Clark’s grandfather died in 1977 and his grandmother moved to a small apartment leaving her old house empty. Shortly after, 10-year-old Clark’s family moved in. Although the house was nice, the basement always bothered Clark.
He soon discovered the reason.
“My first friend in the new neighborhood was my next-door neighbor, Jim,” Clark said. “We are good friends to this day.”
On a day in 1979, Clark invited Jim to his house to play Ping Pong – and it’s haunted him for 31 years.
“I had always been a little wary of going into that basement,” Clark said. “There were lovely treasures there; first edition Wizard of Oz books, some old Playboy magazines in the wine room, and boxes of old comic books and pulp magazines in an alcove in the back.”
The basement was, as basements tend to be, home to spiders “and an unshakeable eerie feeling.”
That day after school, Clark and Jim had about two hours before Clark’s parents came home from work, which meant Ping Pong, Playboys, and something they didn’t expect – something paranormal.
“During our game, I was facing the alcove,” Clark said. “At a certain point, something caught my attention.”
Standing in the alcove was the shadow of a man wearing a fedora.
“It was creepy, and I had to pause,” Clark said. “I could not figure out how any combination of the boxes could cast such a shadow. Then it moved.”
Clark stood at the Ping Pong table, staring at the alcove. He then quickly looked at Jim who was looking at him.
“He realized I had seem something,” Clark said. “I was struck by the realization that no man was casting a shadow on the wall, the shadow was solid and was not attached to any object. I turned and scrambled up the stairs with Jim right behind me.”
At the top of the stairs, their breath coming fast and heavy, Clark slammed and latched the basement door, then “looked at Jim with wide eyes.”
“What was it?” Jim asked Clark. “What did you see?”
Clark didn’t understand how Jim missed the Shadow Man.
“Didn’t you see it?” he asked.
Jim shook his head.
“A man,” Clark said to him. “A shadow of a man with a hat. You didn’t see it?”
Jim shook his head again.
“I began to feel silly, foolish, embarrassed,” Clark said. “I got over it, as did Jim. It took a while before we felt secure enough to travel down there again. I would only go down when my parents were home.”
Clark could never make logical sense of what cast that silhouette.
“Try as I might, I could not identify any source for the shadow,” Clark said. “Though I knew it must have been something that did it.”
Although the memory would stay with Clark, he filed it with other childhood memories and went on with his life. It didn’t resurface until decades later.
“I was browsing the Internet and heard mention of a Shadow Man and Shadow People,” he said. “I had to shudder at the memory of my experience. I wondered if what I saw might be a more common experience than I thought, but I knew one thing for sure, if my sighting wasn’t unique, I bet mine was the only one with a hat.”
As he surfed the Internet for more information on these Shadow People, he found the hat was more common than he thought.
“I saw (a drawing of) the Hat Man,” he said. “My jaw dropped and I got goosebumps over my entire body. I was fascinated and scared, yet grateful that such an odd mystery from my childhood should be so unexpectedly validated.”
His memory soon became further validated by an unexpected source – Jim. Clark moved to Oregon in the 1990s and didn’t see Jim until 2008. The two talked and relived their childhood – and Clark mentioned the Shadow Man in the hat.
“Jim sunk into his chair and spoke in a whisper, ‘I’ll never forget that hat.’ I was stunned,” Clark said.
Clark then asked the same question he’d asked three decades ago, did you see it?
“Yes, I did,” Jim told him. “I was scared.”
Clark almost couldn’t believe what Jim had said.
“For almost 30 years, I thought I was the only one who saw this thing,” he said. “Then I find a bewildered (Internet) community that has also experienced this. Then I discover my friend who was present also saw it.”
The Hat Man is out there. People have reported seeing the Hat Man from the United States to Brazil to Europe to Australia. And Clark’s childhood basement isn’t much different from theirs – or yours.
Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s latest book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at amazon.com.