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Producer/director/writer Sam “Evil Dead” Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures recently announced that it is making This Man, about an “ordinary guy” who suddenly discovers that people all over the world are seeing him in their dreams. A novel twist: The project may possibly be the first movie ever based entirely on a web site. And while that may seem like even thinner source material than a Ewe Boll film, hear me out, because thisman.org — which is about, as you might expect, a guy that lots of people see in their dreams — is one brain-bendingly bizarre web site.

But before we go on, let me make one thing clear: I have NOT dreamed This Man. And I have had my share of bizarre dreams over the years, starting with the angry gorilla — who, it occurs to me now, looked more like a man in a gorilla suit — who chased me in circles around my house when I was six years old. My wife has even stranger dreams. One night, for example, she bolted upright in the middle of the night in apparent terror.  “Werewolves, with guns,” she explained, breathlessly. She hasn’t dreamed This Man either.

But if thisman.org is to be believed, each night hundreds of people in various places around the world do dream about him. Not that This Man is exactly dreamy. He’s got a low, simian-like forehead and an early Zero Mostel comb-over, Frida Kahlo’s single eyebrow, oversized ears. And his face displays an inscrutable, vaguely disturbing half-grin, as if he just got done watching the DVD of Eraserhead for the umpteenth time, and he’s prepared to tell what the screaming mutant baby actually symbolizes. But he doesn’t. Instead, he’s just there in the sketch, looking at you like that, until you want to say, For the love of God, make him stop. As the website explains:

From January 2006 until today, at least 2000 people have claimed they have seen this man in their dreams, in many cities all over the world: Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Tehran, Beijing, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, New Dehli, Moskow etc. 

At the moment there is no ascertained relation or common trait among the people that have dreamed of seeing this man. Moreover, no living man has ever been recognized as resembling the man of the portrait by the people who have seen this man in their dreams.

We’re told that the website’s purpose is to help people who’ve seen This Man to connect and make sense of their common experience. To that end, it contains what supposedly are accounts of dreams featuring This Man. An example:

“The first time I had a dream about this man I was having a hard time at work. I had a dream about getting lost in a huge and deserted shopping mall. Suddenly this man appeared and I started running away from him. He chased after me for what seemed like an hour until I found myself against a wall in the kids’ area in a supermarket. At this point he smiled at me and he showed me the way out towards the cash desks and I woke up.”

Another:

“I have seen this man in 3 completely different dreams. He was slightly different from the picture, but I recognized him immediately. He appeared suddenly and disappeared in the same manner. His message in all 3 of my dreams was: “It’s all over”. That was repeated 3 times in each dream. The differences in the picture and the man in my dreams are: his hair was a little longer in the top; his eyebrows were not as bushy. Other than that, he is identical. I had no fear of him, but many questions.”

Here’s the weirdest, though:

“I saw this man in my dream, dressed as Santa Klaus. When he showed up I felt so happy, just like when I was a little girl. Then he smiled at me and his head became a balloon, floating in the air above me, but no matter how hard I tried to catch it, I just couldn’t reach it.”

The web site offers a downloadable flyer, which visitors are encouraged to print and post in their hometowns, and explores various theories about why This Man supposedly is appearing in so many people’s subconscious revelries. The latter range from speculation that he is a Jungian archetype or a religious vision, to the possibility that he is a “dream surfer” — that is,

According to this theory this man is a real person, who can enter people’s dreams by means of specific psychological skills. Some believe that in real life this man looks like the man in the dreams. Others think that the man in the dreams looks completely different from his real life counterpart. Some people seem to believe that behind this man there is a mental conditioning plan developed by a major corporation.

One theory that isn’t explored is the possibility that This Man — who, incidentally, now has his own Facebook account — is an ingenious hoax, perpetrated by an Italian viral marketing firm. As io9.com’s Annalee Newitz first pointed out, thisman.org is registered to Andrea Natella, an Italian sociologist and creative director of guerrillamarketing.it. The English translation of its home page explains that the firm 

contributes to the development of marketing strategies through the staging of pseudo-events designed to integrate the company image.

The web site describes one such project, a fake UFO sighting that it supposedly staged in 2001 in Emilia-Romagna, a region along the Adriatic sea, to spur tourism. I must confess that I have no idea whether this pseudo-event itself actually ever occurred, since there doesn’t seem to have been any coverage of it in the English-language media, and the database of sightings at the Italian UFO Network web site is lamentably incomplete. (I did find a few nifty photos of alleged crop circles in Emila-Romagna, circa 2007, though.) A pseudo pseudo event, perhaps? The possibility is truly mind-boggling.

It’s not readily apparent what, if anything, Thisman.org is attempting to peddle clandestinely. Canadian tabloid journalist Thane Burnett reports that in an email, Natella chided him for questioning the site’s authenticity, and ended with:

“Are you sure that nobody NOW dreams about this man?”

That leads me to ponder another question. If This Man’s face and meme were disseminated widely enough — and the Internet’s reach certainly makes that possible — would it be possible to implant the notion in people’s minds, and cause them to actually dream about This Man? According to Erika Fromm’s and Ronald E. Shor’s 2006 book, Hypnosis: Research Developments and Perspectives, hypnotism researchers first demonstrated back in the 1960s that it was possible to induce a trance in a subject and then use hypnotic suggestibility to influence the content of the person’s subsequent dreams. We’ll talk more about this phenomenon, and whether it might be possible to do it on a large scale, in a future blog post.

Comments

  1. monavladko
    May 28, 2010, 3:32 am

    Although I have repeating people in my dreams (who I have never met in life), I have never dreamed about the man in the sketch.

  2. Anas509
    June 2, 2010, 9:19 pm

    Interesting!

  3. shabbychic
    June 4, 2010, 4:18 am

    I’ve experienced sleep paralysis, and I think even lucid dreams, so some crazy stuff… but never seen this man!