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A Strange, Spectral Quiet Spooked Our Team in Afghanistan – Was It a Ghost?

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by Heath Hansen

I slowly poured a bit of water into my MRE heater bag and waited as the chemicals reacted and began to warm. I slid the main course into the packet and folded the top sleeve over, laying the bag against a rock or something. As I waited for my beef stew to heat up, I gazed to the East, across a large expanse of dry earth and rock, and saw that the sun was illuminating the mountainside. I could hear small-talk, and the rasp of lighters igniting cigarettes from some of the other paratroopers in my platoon; but there was a strange, almost eerie quietness to this morning.

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The typical chirping of birds, the bleating of sheep, the “mooing” of cows – wasn’t present. Something was off. I had survived another night in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan, and it was almost time to breakdown the patrol base. Still, I couldn’t ignore the absence of sound; I’d find out later, this particular quietness may have been the reverberation of something spectral moving through the earth.

READ MORE about Heath Hansen’s time downrange

I watched as steam began to exit from the green packet, alerting me that my food was just about ready. I dumped the excess water onto the dry earth and slipped the entree out of the bag. Turning the entree on its side, I flipped out my knife blade and carefully trimmed off the top of the package. Grabbing my brown spoon, I headed over to one of the Humvees and began stirring my meal. As the aroma of the stew reached my nose, a cool gust of wind brushed across my face. I looked up and saw the radio antenna on the back of the Humvee whipping back and forth at about a 90 degree arc.

I thought this was odd, but figured one of the soldiers was screwing around and decided to flip the antenna backwards to watch it spring from side to side. As I reached the Humvee, I began eating my chow.

The scene where the strange antenna action occurred

“What’s up, Hansen,” one of my squad mates asked.

“Eh, you know, eating one of these Meals Rejected by Ethiopians. Livin’ the dream,” I retorted, smiling. We began conversing between bites of food and drags off cigarettes. 

“Hey, what the hell is going on?” one of the squad leaders yelled, from another Humvee a few meters away.

We all looked up, traced his stare, and saw a radio antenna violently whipping from side to side, inexplicably. We looked across the patrol base, at the other Humvees, and saw the antennas were arcing at a wide degree on each one. By this time, even the Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers attached to our platoon had taken notice.

Our entire element watched as the antennas continued to swing wantonly back and forth. After nearly a minute, they slowly returned to their upright position. 

We looked at each other and began talking again. “That was weird,” I said to members of my fireteam, standing near me.

“Yeah, seriously, I’ve never seen anything like that,” my team leader replied. 

The Afghan soldiers began speaking amongst themselves. Commotion built as the pitch of their voices rose and their body language became more animated. Our Afghan interpreter walked over and spoke with them for a moment, then informed the platoon leader of their concern.

“The ANA are being scared,” he said. “They say a ghost push the antenna on Humvees. They no want to do mission.”

The ANA team takes a smoke break

The platoon leader began laughing, but realized the interpreter wasn’t joking, when his expression didn’t change. “Tell them to grab their equipment and mount up. We aren’t canceling the mission, we’re Charlie Mike – there’s no such-fucken-thing as ghosts.” 

We finished our meals, loaded the vehicles, and headed out on patrol. Eventually the mood returned to normal and the antenna incident wasn’t mentioned among the Americans for the rest of the operation; two days later we returned to FOB Gardez.

After unloading our equipment and cleaning our weapons, I headed to the chow-hall with my buddy. The cooks piled food on our cardboard plates and we sat down at one of the tables, next to our interpreter, who was already eating. 

“A-N-A was scared on mission. Ghosts were close to Humvee they think,” the interpreter uttered, as we began eating next to him.

My buddy and I chuckled at his remark. “Do they really think the ghosts were following us? Nothing happened. It was probably just a gust of wind that was making the antennas shake,” my paratrooper buddy replied.

“I hope this be true,” the interpreter retorted, not totally convinced by our explanation.

We continued eating and talking while other members of the platoon made their way into the dining facility and sat down with their dinners. After a few minutes, one of the cooks turned on the television. The glow from the American Forces Network channel slowly filled the screen. The host was relating news from throughout the world. The chow hall got quiet as soldiers began listening to the broadcast.

Hansen and his buddy did not believe that a ghost messed with their antennae

“In Pakistan, rescue crews are working tirelessly to pull survivors from the devastating effects of the earthquake in Muzaffarabad. The earthquake, which occurred on October 8th, at 0850 local time, is already estimated to have claimed the lives of thousands of people.”

I looked at the date on my watch – October 10th. My buddy and I made eye contact, realizing at the same moment what had caused the antennas on the humvees to swing so wildly two mornings earlier. 

“Holy shit. It was an earthquake a few hundred miles away that shook the antennas,” I said.

“Bro, maybe the Afghans were onto something – we couldn’t feel an earthquake, but they knew something was up,” my buddy replied, in a serious tone.

The interpreter looked at us, expressionless. “I tell you, something happening. More than just earthquake. The spirits visit us,” the interpreter uttered.

The earth may have been quaking, but he believed, along with every Afghan on that mission, that is was the ghosts of the dead that had left us a sign of their presence as they exited our world.

Months later, the incident was referred to as the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake, and the death toll was estimated to be 80,000. I was never one to pay attention to ghost stories, but after this mission, I realized the eerie quietness I’d experienced a couple of days earlier, would never be fully explained. It may not have been ghosts, but it certainly felt like something not entirely of this world. 

Heath Hansen writes frequently for Soldier of Fortune.

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