Editor’s note: This Halloween-centric story dives into a comical conspiracy many tin foil hat enthusiasts have shared at some time. It in no way depicts the authentic Afghan conflict, its people or culture — only the country’s alleged population of extremely large adult sons.
Like any military campaign, those who fought in the Afghanistan war hold memories both shared and personal.
But on this Halloween, we want to draw your attention to a more otherworldly concern. We speak, of course, of the Giants of Afghanistan, creatures from times past and parts unknown who were purportedly spotted outside U.S. garrisons, once upon a time.
Encounters with these beings, which some outlets claim to have occurred during service member deployments to Afghanistan, were recently recapped on The Havok Journal blog, a website dedicated to veterans news and issues. The accounts below originally appeared on “Tales from the Grid Square,” a collection of military encounters with the supernatural penned by author Nick Orton.
“During the war, many members of the US Military and Coalition would encounter activity that would defy normality,” Orton wrote on Havok Journal. “UFOs, cryptids and ghosts. Many bore witness to the immense and immeasurable mystery of Afghanistan. What they witnessed is often kept close to the heart, be it terrifying or truly something incredible.”
Chief among those terrifying encounters was an incident in 2002 with the “Giant of Kandahar,” a “Biblical cryptid” creature that special forces stumbled upon as the giant was doing giant things like cooking giant food and minding his giant business.
According to online accounts, the Giant of Kandahar, who was said to be responsible for an entire patrol going missing, stood a towering 13 feet tall. It sported a shock of flaming red hair, had six fingers on each hand and two rows of teeth for gnashing, thrashing and showcasing a smile that was undeniably dashing.
Upon contact, the giant purportedly killed one U.S. service member with a spear only to be vanquished by the rest of the unit courtesy of “30 seconds of sustained gunfire,” according to an account on allthatsinteresting.com. As the story goes, the soldiers loaded the giant’s corpse onto a helicopter. It was never seen again.
Conspiracy theorists promoting the story prompted the fact-checking outlet Snopes to investigate in 2016. To the surprise of none, bewildered Pentagon officials told Snopes they had no record of such an incident.
Predictably, proud wearers of the world’s largest tin foil hats responded along the lines of, “That’s exactly what someone hiding a 13-foot-tall body would say!”
Nevertheless, the supernatural tale achieved a modicum of mainstream attention when it was featured on the “Coast to Coast AM” radio show hosted by the late, great Art Bell.
“There are many accounts of soldiers who have reported seeing massive humanoids that tower over the normal man in Afghanistan,” Orton continued. “These stories are out there, albeit hard to come by. Not many are going to come forward and claim they saw a massive man running around in the mountains of Afghanistan. But perhaps there is something truly massive out there.”
Giants in the Mountains
In his post, Orton shares several other gigantic tales he allegedly collected from military members.
They include “The Giant of Kunar,” a massive being an infantry team leader reportedly saw during a deployment between 2008 and 2009.
While overlooking a village one fateful night, the soldier peered through his newly mounted thermal scope. As he spanned the valley, he came across “a very large heat signature” he assumed was a group of Taliban fighters huddled together around a light high up in the mountains.
“All of the sudden, the heat signature stood up as one being,” the soldier recalled in Orton’s post. “The trees in that area grew up to about 10 to 12 ft tall, and this thing was at least as tall, if not taller than the trees that surrounded it.”
The giant’s stride was “slow and relaxed, yet it moved with incredible speed,” the soldier added, noting the giant’s chill-yet-purposeful vibe. It walked parallel to the soldier’s position for a time before disappearing along a nearby spur.
Stories of the encounter were not shared with many, the soldier reportedly said, but memories of what he had seen came flooding back after listening to the Coast to Coast dispatch.
“I think that’s what I saw, a member of an ancient race of giants that descended from fallen angels,” he wrote. “Or it could be something like Sasquatch. I’m not sure.”
Unlike the Biblical David, the soldier would never encounter — or remove the head of — his imposing counterpart.
Just Giant Things
Orton also included the story of an anonymous Air Force drone operator who was working in the northern part of Afghanistan during the war, “scanning around, doing my thing and looking for stuff,” he recalled.
One day, the drone operator spotted three giants, each standing roughly 12 feet tall.
“There’s a ruler tool that tells you how wide your crosshair is, and the people were as tall as the crosshair was wide,” the operator said. “This was all in mid-wave (infrared) at night, so they showed up as black humanoid heat signatures.”
For 10 minutes the operator observed them, during which time he reported the giants tended their fire and performed other chores — you know, giant stuff.
“The only interesting thing was the size,” the operator wrote. “The goats looked like cats next to them.”
Another airman recalled doing a “pre-OP soak” northeast of the Korengal Valley, where he scanned and analyzed real-time video feeds.
According to his elaborate account, the airman watched “some dudes” around a fire to see if he could identify any weapons.
“After about 20 minutes, what we thought were two dudes huddled together under a blanket stood up,” the airman wrote. “This guy made the rest of the dudes look like children in terms of height. He stood up and walked over to a mud hut that he had to bend way over to get in.”
(Giant) Men at Work
Finally, an Australian army officer who was on sentry duty in the country’s Uruzgan province recalled spotting a giant going for a leisurely stroll around a nearby compound.
It was lanky and wore unusual clothing, he said. By lasing the compound, the officer estimated the giant to be about 1,800 meters away.
“It wasn’t in any hurry, and I followed it for about 5min (sic) before it went out of my (field of vision),” the officer recalled, adding that he suspected the giant to be about 12 feet tall, or 14 feet, according to its Tinder profile.
“Just looked like it was walking,” he wrote in Orton’s post. “Wasn’t in a hurry at all but was aware of what was happening around it. Kept looking around, especially near the compounds. ... I don’t know of anyone else who saw anything like it. Never told anyone about it before but it has stayed with me over all these years.”
Sometimes, as they say, there is more than meets the eye. Unless, of course, what is meeting the eye is a giant.
Did you have any supernatural encounters, or things you can’t explain, while on deployment? Send your tale to email@example.com.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.