War can be frightening in more ways than one. In addition to the fighting and death there also often come reports of things that evade conventional explanation, which often are overshadowed by the more covered events of the war at large. Yet slipping between the cracks are numerous tales of soldiers who have come face to face with not the enemy, but rather creatures, beings, and entities that inhabit the wilds of the battlefield and the fringes of the imagination. Most wars produce such reports, and the seemingly never-ending engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan are no different, hiding within the tales of bombings, battles, and warfare stories of strange, mysterious encounters which are often equally as harrowing. Here troops have reported coming across unknown animals, otherworldly entities, and bizarre beasts straight out of myth, proving once again that war is at times way weirder and more frightening than you might imagine.

There are a myriad of strange stories to have come out of the warring in the Middle East concerning a range of strange creatures sighted and confronted by troops that defy explanation and run the gamut from the odd to the downright bizarre. One curious report was mentioned in the book Phantoms & Monsters: Strange Encounters, by Lon Strickler. The account concerns a witness who worked for several years in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004-2009 with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations (CID), investigating crimes amongst military personnel such as bribery and theft. In 2005, he was embedded within an Army infantry unit deep in the rugged mountains of a region of Iraqi Kurdistan called the Sulaymaniyah Governorate, in northeast Iraq near the Iranian border. After being briefed on the general situation, he learned of some decidedly bizarre activity that had been occurring in the remote area concerning a mysterious creature haunting the locals that no one was able to identify.

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Troops in Iraq

According to villagers of the isolated wilderness region and the Kurdish military, people were being stalked and hunted by a beast known locally as the ghool, which was described as being a very tall, humanoid creature with disproportionately long arms and legs, and which purportedly had a taste for human flesh. The witness was ordered to the area for an in-depth investigation, accompanied by an infantry squad, and at this point it was thought that the bizarre story perhaps came down to a crazed soldier who had gone AWOL and was going around killing people. It was thought that they may be basically dealing with a serial killer, a man who had perhaps snapped and gone mad from the stresses of war. Yet after several days of surveillance and searching they had come up with no trace of who or what could be behind the strange activity. They began to suspect that this was all just spooky stories and nerves, but villagers were adamant that something was hunting them and killing them, to the point that many were afraid to leave their homes even in the daytime. Then things took a turn for the weird.

According to the witness, one evening he was going over some reports with the squad leader when when they reported hearing a shrill, unearthly scream echo through the air outside, which seemed to come from the direction of a nearby mountain pass. When they went outside to investigate, some of the villagers were hurrying to their homes for safety, and they claimed that this was the scream of the very thing that had been terrorizing them. The armed soldiers mobilized and decided to head into the pass to investigate the eery, otherworldly scream, and whatever it was howled again several times, standing everyone’s hair on end. It was an alarming, bloodcurdling sound unlike anything any of them had ever heard before, like no animal known to live in the area, and these heavily armed men were actually scared of what they might find out there in the dark. Slowly and warily they fanned out into the dark pass to conduct a search, and the witness would describe what happened thus:

Within the hour the squad and I were slowly entering the pass. It was night but the moon was very bright so we were able to see around a bit. We searched the entire area for several hours using night vision and high-intensity lights. We found nothing - not a footprint or remnant from any creature fitting the description.

I have always wondered what we heard that night. I have asked a few learned people for their opinion but with little satisfaction. There were many strange instances in Iraq that just never made the light of day. I heard of some but I'm positive most were just filed away.

Other strange humanoid creatures seem to have haunted troops in the Middle East that are just as hard to classify and every bit as odd. One American soldier claimed to have had a very bizarre encounter while deployed to a remote area of southern Afghanistan. The witness reports that one night he and a squadmate had set up a position to secure a site at around 2AM, at which time only he and the forward gunner were awake. After setting up the position, they sat there in the quiet night scanning the darkness for any activity, and the tiredness and monotony of the scene crept up on them to threaten to make them fall asleep. However, they were jolted awake when something bizarre stepped out of the night.

Out of the shadows about 75 yards away from their position crept what appeared to be a very tall man, and the startled soldiers put on their night vision goggles to identify this potential enemy. Whatever the figure was appeared to be human, and they were wondering whether to open fire or not when it reportedly turned its head towards them and peered at them with eyes so bright that they hurt the soldier’s eyes and caused their night vision goggles to malfunction. The witness would say of the rest of the encounter:

Then the thing turned and looked right at me with eyes so bright my night vision started to burn out (meaning it was so bright it was burning the system, usually done only by really fucking bright shit like the sun). So that freaked me out and I pulled my NVGs (nigh vision equipment) off and those eyes were like neon red blood. Blood red and  bright as the sun. So this freaks me out and I pull my machine gun over and train the thermal optic on to it and those eyes were so hot it started to burn out that optic (same concept as before but with you know heat) but his body was so cold he stood out from the background which is really weird. I slowly loaded it and then the eyes moved like he cocked his head at me and turned and walked off and was gone. I didn't say a word of this while we were there or to any one in the army since we've gotten back.

These strange encounters with humanoid beings could be a lot of things, but according to some far out reports they may be actual, real vampires. As outrageous as this may sound, one investigator, reporter, and former U.S. Marine named Tim King, who spent months in the Afghanistan combat theater covering a variety of of military operations for Salem-News.com and Oregon’s KPTV FOX-12, wrote of just such a thing in a 2007 article for Salem-News entitled Vampires in Afghanistan? Soldiers Say It's True. According to King, during his travels he met an American soldier at the Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan who would tell him a bizarre tale indeed.

The soldier asked King if he knew about the vampire problem in the area, something the reporter had not once heard of in his entire time in the country. Intrigued, King asked for more information on what the soldier was talking about, who obliged by claiming that the vampires were said to live deep in the desert, that they were quite a bit taller than normal humans, and that they were frequently women. He claimed the people of the area had known about these sinister creatures for centuries, that they came out in the dark and stalked the desert badlands and mountains at night looking for victims, and that they were indeed often thought to be responsible for people going missing without a trace. The soldier would tell King:

They are really terrified of them. It scares people half to death if they just think one is around. They come out at night, sometimes people come up missing, especially kids. They even pull their animals inside when the vampires are out. It’s been going on for hundreds of years here, people in other parts of the world don’t even know about it; but anyone who has lived around here does.

The soldier also claimed that military forces operating in the region were also aware of the vampires, and that they had seen them on many occasions, adding:

Guys are scared, you’re damned right. They know there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it if one of them decides to come after you, you just stick with other people and hope for the best sometimes.

Fitting very well into the theme of vampires prowling the nighttime landscape of the wastelands of Afghanistan is another exceptionally bizarre report from the country which allegedly occurred on January 25, 2002. It started when a group of U.S. Marines were mapping caves near Tora Bora with sonar equipment when they reportedly began having strange interference on their equipment from some unidentified signal coming from within. The soldiers thought at first that it was a jamming device of some sort screwing with their equipment, possibly used by Taliban forces, and three men, corporals Sawyer and Wade, and sergeant Carlos Ramos, allegedly ventured into the darkness to see what was going on. They geared up and went in search of the source of the signal that was jamming them, which appeared to be embedded deep down in the cave somewhere.

As they penetrated into the murk of the cave's bowels, Corporal Wade reportedly walked into an explosive device booby trap of some sort which broke his back, and started screaming out in pain. When the others ran to his aide they could see that he was not only hurt, but terrified by something he had just seen. The fallen soldier claimed that after he had been injured, as he lie helpless on the cave floor, something large had flown over him which he said looked like a woman with wings. The other marines thought that maybe the incapacitated Wade was hallucinating from the pain, and after making sure he was OK and radioing for a rescue team they left him there to see if they could reach the signal source, which their equipment told them was not far away.

As the two remaining men closed in on the signal, it purportedly suddenly disappeared, only to reappear again at approximately Wade’s position. The two baffled marines were trying to figure out what was going on when they suddenly heard gunfire coming from Wade, as well as screams of what sounded like terror and pain. They hurried through the gloom to their fallen buddy, but when they reached him they found that Wade had died and sustained injuries from what appeared to be a wild animal of some sort. As the other two increasingly unsettled men continued to try to get a fix on the moving signal, they then reportedly came across the creature themselves, which appeared to be a humanoid being with bat-like wings and feminine features. Even worse, it was apparently soon joined by more of them.

Whatever these bizarre things were, they very apparently also very aggressive, as they immediately attacked the two marines, who dropped their flashlights in shock and fired their weapons wildly into the darkness. When the rescue team they had originally called to come retrieve Wade arrived, they allegedly only found Ramos limping about, who was brought in for medical attention and treated for a case of rabies before finally being discharged and sent home. The bodies of Wade and Sawyer were supposedly never found. The case and a dramatization of these alleged, rather dramatic events within the cave were featured on Animal Planet’s TV show Lost Tapes, in season 1, episode 7, which you can see here. Did any of this really happen? It is hard to say for sure, but it is certainly a rather sensational case that seems to be like something straight out of a horror movie. It must be noted that Animal Planet has become rather notorious in recent days for creating “mockumentaries" that present fake or highly exaggerated stories as real accounts, so it is perhaps best to take this particular report with a grain of salt.

Although the arid, desert locale might not lend itself to such accounts, the battlefields of the Middle East have also been the source of actual Bigfoot reports, or at least some similar type of hairy hominid. One such account comes from a BFRO report from investigator B.G. Martin. One evening in 2011, a 26-year-old Army sergeant was on lookout duty in the remote mountainous region of Bargi Matal, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, staking out the area for potential Taliban attacks through an infrared scope. At one point he spotted the thermal image of a very large creature around 500 to 600 meters away which he described as looking ape-like. He would say of it, “It looked like a big monkey or ape. It was big and beefy in the shoulders.” The startled soldier called out to others and told them to train their scopes on the mysterious creature, and 5 others also saw it, after which they observed it for between an estimated 10 and 15 minutes.

The heat signature suggested that it was not wearing clothing of any sort, as that would have created darker patches on the body, and its coloration seemed to be a uniform white. None of them had any idea of what it could be, as it was much too large to be a man and looked very ape-like, to the point that one of the soldiers even suggested that a gorilla must have escaped a zoo and wandered out into the wilderness. Whatever it was was quite agile for its size, reportedly climbing up over loose granite shale up steep slopes with ease. When the men later talked to locals, they were told that what they had seen was probably what they called a Barmanou, which is a bipedal primate of some sort they claim roams the mountains of western Pakistan and Afghanistan. Is there a large, unknown humanoid hairy primate lurking within these remote areas?

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A soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan

As if strange beings, vampires, and Bigfoot in Afghanistan aren't quite odd enough, there have been other weird creatures encountered by troops in the Middle East as well. In 2003, a U.S. soldier deployed during the Gulf War claims to have seen a bizarre beast that is hard to really classify. In July of that year, the witness was in a three-vehicle convoy on its way from Al Nasyriah to Um Qasr, when in the early morning hours something wandered into the light cast by their headlights which was described as being a cross between a monkey, a dog and a rat. As they passed it, the creature appeared to completely ignore them, and they drove on into the night. However, it would not be the last time they would spot one of these things.

An hour later, the convoy was drawing close to its final destination of Um Qasr, and as they rounded a bend they saw another one of the same creatures. This time the road was well-lit by street lights and they could see it in striking detail. The convoy stopped so that they could get a good look at it. The bizarre beast was reportedly around the height of a full-grown collie dog, but was hairless and possessed a grey body that was emaciated to the point that its ribs could clearly be seen protruding from its sides. The tail was described as long and “monkey-like,” and its face like that of a rat, with long sharp teeth, pointed ears, and oversized, luminous grey eyes. Its legs were long, thin, and straight. The baffled men watched with mouths agape at this extraordinary sight, and none of them had the slightest idea of what kind of animal it could be. They watched it for an estimated 2 minutes before it slinked into the shadows at the side of the road. The witness would claim that they did not have a camera to record the sighting. What did these men see? Obviously there was more than one of them, so what were they? Mangey animals? A new species? A Middle Eastern Chupacabras? No one knows.

Perhaps one of the most spectacular strange creature reports in the Middle East of all is a case detailed by reporter and researcher L.A. Marzulli in his series The Watchers, of a United States Special Forces unit that allegedly not only sighted, but also engaged and killed what can only be described as an actual giant in Afghanistan. In 2002 this Special Forces unit was supposedly operating in a remote area on a mission to find a patrol with which they had lost radio contact and offer assistance if they were in danger. The team was making its way along a goat path when they allegedly noticed that the ground was littered with bones and a piece of what ominously appeared to be broken communications equipment, as well as large, heavy rocks that looked as if they had been arranged into patterns by hand.

It was claimed that as the unit examined these stone patterns and the piece of smashed equipment they were suddenly confronted by a creature with long red hair and a shaggy beard, that stood a truly enormous 12 to 15 feet in height. The towering, humanoid beast reportedly carried with it a long, pike-like weapon of some kind which it used to promptly stab one of the men, and the rest of the team immediately opened fire on it, managing to apparently kill it. The entire violent episode only lasted around 30 seconds. It is then claimed that a military helicopter was sent in to retrieve the body of the creature but was unable to due to its massive size. One of the witnesses would say:

It was too big we couldn’t move it. It smelled worse than a skunk – a corpse that’s been around for a while. The communication was sent out that we had a very large, possibly human creature.

One C-130 pilot later claimed that he helped when the corpse of what has come to be known as the “Khandajar Giant” was eventually moved to a military base in Ohio, and that it was revealed to be a humanoid creature that measured 12 feet long and approximately 1,100 pounds in weight. What happened to the alleged body after that is anyone’s guess. Witnesses claimed that they were later ordered to alter their reports on the engagement to remove all mention of the giant they had encountered, and that the government had gone to great lengths to cover it all up. As to what the creature could have been, those who believe the story point to the fact that its description matches up very well with a legendary race of giants written of in the Bible which are called the Nephilim, and are described as often carrying lances as weapons. Coast to Coast AM host George Noory, who appeared on the episode and has interviewed the C-130 pilot who claims to have moved the body, even pointed out “It just sounds like the Nephilim from the Bible, doesn’t it?” Giants? Biblical mythical creatures? What are we to make of stories like this?

There can be no doubt that there were things in the Middle East wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that go well beyond what most see in mainstream news, to barrel right on through and propel themselves into the furthest reaches of the odd. Such encounters as we have looked at here are surrounded by questions we may never know the answers to. What did these people see? Is there any truth to any of it, or is it just a mix of exaggeration, tall tales, and the stresses of war? Whatever the answers to these questions may be, the fact is that wars hold within them a treasure trove of strange stories and encounters, both with the enemy and things beyond our understanding, whether those things lie firmly within the human mind or not. It is enough to make one wonder what other strange marvels troops have experienced beyond the veil of the TV news and the tidbits that are doled out for public consumption, the things we are allowed to see. What other dark mysteries lie beyond that veil, past the fighting and explosions and lurking in the shadows? What other horrors lie in these wars beyond the human ones? The answer, whatever it may be, is out there somewhere, although it seems we are unlikely to ever see any of it on the evening news.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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