A long-abandoned Saudi Arabian hospital has drawn hundreds of amateur ghost hunters who believe it to be haunted by jinn.
Jinn are a form of spirits of the Koran and Arabian mythology. The Qur’an mentions that Jinn are made of smokeless flame or “scorching fire”. Like human beings, the Jinn can also be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent.
The macabre fascination with Riyadh’s Irqa Hospital, which treated Gulf War combatants in 1991, began with tweeted rumors and escalated to the point where hundreds of youths broke into the grounds, smashing windows and starting fires.
“Teenagers sent text messages calling for an operation against some of the jinn who live in the hospital, and they broke into the hospital and smashed its facilities and burned 60 percent of it,” Okaz newspaper reported last week.
The rampage prompted angry press complaints the authorities were allowing the building to fall into disrepair.
Several films have since been posted on YouTube showing grinning young men exploring the building’s deserted rooms in search of evidence of spectral activity.
One showed blazing palm trees that had been torched by the ghost hunters.
Jinn fever reached the point where the Health Ministry issued a terse statement on Monday disclaiming responsibility for the decaying building, which it said was privately owned and too decrepit to be revived as a working hospital.
A columnist in the English-language Saudi Gazette daily on Tuesday recommended that authorities form “a committee for the jinn” to help the owners of possessed houses.
“It would be no understatement to say we are sick and tired of evil sorcerers,” said the article.
Belief in jinn is enshrined in Muslim cosmology, with numerous mentions of them in the Koran.
Unlike in the Western tradition of ghosts, jinn are not the lost souls of the dead but beings who lead parallel lives to humans, whom they sometimes tempt into sinful ways.
Locals in a town in southern Kazakhstan sacrificed a white camel in a bid to end a suicide epidemic blamed on an evil spirit. Some 200 residents of the town of Karabulak, which has a population of some 40,000, attended the sacrifice ceremony.
The white camel was slaughtered on advice from the village elders some time after two middle school students hanged themselves. Three more teenagers were recently prevented from committing suicide at the last moment, and dozens more sought help of the imams of the local mosque.
The total death toll from suicides in 2011 in the town stood at 14, most of them adolescent boys. The surviving boys said they saw a vision of an old man clad in white who told them life is pointless and showed them a rope around his neck, imam Abdurrafi Rakhmatullayev said. “That was the Devil in human guise,” Rakhmatullayev said.
A similar incident took place in Karabulak 60 years ago, but the suicides were ended after one of the elders, or aqsaqals, advised a white camel sacrifice, town head Alimzhan Nishankulov said.
In the 1950s, Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, but Nishankulov did not elaborate on what the Communist Party, notorious for its militant atheism, said about the ritual. No suicide attempts were reported in Karabulak after this week’s sacrifice.
An unusual lawsuit is asking a New York judge to decide if puppies have souls.
In her civil suit, dog owner Elena Zakharova contends that pets — considered “property” under state law — are much more than that: living creatures that feel love and pain.
Zakharova says the upper New York pet store that sold her a pooch with bad knees and hips should be liable for the pup’s pain and suffering, as if it were a person.
She also wants compensation for her astronomical vet bills: $4,000 so far, with another $4,000 on the horizon — a total of about $1,000 a pound for the year-old Brussels Griffon she named Umka.
“Pets must be recognized as living souls, not inanimate property,” said Zakharova’s lawyer, Susan Chana Lask. “Umka feels love and pain like any human being whose pain and suffering would be recognized in a court.”
Amid the proliferation of shady puppy mills that churn out “purebred” dogs with congenital heart and joint problems, New York State has a “Puppy Lemon Law” that lets buyers return a sick animal in 14 days.
But Lask says it took months for Umka’s problems to surface. The 2-month-old puppy, Zakharova bought last February for $1,650, didn’t start limping and whimpering until July.
Despite extensive and painful surgery, the dog will never walk or run properly.
“Umka suffers a disorder causing her pain, her legs hurt, she cries when she is in pain, she drags herself with her front paws, she cannot run like other puppies,” the suit reads.
“She should not have been sired by dogs with genetic disorders,” it says.
If the judge won’t recognize Umka’s suffering, Lask said she will argue the dog should be subject to the Uniform Commercial Code that gives a buyer four years to return a “defective product.”
When the severed head of a wolf wrapped in women’s lingerie turned up near the city of Tabouk this week, the Anti-witchcraft Unit was on the case.
Agents of the Unit were quickly dispatched and set about trying to break the spell that used the beast’s head.
Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that it has banned the Harry Potter series, rife with tales of sorcery and magic.
The Anti-Witchcraft Unit was set up in May 2009 and placed under the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPV), Saudi Arabia’s religious police.
“In accordance with our Islamic tradition we believe that magic really exists,” Abdullah Jaber, a political cartoonist at the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, told The Media Line.
“The fact that an official body, subordinate to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has a unit to combat sorcery proves that the government recognizes this, like Muslims worldwide.”
The unit is charged with apprehending sorcerers and reversing the detrimental effects of their spells.
The CPV encourages citizens across the kingdom to report cases of sorcery to local officials for immediate treatment.
In the case of the wolf’s head, the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in Tabouk was able to break the spell. The Saudi daily Okaz reported on Monday that the unknown family that had fallen victim to the spell had been “liberated from the jaws of the wolf.”
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