Tuesday, December 2, 2014

True Story Tuesday: Shadow People: Out Of The Corner Of My Eye...

Did you just see what you thought you saw? Out of the corner of your eye...something moving.  A glimpse of...something.  A shadow?  For centuries people have seen what have now become known as "shadow people", which refers to a shadowy, supernatural figure that is often a malevolent force or a harbinger of death. 

In 2013, a film was made that looked into this phenomena aptly entitled Shadow People.  This under-the-radar film starred the always affable Dallas Roberts (The Walking Dead) and Alison Eastwood.  Roberts stars as Charlie Crowe, a radio personality who works nights and usually listens to simpletons discussing their various woes of life, resulting in him making fun of them, somewhat in the vein of Howard Stern but with a little less maliciousness.  One night Charlie gets a phone call from a young man who claims that someone has been watching him.  The boy is obviously scared out of his wits, but Charlie brushes it off at first.  Until a day or so later he learns the boy has passed away in his sleep, forcing Charlie to confront the idea that the boy might not have been as crazy as he sounded.

The basis from this particular film is inspired by true events. Kentucky-bred Charlie Crowe was a real person who became obsessed with uncovering the truth about a series of deaths in his hometown and beyond, in particular a young man who called in with wild claims of 'shadow people' in his house.  The man was in fear for his life and in fact did perish without any reasonable explanation.

 Blamed on Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS), many victims of shadow people before their untimely deaths had spoke of a presence around them - someone watching them, an entity they saw out of the corner of their eye that waited until they were almost asleep and then paralyzed them with fear, essentially scaring them to death.

Shadow People are purposely elusive, coming into your peripheral vision but darting away when you turn to look.  There are entire websites dedicated to the stories of people who have had encounters with them, or know someone whose life was cut short when they inexplicably died in their sleep. People describe seeing dark figures in the doorways of their bedroom or hovering over their beds, walking down stairways, lurking in hallways, or just simply appearing in front of someone - rendering them unable to move, struck with fear.
Some folks have woke up from a deep sleep only to have relentless pressure on their chest, making it hard to breathe.

Shadow People are markedly different than ghosts, in that there is no real reason to be haunted. Victims of this phenomena can't seem to give a good reason why they would be targeted for this abject fear. They just know they are in harm's way.  Not unlike the "slender man" myths, shadow people seem to strike fear into the hearts of normally sane people. Just what is going on?  Is there actually a medical condition that could mimic this kind of tragedy?

Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome is described as a condition that was first noticed back in the late 70's in the Hmong people of Laos.  Cardiac activity has been thought to be arrhythmic at the time that the person stops breathing....but why does this arrhythmia happen?  There has been no reasonable explanation in the medical community as most subjects were found to be stable cardiac-wise and had no abnormalities to speak of.  Why do their hearts stop in their sleep?  This is where Shadow People seem to have made their mark in superstition and folk tales.  They appear in shadows and all but frighten the victim to death.

Many religions and beliefs have accepted the concept of shadow people, believing them a malevolent force that comes to take away the soul and essentially the life force of their victims.  The paralyzing fear is what stops the heart, and the victim is helpless to escape.  It is different than night terrors as those nightmares are meant to wake from.  When the Shadow People come to visit you at night, they mean to harm you.  They will terrorize you, sit on your chest so you can't breathe, let you slip into eternal darkness, all because you give them the satisfaction of believing in them.

In Shadow People, Charlie is compelled to find out more about these strange occurrences when he receives a package with evidence of sleep studies done in which the participants died in their sleep from unknown causes.  When an investigator (Eastwood) from the CDC looks Charlie up for some answers regarding the death of the young man and this "farce" called shadow people, the two become embroiled in a search for the truth, which might lead them down a path less ordinary - and much more sinister.

Whether or not you believe in shadow people, the film of the same name does boast some startling images and creepy moments.  Dallas Roberts, who usually plays supporting characters, holds his own quite well here and his escalating fear of the unknown makes his paranoia palpable and weirdly engaging.  The dark, shadowy sets make for some great atmosphere, and the subject matter ought to make more than one person go clamoring for their laptop to google Shadow People.  Which, if we're keeping score, is a win for the makers of this film.  So watch the movie, then do your research.  Maybe you've already seen a dark shadow in the corner of your room - or felt an unseen force causing pressure in your chest....if that's the case, then perhaps you've already met the shadow people....