(Reuters) - The dingy corridors and
gloomy wards of a long-abandoned Saudi Arabian hospital have drawn
hundreds of amateur ghost hunters who believe it to be haunted by jinn,
the malevolent spirits of the Koran and Arabian mythology.
The macabre fascination with
Riyadh's Irqa Hospital, which treated Gulf War combatants in 1991, began
with tweeted rumours and escalated to the point where hundreds of
youths broke into the grounds, smashing windows and starting fires.
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
The rampage prompted angry press complaints the authorities were allowing the building to fall into disrepair.
films have since been posted on YouTube showing grinning young men
exploring the building's deserted rooms in search of evidence of
One showed blazing palm trees that had been torched by the ghost hunters.
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.
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.
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.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Andrew Roche)