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“The first time Tim Brown saw the Hat Man, he was 14 years old and curled up in his bed in Nashville, Tennessee. He was dozing, with the only light in the room coming from the flicker of late-night television. As he drifted off to sleep, a sound from the television shook him back awake.
And that’s when he saw him. The dark figure of a man, as featureless as the shadows where he stood. He was tall. He wore a broad-brimmed hat and a trench coat. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to. The fear sucked the breath from Brown’s chest, rendering him mute and immobile. The man lingered just outside the frame of Brown’s bedroom door, flickering in the shadows between the hallway and his grandmother’s room. Finally, as if breaking a spell cast over him, Brown threw himself from his bed screaming and ran into the hallway for a fight.
But the man was gone.
Still haunted by the vision more than a decade later, in 2008, Brown posted his story on a blog he called The Hat Man Project and encouraged others to share as well. (Quartz’s attempts to reach Brown for comment were unsuccessful.) He also scoured the internet, and found more posts on forums and blogs describing similar encounters.
The global anthology of Hat Man stories has only grown since. The shape of the frightening figure occasionally varies, but the way he makes his victims feel never does: utterly paralyzed with terror, and breathless, as if fear had frozen them from the inside out.”
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