Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Shadow People

Our cultural neglect of Djinn lore shields us from its psychological benefits.

I first heard about “shadow people” years ago when I was writing a travel feature about haunted places in New Hope, PA. I came across the story of a house in which the female resident claimed to have seen dark shadows shaped like humans. Not only that, they were aggressive. They sometimes knocked things over and slammed doors. She felt threatened. This report diverged from the typical ghost sightings I’d heard before, so I was intrigued. But I didn’t often see tales like it.

When I met Rosemary Ellen Guiley, one of the leading experts on the paranormal today, I asked her about these shadow people. She told me she was working on a book that identified them as a category of creature called the Djinn.

We know them as genies, but that’s a limited portrait. In fact, awareness of the Djinn in Western cultures is pretty spare – to our detriment.

Rosemary has published over 50 books on a wide range of paranormal, spiritual, and mystical topics and heads Visionary Living, Inc. She’s been working pretty much full-time in the paranormal realm since 1983, as a researcher, investigator, journalist, and speaker. You can ask her about anything from angels to demons. Since her book on the Djinn is now published, I asked her a few questions:

You are known for books about angels, demons, vampires, witches, and the like. What drew you to the Djinn as a subject?

REG: There were two major avenues, both involving Shadow People, dark and menacing humanoids I had been researching since 2004. I already knew a bit about the Djinn from earlier research in demonology. I noticed that many cases of persistent negative hauntings involved Shadow People, so I began probing for their true identity.

I discovered that many Shadow People experiencers are also ET experiencers, especially abductees. Through a long process, I concluded that Shadow People are a shape-shifted form taken by Djinn. Therefore, there is a profound connection between Djinn and bad hauntings and ET abductions. Furthermore, the footprints of the Djinn are evident throughout our mythologies about ancient aliens and gods. The picture that emerged is of a major Djinn involvement in all of our entity contact experiences throughout history.

Although other cultures have developed a variety of Djinn stories, Americans have not. Have you speculated on the reason for this?

REG: Most of the bedrock, non-Native American folklore in America was imported by the early immigrants, who were primarily European, English, Scot and Irish. Most of the Djinn lore comes out of the Middle East and never penetrated into popular culture beyond stories of genies in bottles – who are never connected with their namesake, the Djinn.

As I look through your book and website, the Djinn typology reminds me a lot of the medieval angel typologies. Do they have common origins?

REG: No. In early Arabian lore, the Djinn originated out of the winds. The Qur’an says they were created by Allah out of smokeless fire, and the angels out of a pure spiritual light. We perceive angels, Djinn, fairies, demons, ETs and even Bigfoot as having human-like hierarchies and social structures, but whether they really do or this is a human projection is not certain.

One thing I noticed about the Djinn, as you describe them, is that they appear to be highly adept shape-shifters. In that case, can we actually recognize an entity like this in our midst?

REG: Supposedly there are give-away signs. In old Djinn lore, they could not duplicate 100 percent of a human body, and usually their animal-like, hairy legs and feet gave them away. I have speculated that Shadow People wear hats and cowls to cover up imperfect heads. Some experiencers say the eyes of the human-shaped Djinn will shift to odd colors or a reptilian appearance. I believe the Djinn and other shape-shifters are among us every day, and we never know unless we have certain experiences with them.

Since they apparently have a parallel universe, what motivates the Djinn to be among us? Why should they bother?

REG: According to lore, the Djinn were here first and were pushed out by or for us, and some of them are still angry about it and want the place back. Their motives include curiosity, infatuation, obsession, playfulness, trickiness, hostility, and malevolence. Some people feel Djinn are benevolent and helpful, but if they are, it is always for a price. People have a tendency to think that other entities are like cutout cookies, all the same. The Djinn (as well as other beings) are varied, like humans, neither all good nor all bad, and with unique personalities.

As you collected these stories for your book, did anything surprise or disturb you about the Djinn?

REG: The Djinn have a long-standing, deeply embedded and hidden presence among us, far greater than I anticipated in the early stages of my research. We see only the tip of the iceberg. Also, their interference in human affairs is extensive as well. We are influenced and manipulated, some more than others.


Rosemary’s book offers a wealth of lore about these unique and disturbing creatures, and to my mind, they seem like trickster spirits. If we consider our narratives about alien creatures as psychological projections, the Djinn seem to represent the trickster aspect of our universal psyche, i.e., the chaos and unpredictability that often challenge and scare us.

Reminding ourselves of this aspect through stories helps to balance our perspective, which in our culture tends to be overly rational and analytic. I think that reading about the Djinn is a good exercise in approaching our “entity” narratives from a new angle. Regardless of how or whether the Djinn might interact with us, our tales about them reveal as much about us as them. They offer an intriguing mirror.

More from Katherine Ramsland Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today