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In ancient Arabian folklore, a ghoul is a monster that dwells in burial grounds and other uninhabited places. The English word comes from the Arabic name for the creature, which literally means "demon". The ghul is a devilish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis.

Ghul is also the name for a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary travellers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, robs graves, and eats the dead. Because of the latter habit, the word ghoul is sometimes used to refer to an ordinary human such as a grave robber, or to anyone who delights in the macabre. The word "ghoul" has also been used to describe cannibals such as Jeffrey Dahmer.

In Iranian mythologies, Ghouls are creatures very similar to but larger than humans; usually they are less intelligent and not necessarily evil. Most Persian speakers use Ghul to describe large people (figuratively "giants"). This can and not be considered an insult depending on the situation.

A ghoul is, in Islamic traditions and beliefs, the name of a species of Djinn. In pre-Islamic times they were identified as the male Qutrub and the female Gulah. They are said to inhabit the wilderness, or lonely forests, islands, and caves as well as their more usual place of abode--where humans have died or are buried. The Ghouls have been described as dark, hairy, quick-witted, and lustfully attracted to humans. Another manifestation is as a grotesquely ugly being resembling an ostrich with only one eye. However, these evil semisupernaturals are shape-shifters that can transform themselves to any guise in order to seduce humans.

Rose, C. Giants, Monsters, & Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. Norton Publishing Company. 2001.