the closet was not as dark as the rest of the closet. I squinted a bit and realized that the darker darkness had a shape. I couldn’t make out all of it, but I could definitely make out the side of a head and part of a shoulder.
And I froze up. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t look away. I couldn’t do anything at all except for lie there and watch.
As I stared at the darkness in my closet, I could make out a faint red where an eye should be.
And I screamed.
My mother came rushing into my bedroom, flicking the light on, and slid onto my bed pulling me close. I don’t know for how long I continued screaming. I just know that it scared the hell out of my mother. She stayed with me in my bed that night. By the time I finally fell back to sleep, the sun was beginning to rise.
After that first incident, I didn’t see him for quite a long time, or at least, not that I can remember. In fact, it was such a long time that I had completely forgotten about him until I hit my early twenties when I saw him again.
I was living on my own then. I had a small studio apartment that was cheap and since I was single, it was large enough for me. It comprised of three rooms; a kitchen, a bedroom living room combo, and a bathroom. One room led right into the next. My bed was between the kitchen and bathroom doorways, the foot of it facing the kitchen.
Three or four years passed before I had my first incident in that apartment. It was summer as I recall and though warm weather was expected, that night when I woke up, it was unusually warm. I was sweating heavily and my mouth was parched. Groggy, I attempted to build some saliva to wet my mouth but I could move neither tongue nor lips. Thinking this strange, I attempted to push myself up to get a glass of water, but my arms would not work. Not just my arms but also my legs and fingers and head and neck. Not even my eyelids would bring me respite by closing. All that I could do was to look around by rolling my eyes towards the various corners of my room.
That’s when I saw him, standing in the middle of my kitchen, staring at me through his two dull red eyes.
He was immense in stature, his head nearly touching the ceiling. Though he was darker than the shadows themselves, I could strangely make out definition and form. Two very small horns protruded from his mostly smooth head. Sparse wiry hair seemed to hang from the sides of his head, crooked and bending in many directions before falling down. Had long teeth that kept his lips from closing that were as black as the rest of him. Each of his fingers ended in points like claws and though I could not see his feet, I image they were of a similar nature.
The creature’s body was very muscular and toned, as though an artist has sculpted it out of marble. I could tell that even if he did not have those terrible claws or teeth, it would be no great feat for him to rip me limb from limb, tearing me apart effortlessly. Don’t ask how I could see all these features. I, myself, do not know either for the creature was darker than the darkness and logically, I could not have seen anything except for the basic shape and eyes. It’s as though he communicated something to my subconscious, filling in the details that I could not actually see.
And he just stood there, staring at me, barely moving. He must have stared at me for a good fifteen or twenty minutes, though it felt like much longer, every second the terror becoming much more intense.
I do not know when he left, because as soon as I regained the function of my eyelids, I immediately closed them. And then, almost as soon as I closed them, I was asleep. When I opened my eyes again, it was mid-morning and I felt strangely refreshed. I must have expended so much energy in my terror that my body took all the time it needed to fully rest.
I told of the incident to my friend Tom. He seemed to immediately recognize it.
“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “Sleep paralysis. That sucks. I get that from time to time. The most frightening thing I’ve ever been through. Happens to me every now and then. For me, it’s generally a witch crouched over the side of my bed just watching me.”
“How do you deal with it?” I asked.
“Honestly, I just keep telling myself it’s all a dream and that it will pass. The effect is minimal and it generally helps divert the fear.”
“Generally?” I asked.
“Well, sometimes, it seems to intensify it. A lot. You know, it’s moments like those when I wish I was one of those Christian fuckers.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, you look up anything that has to do with Christians and sleep paralysis and they’re always so sure it’s demonic. So they pray to Jesus, with their mind I guess, and it immediately goes away and they’re filled with real comfort and peace. What I would give to be able to make those moments disappear just like that. It’s like some kind of Jedi mind trick.”
I took in what Tom had to say and spent some time at my computer researching. It certainly sounded like I experienced sleep paralysis. People waking up during the REM stage of sleep report seeing all sorts of things, demons, aliens, witches, shadow men, etc., often in relation to their culture. For example, in the fifties after reports of UFOs and became more mainstream, sleep paralysis incidents reported as alien abductions jumped up drastically. It was good to know that I was not alone and that the demon was not real. I thought I would be able to cope should it happen again. I was, unfortunately, quite mistaken.
It was roughly three or four months before my next incident and it was so much worse. I woke up in the night again, completely paralyzed. I told myself that it was simply sleep paralysis and that there was nothing to fear, that it was all in my head. I looked around as best I could and saw nothing but my small apartment. If I could’ve, I would’ve have smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. As the only thing I could do was move my eyes, I just stared ahead into my kitchen. And that’s when I saw him.
At first, he wasn’t completely visible. He was there but hiding, as though he were waiting for me to notice him. I noticed an odd shape at the edge of the kitchen doorway. It was a just a shoulder barely visible from behind the door frame. The moment I saw it, what I can now only refer to as the demon leaned in from behind the frame. As he emerged, my heart began to race. First his hair, then his head and horns, and finally his dull red eyes appeared. The doorway being so near to the foot of my bed, he was much closer than the previous visit. And nearly as quickly as he leaned in and made his presence known, he quickly and quietly leaned back behind the frame.
At once, I let out a deep gasp of air and regained control of my body. Daring not to go into the kitchen, I closed my eyes and pulled the covers over my head, whimpering quietly. Hoping he wouldn’t hear me. Hoping he wouldn’t come after me.
Exhausted, I fell asleep in my own tears.
I woke up to birds chirping. The sun was shining through my windows. I was exhausted and still frightened. Carefully, I got out of bed and made my way to the kitchen. It was exactly as I had left it. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing it was, in fact, another bout of sleep paralysis.
After this incident, I thought future episodes would be easier, eventually learning to ignore the demon and go back to sleep. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As time progressed, the shadow demon began appearing more and more frequently. First, he would appear once every few months, then every other month and then once a month. Soon the monthly visits would be every few weeks and then weekly, and so on and so on until it was every single night. He never did anything other than stare at me, so you would think that I would’ve grown used to it, but I didn’t. Somehow each night was more terrifying than the last. It got to the point where I could swear I was even seeing him before going to bed.
See, my bathroom mirror was right in line with the door to the bedroom which was right in line with the door to the kitchen. When I was brushing my teeth, if my eyes glanced up, I would often just stop and stare into the kitchen through the mirror. I would sometime stare for minutes, worried that he would be there. Climbing into bed wasn’t any easier. Even though he was always in the kitchen, I couldn’t bring myself to get close to the underside of my bed. I’d have to leap in so that the nothing that wasn’t there wouldn’t grab me.
All of this was taking its toll on me. I hadn’t had a goodnight’s sleep in months. It got to the point where I was trying to force myself to not go to sleep. I managed to stay up for nearly three days before I fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV. For better or worse, I fell asleep watching A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I’m not really sure why I was watching that while being tormented nightly, but it seemed to help, at least for the moment. Perhaps it was to help me cope, perhaps it was simply a distraction. Either way, I fell asleep watching a horror move about a pedophile who murders children in their sleep.
The next morning I woke up shortly after seven-thirty; the sun shining through my windows. Good Morning America was on. Al Roker was giving the latest weather forecast. Sitting up, I scratched my head and looked around. I couldn’t believe it. I actually slept the entire night and I felt completely rested. For once, I had a glimmer of hope.
Though in the past, I’ve had difficulty getting to sleep if there was any light brighter than a dim VCR clock, I now kept the TV on every night. For the first few weeks, I still went to sleep on the couch. It did not face the kitchen and it put me directly in front of the TV. Once I had gotten comfortable with sleeping again, I moved back to my bed.
My bed felt so amazing. It was like reuniting with a good friend that hasn’t been seen in years. I just sunk into the mattress and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Being able to sleep in my own bed again was true bliss. All was good for a few more weeks.
And then I woke up again.
I woke up on my side unable to move. The TV was still on; Austin City Limits was playing on PBS. It sounded like they had a country artist playing, a very lively country artist. As the credits began to roll, the glow of the TV cast shadows of a Coca-cola can and an empty box of crackers sitting on the coffee table onto the couch and opposite wall. Despite being paralyzed, I wasn’t immediately afraid. There was light in my room and though I could not see into the kitchen from the position I was in, there seemed to be no indication that my shadow demon was there. I wondered if perhaps my brain had finally come to accept my situation and relax. That is until my TV went dark for roughly half a second as it went to a commercial break between programs.
In that half-second of darkness, my shadow demon was revealed to me, not in the kitchen but instead standing in the corner of my room on the other side of the TV. He was still there when the glow of the screen resumed. He was standing just behind its reach, remaining firmly in the shadows. There was something different about him too. He looked mad. Very mad. And that terrified me.
Had I successfully kept him at bay for a short time while he figured out how to get back in? I don’t know, but whatever the situation, he seemed very displeased by it. I don’t know for sure if the glow of the TV was keeping him at bay, but he seemed like he was held back by it, so he just stared at me and I back at him. Though I can’t be sure, his chest seemed to be rising and falling, as though he were taking deep and heavy breaths, though I heard no sound except for that of PBS advertisements.
I’m not sure how long we stared at each other. I don’t even remember falling asleep. I just remember waking up again around ten in the morning feeling exhausted. I looked at the spot where the shadow demon stood and I realized something I perhaps should’ve realized when I woke up. The corner where he was standing was where my computer desk was. The monitors and desk would’ve been going right through him. He couldn’t possibly have been there.
I shook my head. What a stupid thought. There were so many reasons that didn’t make any sense, first and foremost being that if it was my brain causing hallucinations, then the desk and monitor never would’ve even been a factor. Secondly, if it was an actual demon, who am I to dictate how they do and do not operate. For all I know, the only thing they need is enough darkness. Material may be immaterial to them. The sheer absurdity of it all actually made me laugh for a moment.
Looking at my desk again though, I did get an idea.
That night before I went to bed, I turned on both computer monitors and made sure to set them to never go to sleep. I picked a nice white background with bouncing text for a screen-saver to keep that area bright. And it worked for a few months. I didn’t see my shadow demon except for once when my friend Tom crashed on my couch.
We had stayed up drinking and watching really dumb comedies. We actually fell asleep with all of the lights in the apartment on including the TV and monitors. The reason I know this is because I woke up on the floor half in the kitchen, half in the bed/living room with everything still on. Tom had gotten up to use the bathroom. I was still too out of it to get up off the floor and into my bed, so I closed my eyes and went back to sleep before Tom had finished. It was during this time that he must have turned everything off before going back to sleep on the couch.
I don’t know when I woke up again, but it was totally dark and I was on my back looking up. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening or where I was, then I recalled waking up earlier with the lights on and realized I was still on the floor. The next thing I realized was that I couldn’t move. My heart began to race as panic set in. In the past, I had generally seen my shadow demon in the kitchen or the corner of my room. Now here I was on my back in total darkness; not knowing where my demon was or what he would do. And then I saw.
Out of the corner of my eye, in front of the couch, I could see a long, black leg right next to my head; mere inches away. I could feel my breath slipping away as my eyes followed the legs path up to the body and eventually the head. It was my shadow demon, just standing over Tom, staring down at him. Watching.
In all my time I had never been so close to him. He’d always stayed at distance. But now here he was, right next to me, fixated on my friend. I panicked, but couldn’t move as he just watched Tom. But then, after a time, he turned his head slightly and looked down, right into my eyes. He’d noticed me and I could almost see his terrible grin as I stared into his dull red eyes. He started to crouch down and I lost consciousness.
When I woke up again, Tom was eating Lucky Charms at the table. I didn’t tell him about what happened, but after that point, I wouldn’t let anyone sleep in my apartment again.
Over the next few years, I would take to increasingly drastic measures to keep from being visited as I slept. It wasn’t long before the computer monitors were no longer cutting it, so I turned on a desk lamp. That was all good for a few weeks and then I’d have to add another light. Then things would be fine for a while again until he found another shadow to hide in. This cycle continued until all of the lights in the apartment were on. I couldn’t sleep in all the light, so I would have to lie on my side and face the wall. I would often stay awake for a couple days at a time eventually falling asleep from exhaustion, but never because I just needed sleep. This was taking such a physical toll on my daily life that I eventually gave in and went back to sleeping with the lights out.
He would come every single night and so my remaining strategy was to lie physically against the wall, face in. I could always tell he was there, but thankfully I could not see him, usually. Eventually, I learned to fall back asleep knowing that if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t hurt me. While I still awoke in terror every single night, things seemed to be getting better until one night when he broke me.
I was lying to the wall like I always did, but I must have shuffled at some point in my sleep as my face pointed downward somewhat when I woke up. There was a small gap between the bed and the wall, maybe an inch or two, so when I opened my eyes, I was peering down that little tiny space. There, looking back up from the space, was the shadow demon. He was under my bed.
I think I must have blacked out because the next thing I remember was waking up cold and very wet. It was raining hard and I had left the window open all night. The sounds of splashing as vehicles drove through puddles were not as comforting as it would’ve been during previous incidents. In the past when I’d wake up, there was always a new step I could learn or trick I could do to keep him just far enough away. Seeing him under my bed let me know that there was no safe place. I broke down after that.
I started going to therapy. I participated in sleep studies. I was even prescribed prescription medications to help me sleep. Nothing worked. The therapy uncovered nothing. The sleep studies showed that while I did enter sleep paralysis, they saw nothing out of the ordinary. The therapy and sleep study not being able to provide any sort of relief, they tried medications. Oh, that was so much worse. Most nights, the medications worked fairly well and allowed me to sleep through the night. The nights where I woke up, however, the shadow demon’s presence was so much more intense. Those nights, I could sometimes feel him put a hand on my shoulder or chest. The worst was when I’d feel him pat my hair with his hand, just letting me know he was there and I couldn’t escape.
The therapy and drugs not helping, I turned to alcohol hoping that I would pass out long enough to wake up in the day time. It got really bad, sometimes drinking an entire 30 pack of cheap beer or a whole fifth of whiskey in a night. It helped for a while. One of the beautiful things about drinking yourself to sleep was that you could easily fall asleep with all the lights on and so I did. It was great for a while. I’d wake up in the night and stumble into the bathroom to take a piss and then go back to sleep on the couch. I had long stopped sleeping in my bed since that time I saw the shadow demon peering up from the space between the bed and the wall. This became a boon to me. I thought, if I got drunk enough, I couldn’t fall into sleep paralysis and if there was no paralysis, there was no demon.
I had done it, I thought. I had found the trick. All that I needed to do was drink myself to sleep and make sure I leave on all the lights in my apartment.
It was good for a while, until one night when I woke up paralyzed on the couch. All the lights were on, so that was a good sign. My eyes looked around the room until they spotted him. I had left the bathroom door open and although the light in the bathroom was on, it couldn’t reach all the way into the bathroom closet which had no door. There he was, peering at me from behind some clothes hanging up in the closet. The closet had a shelf so he was crouched down. I could tell he was grinning, waiting for his time.
So the next night and from then on, I always remembered to close the bathroom door any time I wasn’t in it. Problem solved.
What I hadn’t considered, however, was how bad the constant stream of alcohol was affecting my sleep. I was passing out, yes. Losing consciousness, yes. But what I wasn’t getting was quality sleep. I soon learned that if your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, then your body will find a way.
I woke up one night to take a piss. I opened the bathroom door and walked in to take a piss. When I finished with my business, I started washing my hands in the sink, then my face. As I wiped my face dry, I could see in the mirror that my kitchen light was out and in its darkness was my shadow demon.
The game had suddenly changed. Never before had I see him from a non-paralyzed state. His chest raised and lowered with heavy breaths. My heart pounded at my chest as I stared at him through the mirror. I was afraid to move, not knowing what to do. Do I keep my eye on him or turn to face him? Though it must have only been moments, it felt like an eternity. Finally, I decided to turn around with a bolt.
He wasn’t there. Thank God.
I breathed a sigh of relief before remembering that the bathroom closet was now behind me and the silent panic set in once more. Slowly, without turning to look, I stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I then stared at the kitchen for some time before going to sit down on the couch. I pulled my knees up to my chin and held them close with my arms. I didn’t dare to go turn the kitchen light on; that would mean going through the darkness. I just waited until morning when the sun arose.
I later learned about micro-sleep. If your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, it will snatch it where it can, in short half-second to thirty-second bursts. Perhaps that’s what happened when I saw him in the mirror. Perhaps, I was asleep. Perhaps I was paralyzed. Maybe it simply wasn’t long enough for me to know it. All this I tried to rationalize, but I couldn’t be sure. What the experience showed me, however, was that I couldn’t continue on the way I had been.
I got a job working overnight security at a mall thinking that maybe if I took a night job, I could sleep during the day when the number of shadows would be more limited. I hadn’t considered that in my current condition that walking all by myself through a big empty building full of shadows might be too much for me. The cameras apparently showed that I was way too nervous and jumpy to be considered reliable should an actual emergency arise. I was let go after a few weeks.
Unable to maintain a job or normal relationships or even help with sleep paralysis, I began looking down alternative paths. Specifically, I turned to ghost hunters and paranormal experts. None of them were able to find a thing and all concluded that it was all simply a figment of my imagination. That is until two people showed up at my door.
At first, I thought they were Mormons with their black pants, white t-shirts, and black neckties. One of them was tall and lanky with a small stack of books under his arm. The other was of more average height and build with glasses. Before they could speak, I almost told them I was not interested when I saw the van behind them. It was white with plain black lettering on the side: Deep Paranormal. I started to open my mouth, but before I could find the correct words, the average one spoke.
“You’ve become quite the anomaly of the ghost hunting world, Sammie,” he said. “I don’t know if we can help you, but I believe we can confirm?”
“Confirm?” I asked, perplexed.
“The shadow demon,” he said. “We can say with great certainty that they exist, but until now, no one has ever been able to get proof. May we come in?”
“Uh, sure,” I replied. “Right this…” They walked past me. “…way.”
They immediately began looking all around my apartment.
“Wow!” the average one exclaimed. “It’s smaller than I would’ve thought. This should be easy.”
“I’m sorry,” I stammered. “How do you know about this?”
“We ghost hunters talk to each other. Well, us smaller ones anyhow. We generally don’t share anything with the television groups. They have a tendency to make us all look like idiots. We have secret forums that only the most trusted can access. It allows us to improve as a community while at the same time protecting the privacy of those we work for.”
“Really?” I asked. “Because you showing up here uninvited doesn’t make me feel like my privacy has been protected.”
“And under normal circumstances, we would never have come or been given your personal information. However, considering your situation and what we have to offer, it was felt that it may be in both of our best interests.”
“And what makes you think you can do what no one else has been able to?”
“Photon detection,” the lanky one finally said.
“Exactly,” the average one explained. “It’s not new technology by any means, but it is something that’s been out of our reach until recently. Your shadow demon will be our first attempt at capturing one on camera with this method. Using an algorithm by Ahmed Kirmani and his colleagues at MIT, we can take a picture of something in near-total darkness. And not just ordinary pictures either. Three-dimensional pictures. These photos will have depth. Theoretically, we should be able to confirm whether this is all in your head or not.”
“Wait,” I began, “if you’ve never caught one of these on camera before, how can you confirm it’s all in my head if you don’t catch one with me?”
“All other possibilities have been ruled out,” the lanky one replied.
“Precisely!” the average one exclaimed. “Though no one has been able to get photographic evidence of a shadow demon before, there is enough anecdotal evidence that they exist, something that no other ghost hunter has been able to find with you. If we can’t find any proof with this method, you might just be crazy.”
I shrugged, not knowing what else to do. “Great,” I surrendered. “What do we do?”
“Just let us set up our equipment and then carry about your night like you normally would. We only ask that you make sure every possible light source is either out or blocked.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “Let’s get to this.”
The next few hours involved the setup of various equipment that I had no idea anything about. It all seemed specially designed for total darkness because there weren’t any little lights on any of the equipment to let you know it was working. They explained to me that they could read all of the instruments from their van, which is where they would be all night.
That night I went to bed around 11:30 after a few beers. When I woke up to the birds chirping at 7:30 the next morning, I realized I had a rare night of complete sleep. I felt fully rested. When the average-sized one knocked on my door, I expected him to tell me that because of my full night of sleep, they didn’t get anything and would need to run the tests for another night. As such, I was a little surprised to seem him looking deeply unsettled when I opened the door.
“Um…..could you please follow me to the van?” he asked. “We have something to show you.”
I grabbed a bathrobe and followed him out to the van parked in my yard. Climbing inside, the lanky one was preparing the footage for me to view. It was clear something bothered him too as he looked up at me briefly, shook his head slightly, and then back down at the screen.
The average one pointed at the monitor which was replaying the events of the night in an infrared night-vision at high speed from different cameras.
“This is you at night. The night-vision cameras are one of the tools others would have used. They detected nothing. None of our other instruments have either. However,” he began, “our photon detection camera……” He turned his attention to the lanky one. “Bring it up.”
The lanky one hesitated a few moments before ALT-TABing over to bring up a different screen. I became instantly paralyzed with fear.
The average one swallowed and then spoke.
“So, no one has ever found any evidence of any kind during times of complete sleep. In the past, it was believed that the Shadow Demons only appeared during the sleep paralysis state and the train of thought was that they caused it. Um…..this case has just upended centuries of belief and study. From this image as well as others we captured, we can presume that they can appear anytime and may always be watching the people they torment.”
I heard is words, but they seemed empty and hollow against what I saw on the screen. On a background that was mostly white, I could make out the shapes of some items in the distance. My desk, my television, etc. Things that were closer to the camera were much clearer. I could see myself lying in bed in black and white detail. It wasn’t the greatest image. My face looked like poorly done gray CGI, but you could make out details like my cheekbones, the depth of my lips, nose, and eyes. You could tell it was definitely me.
However, standing over my bed was a tall black mass that was very clearly defined. Despite looking like a terrible computer-generated image, it was clear that it was my Shadow Demon. You could make out every muscle, horn, and even wiry hair. From another camera, you could see white where his eyes would be and the shape of his teeth. He was real. He was real and he was there when I didn’t even know it. And now I know.
“Are you religious at all?” the average one asked.
“No,” I said vacantly. “Atheist.”
“That’s too bad,” he replied. “Listen. We’re going to continue monitoring you every night. There’s a lot of information we can gather that could potentially change the world as we know it. For now, I highly suggest you look for spiritual guidance. I would recommend Catholicism. I don’t much agree with it myself, but they seem to have the most experience with this sort of thing and are often the most willing to deal with it. I can put you in touch with some priests who deal with this sort of thing if you like, but it’s generally best to start local. It helps to have a connection with a congregation who can support you.”
“Thanks,” I said meekly as I continued to stare at the image on the screen.