A couple of weeks ago I was at our local farmer's market when, deciding that I had a few minutes to kill, I took a seat on a bench directly across from one of the local street musicians who was playing some rather nice sounding slide material on his Dobro. No sooner had I made myself comfortable however, before he stopped playing, looked at me and said, "I've been wanting to talk with you. Judging from your attire, I'm curious about something."
At that moment I figured that I was going to have to confess all; yes, I'm a Goth and no, I'm not a devil worshiper. As it turned out, that wasn't what he wanted to talk about at all. Instead, he told me that I dressed like someone who would know about the Top Hat Man. At this point, he had most definitely garnered my attention, and almost embarrassingly, was forced to admit that I'd never heard of the fellow.
"Well," he began, "he's not a real man; he's a spirit that has been seen all over. I think he might be a defender of children because he seems to come around when something happens to them."
The musician went on to tell me that he was sharing this information with me because I looked like someone who might be interested in what he had to say and wouldn't scoff at him. He went on to describe the Top Hat Man as always dressing in a long, black coat, having long hair and of course, a top hat. He filled me in on encounters people close to him have had with the mysterious man and those closely associated with celebrity as well. "Look it up," he told me, "you'll find plenty of information about him."
Well, I did look it up and as my new acquaintance suggested, I did find quite a bit of information on the subject.
The first impression I got from my research is that my musician friend was spot on regarding the Top Hat Man's dealings with children. For whatever reason, it seems that it is mostly youngsters who have initial encounters with the entity. It would be easy to discount the various sightings as the product of young imaginations, but that neither explains how kids hundreds of miles apart manage to describe remarkably similar experiences nor accounts for the fact that upon growing into adulthood they continue to stand by their childhood stories. Additionally, older people sometimes see him as well.
One young adult described his first encounter with the Top Hat Man this way:
"The first time I saw the Top Hat Man was my freshman year at Eastern Oklahoma State College in my hometown of Wilburton, Oklahoma. I was walking from the library to my dorm and I saw a man wearing a long black coat, shiny black boots, a top hat and sunglasses. He had long black hair anc carried a wooden cane with a silver handle.
"The apparation scared me to death and I told my roomate about it. She said that she and some of her friends had seen the man as well. They weren't sure what he was, but believed that he was a demon closely related to shadow creatures." 1
Another account tells of a ten-year-old boy named George who, while living in Alaska, heard his friend's mother discuss her personal encounter with the mysterious man in a top hat. According to George, she referred to him as death. A few years later, the young man made the claim to have encountered the entity himself. He didn't tell everyone however, and it was not until after he and his family had moved to Texas that George's mother mentioned having a vision of the man staring at her one night from the foot of her bed. 2
From Arkansas and Oklahoma to Alaska and even the north coast of France, people of all ages have reported seeing the shadowy man. Some consider him to be pure evil while others think him harmless and perhaps, even a protector of children. Reports such as the ones mentioned here are difficult to verify and perhaps, quite impossible to believe for some. Most of the information about this phenomenon is found in forums or on websites that discuss the unexplainable; and admittedly, these are not necessarily the most dependable sources of information. Still, there's enough similarity between accounts across the miles that there may very well be something to his story. If that's the case, then we must ask, who is this mysterious shadow man who walks the Earth in Victorian attire and a top hat?
1. About dot com. Paranormal Phenomena: The Top Hat Man
2. From the Shadows