When I first launched this column nearly two years ago, I offered a quick primer on some of the most notorious and heavily-shared viral tales known as creepypasta. Among the most enduring of these legends are a nightmare gallery of villains… of course, there’s the iconic and headline-grabbing Slender Man, but creepy web lore contains many more equally-sinister wraiths like Jeff the Killer, The Smiling Man, The Expressionless and Laughing Jack, to name just a handful.
One of these unearthly beings doesn’t look quite as menacing as some of the aforementioned monsters… at least not at first glance. But I think that single paragraph in my original list article doesn’t do enough to explain the strange and chilling phenomena behind this particular legend… so I thought I’d give him his own spotlight this week.
The portrait which allegedly launched a thousand nightmares — accompanied by the words “EVER DREAM THIS MAN?” — has reportedly appeared on flyers in dozens of major cities around the globe, with photographic evidence to confirm their placement (if not their source). This was followed by a persistent meme featuring the same moon-shaped, faintly grinning face — which appears to be that of a middle-aged adult male with large dark eyes, thick black eyebrows meeting in the middle, and thinning hair on top.
This strangeness rose to public attention shortly after the site ThisMan.org launched in 2006, and promptly began posting images, photos, illustrations, artist renderings (including tattoos), comic books, songs, videos and hundreds of personal anecdotes about the mysterious stranger. These dream descriptions have been emailed to the site administrator by a wide range of people from multiple countries, over a period of several years.
All the submissions had one thing in common: these people claimed to have seen this man in their dreams… or, in some rare cases, walking the streets.
According to the site’s history page, the first mention of “This Man” was made to a psychiatrist, whose patient explained how she’d dreamed of the stranger on multiple nights, during which he would actually speak to her, offering advice on her private life — despite her claim that she’d never actually met the man outside of her dreams. The doctor asked if she could describe the nocturnal visitor from memory, and she recited those details to a sketch artist — resulting in the infamous drawing showcased on the site, shared on social media and printed on flyers and posters.
The story might have ended with that first client’s case, had another of the psychiatrist’s patients not happened to see the artist’s sketch sitting on the doctor’s desk… after which he also claimed to have dreamed about the exact same man, whom he’d also never seen in waking life.
As the story goes, the doctor formulated a theory about the shared dream experience, and gave copies of the sketch to all of his colleagues treating patients with recurring dreams. To their collective shock, the other doctors realized their own clients were seeing some variation of the very same man.
Though no official research project was ordained, most of the doctors involved began to investigate more related stories from people who claimed to have dreamed about the stranger… and between the years 2006 and 2011, the number of “dream sightings” eventually exceeded 2000 separate cases.
The posted dream descriptions are sometimes benign, occasionally very sexual, and most often surreal and threatening… but always with the same consistent presence: This Man. Sometimes he speaks; other times he remains silent. His motives usually vary from one dreamer to the next… but he’s always there.
“I saw this man in my dream dressed as Santa Claus,” claimed one author. “When he showed up I felt so happy, just like when I was a little girl. Then he smiled at me and his head became a balloon, floating in the air above me… but no matter how hard I tried to catch it, I just couldn’t reach it.”
“I have seen this man in 3 completely different dreams,” reported another. “He was slightly different from the picture, but I recognized him immediately. He appeared suddenly and disappeared in the same manner. His message in all three of my dreams was… ‘It’s all over.’”
Perhaps the most terrifying account on the site, excerpted below, dates back to one user’s teenage years, and a dream wherein This Man’s intentions were not friendly at all… or were they?
In my dream, I was stuck in a room sitting on a stool. A few feet away from me there was a television set. I was “visited” by two men I had never seen before and they both attacked me. I woke up covered in sweat and tears and I was screaming. I somehow fell asleep [again], then found myself back in the room. I started screaming and crying. Then “This Man” showed up on the screen. I begged him to not harm me. He didn’t change his blank expression or speak. He slit my throat and I woke up. I suppose he let me out of the nightmare… but I couldn’t stop thinking about him for weeks. I still have some of the sketches I drew of him.
The creators of ThisMan.org posted statements claiming the site is 100% legitimate, established “to help those who have seen this man in their dreams and to foster communication among them,” and “to understand who this man is and why he appears in an apparently pattern-less array of situations in the dreams of such diverse human subjects.”
They list several possible theories for the consistency of This Man’s appearance to multiple dreamers, whose lives were otherwise unconnected. Chief among these is Carl Jung’s concept of Universal Archetypes, in which Jung theorized certain universal images are ingrained in the subconscious mind of every human being. Other more fantastic and far-fetched theories suggest This Man is a “Dream Surfer,” somehow capable of entering the dreams of other people, thanks to a particular mental skill… perhaps even a powerful psychic power.
Mysteriously, the site admin has claimed that multiple attempts have been made to shut the operation down in past years — though they do not specify which individuals and/or organizations approached them. While it’s not stated explicitly, he or she suggests the “dream-surfing” abilities mentioned earlier may be connected to a secretive organization, and This Man’s skills have either been developed or harnessed by representatives of this group.
Nevertheless, ThisMan.org remains online as of this writing — despite a complete lack of news updates since 2011, and no new uploads since 2013. It does appear the same admin migrated some of the news content to the Facebook page EVER DREAM THIS MAN six years ago, though that’s yet to be confirmed (it may be a fan or copycat page). The page is still being updated regularly, however, and user-submitted images of the dream-visitor are still pouring in.
It may be my imagination, but as I compare the older and newer images of This Man, its seems the drawings and photos are beginning to evolve in subtle but apparent ways… as if This Man were experimenting with new forms… or perhaps changing into something else.
But what exactly would that “something” be?
I shudder to think of the possibilities…