by Cathy Douglas
My interest in shadow animals comes from personal experience. I’m often outside after dark, and see a lot of opossums, bats, raccoons, and other animals that like to hang out in Madison at night. But occasionally, I’ll catch a glimpse of something harder to identify–something halfway in size between a cat and a raccoon, but not exactly shaped like either. These creatures run off so quickly it’s hard to get a good look at them. Usually, the next day I’ll try to convince myself I’d seen something ordinary–maybe a baby raccoon, even though it hadn’t really looked or moved like one. But since whatever I’d seen was dark enough to blend in with the night-time shadows, it was hard to know what else to think.
I noticed one of these creatures very early one winter morning, on the bar of land that goes out into the Lake Mendota by the Tenney Locks. Against the white of ice and snow, its shape was a little easier to make out, even in the dark. It was catlike, but bigger and more hunched over like raccoon, 100% black. It ran away, out onto the mostly frozen lake–something I’ve never seen a cat or a raccoon do. This animal was much too large to be a muskrat and didn’t have a beaver’s tail; besides, it didn’t jump off the ice ledge into open water as a muskrat or beaver would. It just ran off across the ice towards the other shore.
This was all very strange, but I didn’t know much more about it than that until I recently decided to check the internet to see if others had similar experiences. I was kind of surprised to see how much I found. These creatures I saw are called shadow animals, shadow spirits or black animals. (“Shadow animals” may also refer to the shadow pictures you make with your hands while you brother is holding a flashlight. Not the same thing at all!) Some think they’re related to a well-known paranormal phenomenon called “shadow people,” human-like shadows. Shadow people sound awfully sinister, so I’m just as glad I’ve only encountered the animal kind.
One paranormal investigator saw a shadow animal while closing a vortex in a troubled house. Here’s how she describes it:
Suddenly, I saw this bobcat-sized creature bolting toward me. It had a curved back held in the posture of a raccoon. I saw that it had a rounded head, though I could not see the face. I only saw the top of the head, neck, back, and part of the sides of the thing. I knew that it had a cat-like tail, and that it was black with black spots (how I knew this, I cannot say).
–Brandy Stark, from Shadow Animals website.
This sounds exactly like what I saw, except that I didn’t notice any spots. (I don’t know how anyone could make out black-on-black spots either.) When she encountered this animal, there were several other people present and a video camera running, but strangely she was the only one who saw it.
Since then, she’s collected first-hand stories from many others. What’s remarkable about these stories is how much the reports have in common. The black animals people describe are almost always cat-like, fast-moving, and quick to flee when they notice they’re being watched. They aren’t scary, but rather leave the viewer with a feeling of perplexity.
I’m not really sure what to make of all this, except to realize once again that there are still many things in the world we do not understand.
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