Whenever one finds themselves to be a stranger in a strange land, there are bound to be clashes with what they know and the reality of this new foreign realm. Yet, in addition to culture shock and a deluge of new customs and traditions, there is also often a collision against the more paranormal aspects of this new place, and according to some reports, this is not only an encounter with strange magical beliefs but with actual paranormal entities beyond one's own culture, understanding or experience. One place where this seems to have happened is in the Middle East, where soldiers far from home fighting in an alien environment and culture have allegedly on occasion come face to face with actual manifestations of one of the most ancient and persistent supernatural beings of Middle Eastern lore, creating strange and baffling encounters between the modern Western world and the unique supernatural denizens of the East.

There are few entities in the Muslim world that are as entrenched within the lore and consciousness of the populace as the mysterious Jinn, also sometimes spelled "Djinn," which means “to hide” or “hidden”. These entities are described by the Quran as beings formed by Allah of scorching wind and smokeless fire, whereas the angels were formed of light and mankind of clay. In the wake of their creation, the Jinn were punished after being caught eavesdropping on the angels and were banished to Earth, where they are said to inhabit an invisible parallel realm to our own.

Many kinds of Jinn are said to exist, including shapeshifters, winged entities appearing as smoke called the Ifrīt, seagoing jinn called the Mārid, and the graveyard dwelling, ravenous, and man-eating Ghūl, among others, with a wide variety of powers ranging from shapeshifting, invisibility, fortune telling, telepathy, flight and teleportation, all the way up to the wish-granting powers often associated with the Western version of the “genie,” although in Middle Eastern lore these wishes are typically only granted by the most powerful Jinn with either a great amount of flattery or more violent methods such as winning a battle or imprisonment by using a special vessel equipped with a magical precious stone, runes, or through harnessing their powers with specialized rituals. Black magicians are said to utilize the power of the Jinn through rituals that typically require them to perform blasphemous acts on the Quran, such as urinating on it or wearing a copy on each foot in a restroom, or engaging in other impure acts to gain their favor. The appearance of Jinn can also fluctuate wildly, with some appearing as beastly, monstrous, or demonic entities, while others appear as more or less human, often female but not always.

While there are both good and bad Jinn, for the most part the Jinn are said to be generally mischievous, engaging in all sorts of troublesome or even downright evil behavior. One favorite trick is said to be to take the form of whatever is most likely to distract someone in order to lead them astray. They are also known to lie, deceive, or manipulate humans, and to even possess them on occasion. Indeed, many cases of what those in the West would call demonic possession are more often than not blamed on the Jinn in the Muslim world. Jinn can also hold the power of suggestion over human beings, causing them to do bad deeds or even driving them mad or to suicide, with it sometimes claimed that suicide bombers had Jinn whispering into their ears. In fact, it is said that every person has a Jinnī that follows them around at all times, with the main purpose of trying to lead us astray or corrupt us, and becoming free to roam the earth when the person they are bound to dies. Even the lucky few who are granted wishes by these entities are warned to be very careful with the wording of their wishes, as the Jinn take great satisfaction and pleasure in interpreting these wishes extremely literally, or warping them in such a way that the end result is not what the person wanted at all.

While this may all sound like pure religious legend and folklore, many Muslims, especially the less educated or those from rural areas, strongly believe that the Jinn are real. Indeed, all manner of paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, fairies, demons, alien encounters, and even strange creatures or cryptids such as the Yeti are often attributed to being the Jinn in disguise. Sightings and encounters with them are common, and there are unfortunately many cases of actual murders, executions, or lynchings instigated because of this belief in their existence, not unlike the witch hunts of old.

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Person being executed for black magic in Saudi Arabia

One such incident happened in the Kikandwa district of central Uganda, where the Muslim populace became convinced that a Jinnī was going around terrorizing people and raping women. One day, a disheveled woman emerged from the wilderness and was immediately attacked by locals, who thought that she was the Jinnī in disguise. She was beaten to within an inch of her life, and even the police joined in the assault, shooting her dead. The woman turned out to be a distraught villager who had been desperately searching for her missing husband, but to those who had killed her she was a Jinnī. There is also the previously mentioned use of black magic using the power of Jinn, which is highly illegal by Muslim law and will bring swift execution, usually without any sort of trial. In fact, there is a shocking number of people executed for the crime of consorting with the Jinn every year, right up to the present.

While considering the deep cultural connection to the Jinn in Muslim countries, it might be tempting to take this as all mere superstition, but Westerners have also had rather spooky alleged encounters with what appear to be Jinn as well, and a good source of such tales is the military presence in the Middle East. It seems that there are numerous military personnel who claim to have had rather bizarre encounters with what seem to have been perhaps actual Jinn, which have appeared to the witnesses to be far more than mere folklore and legend.

One such report comes from June of 2003, from a soldier who had been stationed in Mosul, Iraq with the United States Army in the Infantry with the 101st Airborne. According to the witness, at the time of the incident he had just been involved in helping to suppress a riot that had broken out with locals unhappy with the corrupt local police. In order to protect the police, squads were deployed to various police stations 24/7 for their protection, and the witness happened to be in one of these squads one evening, keeping watch on a 3-story police building located in a cramped section of town zigzagged by narrow roads barely wide enough to drive through. The witness describes what happened on his watch thus:

My self and two other guys from my squad were sitting on the balcony of the second floor of the station pulling security on our shift. It was sometime in the night, if I had to guess I would say it was sometime around 0230. While on guard we would use the lights on our rifles to illuminate any car that drove by so we could see if there were any sort of weapons in the vehicle and stuff like that. We heard a car driving towards us from one of the side road on the Mosque, so we got ready with our lights to illuminate the car when it came into view.

Once we saw the car we shined our lights into the vehicle directing the light towards the driver. The driver had a typical reaction to the surefire light (which is blindingly intense) by squinting his eyes and attempting to look away from the light. The passenger had a much different reaction. His eyes seemed to glow with intensity by the light. He stared right back at the light almost looking through it and at us, it was very eerie. At the time the best we could describe his eyes were that of a cat in the dark with a flashlight shined in its face.

I have never heard of a person's eye's being able to reflect light like that before or anything you could purchase to do such things, especially in a second or third world country.

Another possible report dealing with Jinn was relayed by a U.S. soldier deployed to a place called FOB (Forward Operating Base) Endurance, in Iraq, which was more or less composed of just some simple tents and airplane hangars that had been taken over from Iraqi forces. One feature of the camp was a sturdy concrete bunker that was fully equipped with metal blast doors. At some point during the deployment, the witness started a relationship with a female soldier and they chose the bunker to have their private meetings because it was secure, with only one way out or in, and there was also the fact that since the camp’s noisy generator was situated just outside they could immediately hear if anyone opened the blast doors. However, the bunker trips would not last long after the two had a very strange encounter there. The witness would explain:

Here is what stopped the bunker trips. Well about the second night on, Sarah would wake me in the middle of the night telling me she was hearing something inside the bunker with us. At first I attributed the noise she was hearing to hedgehogs, as that part of Iraq is lousy with them. I shrugged it off until I heard the noise. There was no doubt... They were footsteps. The night before the last night we stayed down there I awoke to whispering coming from the corner, which was followed by footsteps that approached my side of the bed. I woke Sarah and reluctantly turned my flashlight on... Fearing what came next. But there was nothing. No body, no footprints, and worst of all, the the blast door was closed just like we left it.

The last night started with Sarah warning whatever was down there that we were not in the mood to be messed with and that we just needed are sleep. We both fell asleep as we reassured the other we were just hearing things. Again that night Sarah woke me and we sat there in total darkness listening to whispers coming from the corner... Two different voices. Followed by footsteps approaching our bed, and then our bed violently shook for just a couple seconds, and then a tremendous sound as if a metal plate had just been dropped next to the bed. In our panic it took me a good 45 seconds to locate the flashlight. But once on there again was nothing with us. No footprints, no evidence of what made the loud crashing sound. That was our last night in that bunker.

Was this the work of Jinn, ghosts, or just overactive imaginations? It is hard to say. In 2005 there was also the report of a soldier at FOB Warhorse, in Iraq. The weird account is as follows:

We had a generator conex converted into an office. I was inside the conex doing my water testing and I heard the sound of someone walking on the rocks, outside the conex. I figured that maybe it was security coming by to check on things. I went outside, and there was no one there and the sound stopped. The moon was bright that night and there was light shining on the rocks from it. I saw shadows of what looked to be spiked crescents zipping past my feet. I looked up and there was nothing flying around. These things were zipping real fast.

Later, I drove back to my LSA to get something. While I was backing up to park, someone starting banging on the truck. I stopped immediately thinking that I had hit someone. I got out and looked. No one there. This was about 4AM. I went to the bag farm to take more samples and do a general check for water leaks. Between the last outermost bag and the Hescos there appeared a small light dancing around. I walked over to that area and it stopped.

When the new ROWPU site was completed, it was custom to get there before breakfast to start the generator, get the AC or heater working in the lab/office and set out a clipboard at the distribution point before walking across the road to the DEFAC for breakfast. As I left the office to go, I walked past the ROWPU conexes and I saw a man in a white tee shirt sitting on his heels leaned up against the conex. I started to go that way to see who it was and what he needed, but when I looked away and back again, he was gone, nowhere in sight.

In yet another possible encounter with the Jinn, an ex-Army security guard working in Karachi, Pakistan in 2005 also had quite the bizarre story to tell. He had been hired by some affluent families to guard a street in a more upscale district of the city, and one night something decidedly terrifying happened to him that neither he nor the families he worked for could explain. According to one member of one of the families that had hired the guard:

Some time past midnight he was sitting in his chair when we were woken up by his screaming as he jumped over the gates of one house and entered in shock, mind you that this was a man armed with a repeater (weapon with 12 rounds, automatic pumping action something similar to Arnolds weapon in T2 while riding his bike).

Upon inquiring he kept on repeating the same story for one hour. He said that in an empty area between two houses he first saw a rabbit hopping right opposite to where he was seated, In an instant the rabbit sort of transformed into a cat whilst moving towards him as this was happening he tried to dispel this event as an illusion however he was soon terribly shaken as the cat had now started taking the shape of a woman, he clearly described the transformation and at the point where he saw the half woman entity he got so scared that he started screaming and his legs which were jammed were able to find the strength to jump into action over the 6 foot gate into our neighbors house. As far as I remember he left his gun outside and we had to gather it later.

Our neighborhood remained in a state of shock and fear for quite some time after this event, the guard had been with us for nearly a year and after this he was never the same guy again, soon after he swapped his duty roster with another guard.

One retired remote viewer for the U.S. military named David Morehouse wrote of his own experience in his book Psychic Warrior. According to Morehouse, he was stationed in Jordan at a desolate valley called Baten el Ghoul, in order to take part in training exercises with Jordanian troops. The location is already spooky enough as it is, with the valley long said to be prowled by demons and ghosts, and even the name Baten el Ghoul itself having the sinister meaning of “Belly of the Beast.” Jordanian soldiers have often told of seeing demons stalking about in the wasteland or even attacking people, and the whole valley was said to be a cursed place, but things would get strange for Morehouse when he sustained a head injury when he was accidentally shot in the helmet during a training exercise. Morehouse would go on to claim that the injury had left him with the ability to see the Jinn, which he would report on thus:

Sometime in the night, my eyes opened to a surreal light outside the tent. It was like the light of an eclipsed sun and wasn’t coming from any stove. It filled the night sky. The entire Baten en Ghoul and the hills beyond were bathed in the strange bluish gray light; I walked to the edge of the bluff and stared into the valley. Dark figures moved effortlessly across its floor, like apparitions. They poured from the rocks in various heaps and shapes and moved about the clusters of tents. I could hear muffled cries from the Jordanian encampment, and momentarily I thought we were being overrun by thieves or Israelis. Panicked, I turned to run for help. Colliding with one of the figures, I reflexively closed my eyes, except I didn’t collide. I walked right through it. Turning around I watched the figure disappear over the edge of the bluff.

Another report of alleged Jinn activity by the military in the Middle East was relayed through a commenter right here at Mysterious Universe in response to my article “Bizarre Encounters with the Weird in the Middle East Wars.” Suggesting that many of the cases that I covered in the piece could have originated with the Jinn, commenter Smoke6 gave his own weird account, which I present in part here:

I was in Kabul Afghanistan on my fourth tour in the middle east. at the time I was a platoon Sgt of a PSD unit station at ISAF HQ. That day there was intel that insurgents were looking to target our vehicles on our normal routs (there was only so many different roads to get to NK and it was hard to change up the pattern) so I decided to try a completely new rout we haven't driven before. I scouted it out using a Map and satellite imagery, the road looked like it was paved and good. so we headed out. As we started down this new road we saw it was dirt and not paved. we got stuck in mud right as this tall wall started (later I found out that the old British cemetery was on the other side) I get out of the vehicle and i was knee deep in mud that was not from dirt but human wast and trash. took us over an hour to self extract from the mud. Worst part was I had to toss out my favorite pair of boots.

Now I would toss that up to bad luck and coincidences, but around the same time I was having some strange stuff going on. I had a room that I could lock and no one else could get in and I would put something like vehicle keys or other important items on my bed and leave and lock my room, only to come back and they would be missing. I would start searching everywhere for the item and could not find it. I would leave again and when I came back they would be in the exact spot i originally left them. and this happen on several occasions. Later on I was reading a couple books on Jinn (Legends of the Fire Spirits and another one I can’t remember the name) and my experiences lined right up with their modus operandi. They like playing pranks and taking things from people and they have a strong attraction and appear near human waste.

Are the Jinn real? Are they the actual entities that are described in Muslim lore or something else? Whatever the answers may be, these mysterious beings remain firmly entrenched within the cultures and traditions of these countries, and are very real to many of those who live there. It seems very curious that if these are merely constructs of superstition and religious beliefs that they should be seen by foreigners who do not share this history steeped in such myths. What is going on here? Whether the Jinn are real or not, such cases present a curious clash between East and West, and a bizarre peek into what happens when we confront the powerful paranormal beliefs and mores of far-away lands, indeed perhaps when we come face to face with things beyond both our culture and our understanding.

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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