The coincidence was startling. A New York man makes an office visit to his quite well-known psychiatrist and sees the drawing of a man’s face on the therapist’s desk. Something about this drawing is at once familiar and strange. The face in the drawing, admittedly, was nothing remarkable—it showed a man, apparently Caucasian, possibly nearing middle-age, with thinning hair and bushy eyebrows that are almost a unibrow, whom one could easily see on the street, even in the background. The patient has never seen the man portrayed in the drawing in his daily life—but he has seen him in his dreams. The drawing had been almost forgotten by the psychiatrist since another patient gave him the drawing—also claiming to have seen the strange man in her dreams whom she received life advice from.
This occurred in early 2006, and the psychiatrist, being a scientist, needed further corroborating evidence. He sent the portrait to other therapists who had patients claiming to have recurrent dreams. Soon four more people claim to have seen the person frequently in their dreams. The portrait spread even further three years later, when a website was launched with several cases of individuals not only in New York but around the world who upon seeing the picture had claimed to see the same person in their dreams. After the website was launched, more than 2,000 people worldwide claimed to see the same individual in their dreams; a Facebook page suggests that the figure has been seen by far, far more people than that. Many accounts portrayed the person as benevolent, offering advice and even telling some to go “North.” In some the person is more sinister, even aggressive, and scares or chases the dreamer. But while his actions in the varying dreams of different individuals may be unique to the dreamer, there are two constants: all dreamers recognized the same person, and each referred to him only as “THIS MAN.”
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thisman.org/
Who is THIS MAN? Is he someone real whom a lot of people around the globe have happened to meet or otherwise encounter? (Thisman.org claims that “no living man has ever been recognized as resembling the man of the portrait.”) Is he a collective imaginary figment? Is he a spirit? Is he divine? Is he alien? Does he have a motivation? A plan? Or does he arbitrarily pick and choose those who become hosts to his dreamtime visits?
Several theories have emerged to explain why he has appeared, whether as a major character or a background figure, in so many dreams the world over.
The first theory is the religious theory. THIS MAN is an image of God, who manifests himself as an ordinary person and provides guidance and direction to those in need through dreams. While this may not necessarily account for the more sinister appearances in some dreams, it certainly provides a rationale for the more positive ones.
There is also what is called the dream surfer theory. The theory is that THIS MAN is an actual person who is able to enter into people’s dreams. This theory also has two subtheories about what this “dream surfer” actually looks like: that he appears as himself or that THIS MAN is a persona that he assumes in others’ dreams—in which case, THIS MAN might not even be a man at all. The dream surfer theory has also raised the question of who or what might actually be behind the visitations. Does THIS MAN ride the dream waves of others on his own volition? Is there some other entity or intelligence—a multinational corporation, perhaps—behind it? Maybe THIS MAN is not a human but an alien assuming a human form in the dreamers’ experiences? In any case, what is the purpose of his visits? This theory also has the least scientific credibility—at least according to the science that is known by and shared among the general public.
There is the daytime recognition theory. These are not spiritual or alien or divine or corporate-funded, but are phenomena that manifest because the minds of those who dream about him need some kind of way of making sense of what they have experienced in their dreams. THIS MAN may be nothing more than an instrument that the brain uses in order to put a sensical “form” onto dream time activity.
Yet another theory states that the THIS MAN accounts have emerged as more people became exposed to the phenomenon and subsequently began having THIS MAN experiences themselves. This is the dream imitation theory. Whatever the cause of the original THIS MAN experience or experiences, the explosion of accounts of recognition of THIS MAN is the result not of a primordial image ingrained in human consciousness or of a visit by God (or whatever Supreme Being or Creator you want to substitute here) or even of the brain needing to make tangible what is less tangible. Rather, it happened because when more people heard or read about the THIS MAN experiences, they now had more raw information and images in their mind’s reservoir that their mind could draw from during dream states. This undercuts the archetypal and religious theories, and does away with the dream surfer theory. We’ll leave to you whether this weakens or strengthens the usefulness of any advice that THIS MAN is said to have given many people in their dreams.
One final theory is that this was all a hoax—or as they are often called more euphemistically in the age of social media, a “social experiment.” Thisman.org states that it was launched “to help those who have seen this man in their dreams” by “fostering communication among them” so that they and the researchers could “understand who this man is and why he appears in an apparently pattern-less array of situations in the dreams of… diverse human subjects.” Yet there is no information on who launched it. There is no mention of any researcher’s qualifications. Even the original psychiatrist, “well known” as he may be, is unnamed and has not come forward. There is little mention, other than the very terse, bulleted mission statement on the “HISTORY” page, about the website’s motive. The website’s “News” page reported spikes according to Google Analytics of visits to its page in January 2011, but it hasn’t been updated since the addition of a Malay-language flier in 2013, but the THIS MAN Facebook page continues to receive posts of alleged encounters—possibly giving some credibility to the dream imitation theory.
Some investigators claim that THIS MAN is the creation of Italian sociologist and marketing strategist Andrea Natella, who runs an ad agency called Guerriglila (or “Guerilla”) Marketing that designs quote “subversive hoaxes and… weird art projects.”
Natella’s own webpage states that he is creating “a TV-series based on his most notable work: thisman.org.” In 2015, Vice.com, after first printing a story about thisman.org, then ran a story accepting the phenomenon as one of Natella’s “subversive hoaxes” while claiming that THIS MAN “properly looks like the kind of dude you might see in a dream.” The author even wonders whether “seeing THIS MAN can make you dream about THIS MAN…”
And this is true. People have reported that they have had actual dreams about THIS MAN. Maybe some are exaggerating at best, and maybe some have sort of unconsciously retrofit old dreams to fit a popular phenomenon and meme. So… would this lend even more credibility to the dream imitation theory? Are people somehow seeing THIS MAN because they’ve read or heard about THIS MAN and so have sort of self-programmed themselves to be receptive to the THIS MAN phenomenon? Or is there maybe something more to this phenomenon than Natella’s own contribution? If you have ever seen THIS MAN in your dreams, we would love to know about your experience in the comments below.