The Cowboy has followed Cody Lilly for years, a black, human-shaped figure, featureless except for a hat – a fedora with a wide brim.
“We called him the Cowboy because he kind of looked like the Marlboro man,” Lilly said.
The Cowboy stepped into Lilly’s life his sophomore year of high school in Clarinda, Iowa, and visited almost nightly for two years, pacing about his room, waiting for something. What, Lilly didn’t know. Then the visits stopped.
“My girlfriend that is now my fiancée is in Kansas City and I’m in Omaha. I was crashing with friends here,” he said. “My car started acting up, I’m in the process of looking for a job, finding an apartment, buying an engagement ring. I had a lot of stuff on my plate, which might have brought on what happened.”
What happened was the Cowboy.
“I’m sitting in my car on the phone with my mom,” Lilly said. “I’m a horrible man because I don’t know much about cars, but my mom does.”
As Lilly described the car’s behavior to his mother, he noticed a movement in the corner of his right eye. Lilly turned toward the passenger side window and saw it – the shadow man that once tormented him in the night. The Cowboy.
“It was full on. A shadow person in an old fedora,” Lilly said. “It was standing there. It leaned over like it’s bending to look at me.”
As Lilly stared in horror, the Cowboy reached out it’s arm and knocked on the car window.
“It knocked two times,” Lilly said. “After it knocked it dissolved in my vision. It just showed up, knocked on my window and was gone.”
Lilly wonders if the Cowboy wanted to let him know it was still around.
“It’s been quite some time that I saw him,” he said. “I’m just kind of thinking he just showed up. I was feeling stressed out and I think he showed up just to feed on that.”
The first time Lilly saw the Cowboy was almost eight years ago when he moved into his older brother’s basement bedroom.
“The room we stayed in was kind of long and there was a lot of room between the dresser and the bed,” he said. “When it showed up it just appeared by the dresser. It had red eyes. It was darker than the darkness around it and it would just pace back and forth. Those red eyes were on me all the time. Then it would just dissipate.”
He later discovered his brother had seen the red-eyed shadow entity as well, but the thing never approached him either.
“Our Cowboy, he never really came any closer than that,” Lilly said. “He just paced and watched.”
Lilly said he believes the shadow man was there for another reason – it hungered.
“It was feeding,” Lilly said, convinced the Cowboy was absorbing energy from his emotions. “The first time I saw it I was completely incapacitated by how scared I was of it.”
At first the nighttime visitations paralyzed Lilly with fear, but something eventually changed.
“The first times I saw it I stayed awake all night scared to the point I would not move,” he said. “When I realized it didn’t do anything I didn’t get scared, I got interested in it.”
Lilly got relaxed enough around the Cowboy, one night he spoke to it.
“I said, ‘hey, I don’t care if you’re here, but if you’re going to do something to me, do it to me in my sleep because I don’t want to lose any more sleep over this,’” Lilly said. “He stopped coming so often after that.”
Lilly and his brother aren’t the only people to see the Cowboy. During a New Year’s party at the house, they used Lilly’s bedroom as the coatroom.
“One of my brother’s friends was over. He went in to put his coat in the room and he came back out with it, pallid white,” Lilly said. “He said, ‘there is someone in your room.’ He wouldn’t say anything else. He just left. We think he saw it, too.”
Other odd things happened to Lilly in that house over the years, but he only places one at the feet of the Cowboy.
“Mom sleeps with a box fan. Every once in a while she’d hear the music of Glenn Miller through her box fan,” Lilly said. “Oddly enough, Clarinda is home to Glenn Miller.”
A few years later, as Lilly attended Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo., about 45 miles south of Clarinda, he heard the music, too.
“The one time I saw the Cowboy in Maryville, I heard Glenn Miller coming from my box fan,” he said. “I looked up and there he was.”
Although Lilly grew comfortable with the Cowboy, the daylight sighting in Omaha brought the terror back.
“I got scared again,” Lilly said. “I had never heard one make noise. I was pretty shaken up about the thing. It had this feeling of anxiety and tiredness, like it was feeding off my emotions. Maybe it was letting me know it found me again. Maybe it’s been looking for me, which is kind of creepy.”
Even though the thought of a phantom lurking in the shadows of his life is a disturbing one, it has also piqued Lilly’s curiosity.
“(Shadow beings) have never tried to hurt me,” he said. “I kind of want to see more of them so I can maybe figure something out about them. So I can figure out what they want and why they’re here. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing.”
Regardless, Lilly is leaving Omaha. He wonders if the Cowboy will follow him.
“I’m moving to Kansas City,” he said. “I’ve kind of had weird stuff happen to me no matter where I’ve been. I’ll see what happens to me once I get down there.”
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 newest book on the paranormal, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.