Story time: One night, when I was a young boy, I awoke to see a shadowy shape in my bedroom. Frozen, I watched it approach my bed in the dark, an indistinct darker outline in the suburban nighttime murk that, my young, book-fed mind decided was a raggedy, murderous pirate – with a knife. I screamed. When my parents came running and turned on the lights, there was nothing there.
I related that story to Paul Taitt as we talked about his new documentary “Supernatural Assault: Terror from the Shadows,” the latest movie from the Hartford, Maine-based filmmaker. The film incorporates interviews with people from Maine and elsewhere who’ve had startlingly similar experiences to each other. Experiences involving waking up frozen at the sight of shadowy figures advancing on them out of the dark – and worse.
Paul Taitt has a story, too, one that’s driven him to pursue a 30-year career in filmmaking, and he’s looking for answers. At 18, the British native (he’s lived in Maine since 2006) was on a tour of the ancient, Roman-excavated Chislehurst Caves outside of London when the guide told everyone to turn off their lights. “It was like someone had plucked your eyes from your head,” said Taitt. “It was that dark.” Except Taitt saw something, three points of light in the depths that coalesced into a triangular doorway. Then, said the filmmaker, something walked through.
“It was a 5-foot-high humanoid shadow, like someone in a skin diver’s suit,” said Taitt. “A German woman on the tour next to me saw it, too. It was looking around but didn’t seem to see us, until she screamed. Then it turned its head to look at us, before running right through the wall.”
After ascertaining that Chislehurst has a long history of spooky sightings, Taitt moved on, eventually coming to the U.S. to pursue a career in corporate video shoots and what he describes as “all-around multimedia consulting for a lot of interesting people.” Still, Taitt’s experience in the British caves never left him, especially once he started experiencing the phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, where, upon waking, sufferers find they are unable to move – and that sometimes there is something in the dark with them. “It’s something that one in five people experience, and I decided to make a documentary to explore it,” Taitt said. That movie, “Your Worst Nightmare,” achieved some notoriety, even being featured on “The Rachael Ray Show” back in 2010. It was through talking to interview subjects for that film that Taitt became aware that the visitation aspect of sleep paralysis was common enough to have given birth to a separate legend itself, with sufferers and researchers calling them the Shadow People.
“Some 80 percent of those experiencing sleep paralysis report these visitations,” Taitt said. “There are three main figures. There’s what I saw – the silhouette of a guy in a skin diver’s suit. There’s the Hat Man, who’s described as wearing a long cape or overcoat in addition to a wide-brimmed hat. The third is a hooded figure people have taken to calling the Old Hag.”
Taitt’s new film – available on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming through his Dark Element Films website (darkelementfilms.com) – intersperses harrowing-looking reenactments with interviews from the broad variety of people who claim they’ve been visited in the night. And, in some cases, even physically attacked by the Shadow People. The film is dedicated to one subject, Maine native Dawn Howley, who, in the film’s trailer, is seen tearfully asserting that her Farmington home was “evil,” and who died before “Supernatural Assault” was released.
Watch the trailer:
“She said that she’d been repeatedly physically assaulted by the Shadow People in that house, which freaked us out,” Taitt said. “She died – of what was called natural causes – on the day before her birthday. She was 54.”
So are there otherworldly, potentially dangerous beings haunting us while we sleep? And, if so, what are they? Those are the questions Taitt seeks to answer in “Supernatural Assault,” his decades of investigation seemingly landing in the realm of Islamic mythology. The race of beings called Jinn, “supernatural, possibly shape-shifting entities” that feed off of our fear seem to be Taitt’s leading suspects, with Taitt speculating that the Shadow People/Jinn both inspire and subsist on the terror they cause.
As for those – like, it must be admitted, the author of this article – who attribute Shadow People (and all other supposed supernatural shenanigans) to more rational causes, Taitt responds with polite firmness. “These things are absolutely real,” Taitt said. “And I say that to anyone with a straight face. My film can’t prove that to the world, but I can put forward all of the research, and all of these people’s stories and let the people decide.”
Regardless of your views on the Shadow People, “Supernatural Assault” is, as the Maine filmmaker boasts, “one of the most chilling and scary documentary films ever made.” Taitt, planning to place the film on major streaming services in the coming months, also intends to re-release “Your Worst Nightmare,” complete with added material and interviews, and has another project in the works on the same, spooky subject. “I’ve got a lot of ideas, and a lot of films that have been in my head for years,” he said. So head over to the Dark Element Films website for more information on The Shadow People, if you’re feeling brave.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday-Sunday: “Itzhak.” Rapturous music weaves through this documentary about violin master Itzhak Perlman, who survived polio as a child to become one of the most admired musicians in history.
Tuesday, April 24: “Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun?” “In 1946, my great-grandfather murdered a black man named Bill Spann and got away with it.” That’s the way this documentary from filmmaker Travis Wilkerson begins, as he examines his the roots of racism, deep within his own family.