The Middle East is a land of rich traditions and deep culture going back millennia. Here is a place long considered to be one of the cradles of civilization itself, and which harbors a history steeped in the strange and the spiritual. It should perhaps not be so surprising at all that this region of the world should hold many unexplained mysteries and tales of the paranormal, and indeed it does. Here is a selection of cases of profoundly odd experiences by those who have made their way through this land of myth and legend, to come back with stories that defy all rational explanation.

A lot of the weirder paranormal encounters in the Middle East have been experienced by soldiers and servicemen, a topic which I have covered here at MU before, and it is a theme I have revisited on more than one occasion. Such reports are many, and one supremely creepy case comes to us from a military witness who tells of a tale his superior officer had to tell after being deployed in the region. The story is described as follows:

He was in the spooky, vague "Middle East" when there was a commotion from the soldiers watching the perimeter. Apparently, they could see a man about 100 yards away from the camp. He had appeared out of nowhere, no one saw him walking up. The man was just standing there, not doing anything threatening. But since it was a strange man in a war zone, they broke out all the high tech gear to see what was going on. They could see his face, his clothes, his height, but he looked bizarrely distorted and was not giving off a heat signature (they have infrared jimjams and whatnot, it's the freaking military not a piddling ghosthunting troupe here). He was not the temperature of a human being, he was the temperature of the air around him. They had no idea what was going on and people were freaking out.


They called different people up to come look at the man, it wasn't just a few soldiers who saw this- dozens of people came to look and everyone confirmed that it was definitely a person. Eventually they decided to send out a team to check this guy out. When they got about 50 yards away, the man started walking- only it didn't look like he was walking toward or away from them, only walking in place. They froze, expecting an attack. But the man never got any closer.


It looked like it was trying to walk but instead of moving like a regular person, its bones were breaking and splintering backwards and forwards at the joints. I can't think of a better way to describe it. Its head was jerking around like a puppet. When the convoy got a few yards closer, it disappeared entirely. The team hauled ass back to camp and as soon as they returned, the man-thing reappeared in its spot. Everyone took turns watching it for an hour or so until it disappeared for good. Didn't walk away, didn't fly or melt or explode, just stood there for a looooong time then vanished.

What was this specter? Why did it crawl out of the night to terrify these men before creeping back to from whence it came, wherever that may be? From the country of Iraq comes another bizarre account given by a witness who says he spent a total of 28 months deployed with the Army on and off in the country between the years of 2005 and 2009. His strange encounter would happen in the scorching summer of 2006, and it is hard to classify what it could possibly be. The witness says:

In the late summer of 2006 my unit was moved from Mosul to Sinjar, which as some of you may know is the home to the recently persecuted Yezidi tribe, they were an awesome bunch of people with more compassion than I was accustomed to seeing over there, they also had a unique set of beliefs and held Mt. Sinjar as a holy site. Mt. Sinjar just so happened to be the tallest terrain feature around and so it was also the best site for a communications re-transmission station, with a re-trans station come retrans security and that is where the weird begins.


I was on duty with another soldier pulling security on top of the mountain, basically watching avenues of advance to make sure no one got the drop on the commo guys. Around 0300 (3am) we saw very clearly in our nvg's a person approaching us from the base of the mountain, just walking up this goat trail. Not knowing if it was a Yezidi or someone else we radioed it in and kept eyes on him. At this point I removed my night vision to give my eyes a break and looked down the hill there was no one there. My battle buddy confirmed he still had eyes on but even with good illumination and the fact that the figure was only about 150 meters away I couldn’t see him. Weirded out I looked through the TWS (thermal sight) and couldn't see him there either. I put my nvg's back on and there he was 100 meters out just watching.


So my question is what was it? What doesn’t show on thermals but can be effected by infra red?
Shadow person? Ghost? Hallucination?

What was it, indeed? Another report from Iraq seems to suggest some sort of shape-changing spirit or demon, and apparently happened in Baghdad, Iraq. The witness describes himself as having been in the United States Army at the time during a deployment in Iraq, and on this evening he found himself on an extra guard shift through the wee morning hours. He was relieved at around 4 AM and headed back to his room, and it is then when something very bizarre would creep up out of the night. According to the witness:

I stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me about 30 feet or so was a black and white cat. I don't know why but the sight of it caused me to jump and for some reason I was just afraid, not typical like "oh shit" kinda fear but more of like and overwhelming anxiety/paranoia. The cat just sat there and didn't move but looked directly at me. Then I noticed something a little odd. I have a cat back in the states who's the absolute light of my life. A black cat with white paws, a white chest and a little sliver of white running down the length of his face. This cat looked exactly like mine. Now obviously I knew that it wasn't, but the sight of a familiar looking feline friend was enough for me to somewhat relax the jumpy feeling I had previously felt.


I took about three steps forward, slung my rifle to my side and crouched down with one arm outstretched in an attempt to coax the cat to come over. My lips pursed to make a little"tch-tch" noise when I became completely paralyzed with fear. From my eye level standing of about 6ft to my eye level crouching of about 3ft the animal I was seeing looked completely different as if my visual perspective completely changed the appearance of the animal. Like one of those optical illusion perspective based art sculptures. What I was looking at no longer looked like a cat but a large broad dog like animal crouched with its head lowered just inches off of the ground. All rationality abandoned me at this point all I could do was stare back at whatever it was. I couldn't make out much of a face, the only light source around was from a street lamp about 50 meters behind me past the T-wall.


What I was able to make out were its eyes, which I could see clearer than day light and they were human. Look into a mirror and open your eyes as wide as you possibly can, that's pretty much what I was looking at. It just stared at me and I stared back. I will tell you now that I have never been more terrified in my entire life. I slowly stood back up half expecting whatever I was looking at to take on the appearance of a cat once again but it didn't. The thing did not move a fucking inch through this whole encounter. At this point my weapon wasn't even enough to make me feel safe. I backed away slowly all the while keeping my eyes on what was in front of me. I had just about reached the gap in the T-wall again where the thing just disappeared. It didn't back away and vanish into the shadows it just kind of steadily wasn't there anymore. But right before it vanished entirely I heard what sounded like a low but somehow loud guttural growling noise that resonated off of the T-walls surrounding the area with the rooms. Needless to say as soon as I passed back through The T-wall I fucking bolted.


I ran as fast as my legs could carry me with all my gear on to my team leaders room across the gravel road. I took a moment to calm myself down before entering his room. I slept on his floor that night blaming it on the fact that we had to get up early and the alarm on my phone hasn't been working lately. I haven't seen anything since then but every other night or so when I'm by myself I'll get that same horribly overwhelming sense of anxiety/paranoia that I got when I first saw the thing.

It is interesting to note that shape-shifting entities play a big role in many supernatural encounters throughout the Middle East region. One account was relayed to me personally in the wake of one of my former Middle East articles, and also comes from a soldier deployed in the Middle East at the time. He says that he was with out on a patrol mission in a bleak desert environment in an unspecified location when they saw what appeared to be a pack of hyenas roaming about the wilderness. This was already unnerving enough as it is, but what made it even odder was that amongst the yipping, growling pack seemed to be a dark, humanoid figure with glowing eyes. The witness told me:

I had no idea there were even hyenas out in those parts, and here is a whole pack of them just sort of scampering about. We sort of figured we’d scare them off with some shots, and then one of the guys said something like “What the hell is that?” and pointed out what looked like a dark figure like a man walking with them. The hyenas seemed to be cavorting about him, like pets, and it was surreal as fuck. Then we see that it seems that whoever it is has glowing eyes, you can see them sort of glinting in the night.


About now we are all pretty creeped up and our weapons are drawn. One of the guys calls out to this dude and tells him to halt. At first he just sort of ignored us, but when he called out again the guy froze and those goddam hyenas did as well. They all just sat there in the scrub looking at us. Then, and I shit you not, the human figure just sort of, I don’t even know how to describe it, he just sort of hunches over and then he is a hyena too. Me and the other guys just sort of noped it out of there after that.

If there is any truth to this encounter then it is interesting to note that some areas of the Middle East and surrounding regions and North Africa actually do have folklore tied to such creatures, so-called were-hyenas, often called the bouda in some areas of Africa. In Arab folklore, the were-hyenas were known as the kaftar, and said to be vampiric in nature, feeding off the blood of the living, especially that of children. Did this witness see these legendary creatures? What is going on here? Another very weird account of Middle Eastern shape-shifters comes from a commenter on Reddit, who tells of human/animal hybrids thus:

So basically when I was a kid there was an old folktale that many people kinda believed, but didn't, but did... if you get my meaning. There were beautiful women, especially one in particular, that had the legs of a goat, and in some stories a horse or some other creature. A colleague from work even claimed that his family was visited by one back in the 80s when he was about 8 or 9. Personally I remember reading sometime back of a woman who encountered several people like this at a party who had these attributes. It seems that animal human hybrids, and sightings of them are still a thing, especially in Africa and here in the Middle East. Even globally, werewolves and vampires seem to exist outside of books and films.

Besides military high strangeness and shape-changing oddities, there are also some quite creepy accounts from haunted places apparently very saturated with some paranormal forces. One such place is called Jazirat Al Hamra, which translates to “Red Island” and is a ghost town in the United Arab Emirates founded in the 14th century as a thriving fishing and pearl-diving village, only to later be mysteriously abandoned in 1968 for unknown reasons. There have long been accounts of paranormal activity here, and it is considered to be a haunt for the nefarious djinn of Arab lore. One commenter on the site YourGhostStories says he decided to go investigate these claims of ghostly activity, and explains:

We reached there by 2.30 am. Most of my friends were spooked and unwilling to enter the village, but I convinced them to come along and told them that they could sit in the car while we explored the place. We were about 12 people in 3 cars: 2 SUVs and 1 sedan. We decided to leave the sedan outside near the main road in case the road is bad and the car gets stuck somewhere in the village. So we cramped into the 2 SUVs and entered the village. We found the very thing we were looking for.


“I couldn't have mistaken the sheer neglect and the complete seclusion of the place. The crumbling walls of the once lived-in homes, the narrow, sandy alleys that meandered around the village. The walls of the derelict village were made up of shells and corals and sands were a peculiar red. It was very quiet, except for the sea crashing against the shore. The village is a maze of narrow streets and narrower alleyways, covered in a thick layer of sand, punctuated by mounds of ruble and prickly overgrown bushes. The place was truly very creepy. The alleys are so narrow that when you look out of the car window you are faced with the dark black interior of one of the abandoned house.


We reached a large clearing in the middle of the village where we decided to get out of the cars and snap some pictures of the old houses. We were entering houses together and taking pictures. It was funny to see how nobody wanted to be left alone. Even the ones that didn't want to get out of the car came cause they didn't want to be left alone in the car. Few of my friends decided to get their picture taken in front of the old fort. The camera was a digi-cam and when she clicked the picture, she showed us that there was what seemed like a shadow holding my friend around his waist with the head on my friend's chest. We were freaked and tried to click a few more pictures of the same scene, trying to get that image to show up. Well nothing came up in the other pictures. There were no lights or lamps in the village and the only light that came was from the moon and the camera flash, so we didn't know what to make of the picture.


Anyway we continued to explore the houses around the village. The atmosphere around that place was most unwelcoming. While exploring we came up on a house, which we entered and each and 5 of my friends and myself had the same reaction. We felt like we were punched in the gut and had the urge to throw-up. We ran out of the place as we could see shadows emerging from nowhere and thought that this was enough of ghost hunting for the day. We got in the car and everyone was still complaining about having the worst stomachache ever. We raced out of the village and came upon the main road when we started feeling a bit better. We drove away thinking that was one of the experiences that we would not forget easily.

Jazirat Al Hamra

There is also supposedly a very haunted house in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to which has gravitated all manner of strange tales and weirdness. The house itself is rather decrepit, filthy and nondescript, easily passed by amongst a myriad of other dwellings that look just like it. At first glance it seems to be just a graffiti covered hovel, but according to locals there is a sinister force residing within, of which the Arab News says:

Taxi drivers won’t go near it. It acts as a magnet for the “shabab,” who are drawn inexorably to its scarred and graffiti-covered walls but almost invariably stop short of crossing the threshold. Well-known among the expatriate community as a place of horror, Jeddah’s most haunted house has become a legend in its own lifetime. To date, the story goes, 16 people have entered the depths of this decaying pile, never to be seen again.


The derelict house stands a hundred meters or so from the seafront on the north Corniche. The braver members of the street-cruising society have daubed its facade with graffiti and the place is, quite literally, falling apart. As it deteriorates into its component parts, so the mystery and myth surrounding it increases in inverse proportion.


Certainly, just a look at it, even in daylight, produces an involuntary shudder. Crows flap untidily around the crumbling upper works like black rags tossed in the wind. Going through the rusting gates is to walk into a thick silence as the dull roar of the Corniche traffic fades into silence The eyeless window sockets of the house, once full of warmth and bustle, stare lifelessly at the derelict garden. She is an old lady now, ignored in her decline, but still standing proud though damaged by the vicissitudes of maltreatment by man and nature.


She still retains some of her former magnificence; the Italianate tile and plaster facade, where it still exists, towers over the remains of wrought iron railings that edge the marbled front patio. Ornate ironwork rawshans decorated with diamonds of blue and white translucent glass, once fixed over the main windows, lie buckled and rusting like iron lacework on a bed of wind-blown rubbish, slowly sinking into a sea of creepers.

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The Haunted House of Jeddah

Sixteen people have entered to never return? Is this for real? What in the world is going on here? Who knows? Lastly we come to what seems to be a haunted villa in the United Arab Emirates, where a witness on YourGhostStories had just bought a one bedroom flat at a place called Sharjah, on the outskirts of Dubai. After a few days of living at the villa without incident, things would slowly creep into the realm of the strange, when the witness says:

Me and my wife used to sleep in one bedroom and the child on the other. It was on Friday night when this first incident took place. Me and my wife heard loud screams of our children and they had barged into our room terrified and sweating profusely. They were so terrified that it took us almost half an hour to calm them down. When asked, the children told us that they saw some shadow on the wall which was seen hanging from a ceiling fan and moving like a pendulum. We just shrugged it off saying it must have been a bad dream but the children were reluctant to go and insisted to sleep in our bedroom. The same day both the children were struck with high fever and it lasted for a week.


Second incident was at the swimming pool when we were having a night swim in this sweltering summer heat. I was sipping my beer and watching the children play with my wife, suddenly I saw my wife screaming on top of her voice. The children were also equally terrified. I immediately rushed to check what's wrong and my wife was in a complete state of shock in an unconscious state. After some when she regained conscious, my wife told me that she felt two hands grab her legs and trying to pull her in the deeper section of the pool. This was amplified when I saw the imprints of 5 large fingers over her calf muscles on both the legs. Things were just getting out of hand and we finally decided to call a priest to do some purification. The moment the priest entered the house he could sense that that the house had a spirit which died of unnatural causes. He recited some spells and sprinkled some holy water and things seem to come back to normal which was only a temporary phenomenon.


One night when we were sleeping, we could hear an elderly couple quarrel in Arabic which was coming from my children bedroom, Children were fast asleep and I asked my wife not to leave the children alone and went myself to see what was happening. I opened the door slowly and was shocked to find no one in the room but the quarrel was getting louder and uglier. Me and my wife with the children rushed out in the middle of the night and as we rushed out we both could hear a very loud women scream and after that there was a pin drop silence. We spent until dawn in my 4x4 SUV. We approached the owner and after too much of argument, he told us that he had leased the house to a couple who were spending quite a few years. They used to indulge in frequent quarrels due to financial issued and one fine day, the man murdered his pregnant wife and killed himself by hanging from a ceiling fan. We immediately vacated the place and took a house somewhere else so as to avoid further incidences No wonder the owner was giving it at a dirt cheap rate."

Here we have looked at shape-changing specters, ghosts, and maybe even demons and Djinn, all part of the landscape of Middle Eastern paranormal phenomena. Is there anything to these tales of high strangeness and paranormal mayhem? Do these things lurk in the periphery in this land steeped in legend and myth? We can only guess at the answers to such questions, but at the very least it seems that, although not quite as represented in mainstream paranormal lore, the Middle East has quite a few mysteries waiting to be uncovered by those who are brave enough to go and check it out.

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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