Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
The following manuscript, along with two video tapes of security camera footage, was found in the fourth floor of an empty office building next to what remains of a mangled, once locked, metal door. The building, located deep in the forests of North Dakota, was repossessed by the city, repaired, and sold to a software company. The tapes and files were thrown away and later stolen from the trash. Their current location remains unknown.
What follows is a letter written by Dr. Richard Banks, who has been missing for over two years.
This is an apology. I’ve gotten three people killed already, and I’m certain that more will follow. I’m sorry for that, I really am. Ten goddamn years of paranormal research tossed in the garbage, our big, revolutionary project up in flames, but I’m getting off topic. I should start from the beginning.
We were fresh out of grad school and newly unemployed, quickly realizing that a PhD doesn’t even get you a job teaching science to first graders. That’s when my good friend James Weldon approached me with an idea. All four of us had been obsessed with the paranormal, but James was really into it. He showed us this study out of Russia where these scientists were able to conjure what they referred to as “ten’ chelovek,” “the Shadow Man.” Though we were naturally skeptical at first, all of us were intrigued by this research.
The files went into explicit detail about how to conjure, contain, and study the Shadow Man that for the sake of public safety I will not repeat here. By some miracle, we acquired what used to be an office building that was far enough away from the nearest town. We set up what passed for a lab and three weeks later, began the ritual.
We just about shit ourselves when the inky form appeared in the observation room. We actually did it. The scientist in me was astounded, but the rest of me was deeply unnerved. The Shadow Man was downright creepy. The figure before me was a humanoid shape that didn’t look like it was entirely there, almost like it was made of smoke, like you could put your hand right through it. It had no discernable features.
We performed countless tests and experiments on this entity, but much to our disappointment and curiosity, the Shadow Man did not respond to stimuli. Heat, cold, light, dark, we tried it all. It did not react. That’s not to say that there were no changes, though. We noticed that, as the days progressed, the Shadow Man grew more corporeal. Its form seemed to solidify and take a more permanent shape.
As the Shadow Man evolved, it frightened me even more. It looked more human each day. James thought that the Shadow Man was copying us. While it did appear very humanlike, it couldn’t get it just right. The Shadow Man’s limbs were jagged, like they had been badly broken in several places and had not set properly. Jane Adams, behavioral psychologist and member of our team, had already begun writing a paper on the Shadow Man. We told her that absolutely no one would believe a word of it, that it might even ruin her career, but she didn’t care. I guess we were all too blinded by how strange this situation was to think rationally.
A couple days later, I was in the observation room by myself. I had stayed late that night, promising to close up when I left. I think the Shadow Man knew that I was alone. It approached the glass wall separating us, and pressed its bony, mangled fingers against it.
The lights went out. The power was still on, as the computers were still running, but the lights turned off and would not come back on no matter what I tried. Though it sounded ridiculous, I thought that the Shadow Man was smart. Now, it was impossible to see the creature in the darkness, and I think that’s what it wanted.
When I was turned around messing with the fuse box, the Shadow Man began to throw itself against the glass wall. Violently, these bangs rang out into the dark room, reverberating off of the walls and through the air. I ran out of the building and didn’t come back until noon the next day, when I was sure the sun would be at its brightest.
Aside from that night, the Shadow Man experiment was going pretty well until James called us into the lab at three in the morning. He took me aside, leaving the others in the observation room. James was freaking out as he threw a stack of papers on the table before us. “We fucked up.”
I picked up a few pages and thumbed through them, but I soon realized that, as they were all in Russian, I didn’t understand a word of it. I asked him what was wrong and what all of these papers were.
He told me that they were new publications from the scientists in Russia, the ones studying the Shadow Man. “They’re all dead now. The whole town just fucking vanished.” He went on about how after two weeks of their experiment, just a few days longer than our own experiment has lasted, they started noticing changes in the Shadow Man. It was becoming malevolent. Then, it disappeared.
James explained that the papers in my hand were the last publications the scientists released about the Shadow Man, saying that on several occasions, the creature tried to harm the scientists. The physical attacks started small, with the Shadow Man clawing and scratching the research team, but quickly escalated into life threatening incidents, even putting one of the scientists in the hospital.
As if this wasn’t scary enough, James continued, telling me that the Shadow Man got out of the Russian lab, which was certainly much better equipped than ours was. He rifled through the scattered pieces of paper on the table before pulling out an article from a Russian newspaper about six scientists found dead in an empty laboratory. They were ripped apart. An animal attack, the police officers believed.
“Now look at this,” James handed me another article. “Everyone in the town surrounding the lab died the same way.”
I started at the papers in front of me, not wanting to believe what James was telling me.
“What have we done?”
Maybe we should have waited for the results of the Russian experiment before trying to replicate it. I knew that we had to leave. I planned on staying with family living two states away, but James said that we had to kill the Shadow Man. Reluctantly, I agreed, knowing that I wouldn’t feel right about letting everyone in the city die, but I made James promise that if we couldn’t kill this thing in two days, we would leave. He agreed, and with some persuasion, the others did too.
Nothing could kill the Shadow Man. Not guns, knives, poison, we even tried spraying it with Raid. We just made it angrier.
All of us decided to leave the lab the next morning. We gathered all of our data on the Shadow Man and left it on the table, knowing that whenever the building was sold, someone would find it, and maybe even believe it.
Before we were able to leave, door to the observation room flew off its hinges, smacking against the wall and toppling onto the floor. We sprinted toward the exit, but only James and I made it out. The two of us stood outside, listening to the screaming from in the building. Abruptly, it ended, and James and I took off, not wanting to wait for the Shadow Man to come for us.
We came back two days later, and we found what was left of Jane smeared on the floor and walls. Lisa Altman, the fourth member of our team, tried to escape the observation room via a fifth story window. After seeing what happened to Jane, I can tell you that Lisa was better off.
This is my apology to you. The Shadow Man experiment was a mistake, and I fully admit that what we did was wrong, even if it’s not going to change anything. I’ve been scouring the internet for days, and there has been no mention of the Shadow Man anywhere. Hopefully, that means the Russians and us are the only ones who have been dumb enough to conjure it. James stopped returning my calls yesterday. The Shadow Man caught up with him. I know that I’m as good as dead.
I leave you with this. Ever since the beginning, the Shadow Man gave me a weird vibe. I was always frightened of it. Please follow your instincts and think twice before you get involved with things like this. If you do, just for a moment consider the consequences.
The first tape is from a camera mounted on the wall of what is assumed to be the observation room Dr. Banks describes in his letter. Four people look into a room behind a wall of glass. The footage is low quality, but five candles, three of which are unlit, surrounding scattered pieces of scrap metal, are visible in the room.
In the middle of the room behind the glass wall, a figure appears. It is dark and inky and matches almost perfectly Dr. Banks’ descriptions. The scientists are clearly excited as they begin to observe the entity, which remains completely still inside the observation room. All of them frantically scratch down notes and snap photos.
The second tape, released from police custody after an investigation into the disappearances of the scientists, contains footage of what is believed to be the night the Shadow Man escaped. It appears to have been filmed by the same camera as the first tape. All four members of the research team are in the lab, cautiously watching the Shadow Man from behind the glass.
The Shadow Man seems to disappear for a moment, and then launches itself at the thick metal door, ripping it off its hinges. The door lands on the laboratory floor five feet from the wall of the observation room. Richard Banks and James Weldon run out of the room. Lisa Altman forces open a window and quickly jumps out of it.
Jane Adams stands in the middle of the room, frozen. The Shadow Man pauses for a moment before darting across the room and throwing itself onto Jane. When it moves, its limbs swing out almost comically, but in such a way that they should not have allowed the entity to move at all, much less as rapidly as it did. The Shadow Man rips apart Jane Adams, flinging pieces of her flesh across the room, tearing her down to the bone. The Shadow Man then exits the observation room through the open door, eyes never leaving the camera as it leaves.
Local police departments in the surrounding area have reported a spike in reports of animal attacks and sightings of a “disturbing figure” stalking the town. Neither Dr. Richard Banks nor any of his potentially living associates have been located.
Credit: K. Brown