January 9th 1960
It is on this date that construction of the Aswan High Dam across the River Nile in Egypt began in earnest. Its reservoir, Lake Nasser, becomes one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, covering over two thousand square miles; two thousand square miles that were once home to several important archaeological sites.
One of these sites is the Temple of Debod, a monument to the ancient winged goddess Isis. It consists of a processional way which leads under three stone pylon-shaped arches, then onto the temple itself, which houses a sanctuary and an offering table, along with several antechambers and a set of steps leading to the roof.
The temple was built in approximately 200 BC and has undergone several revisions and alterations over the centuries. In 1968, with the commission of the Aswan Dam, the whole site was taken apart brick by brick and moved to the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, where it was expertly reconstructed. Its relocation was a diplomatic thank you to the Spanish government for their help in saving the nearby Abu Simbel complex, and to prevent the temple from being reduced to no more than an undignified and crumbling stack of blocks in the murky waters of the newly created Lake Nasser.
The Temple of Debod’s new home was opened to the public in the early summer of 1972.
Almost immediately, curious events began to occur.
First there was an upsurge in reports of missing housecats in the residential areas near the park. These reports continued to rise in frequency over the next few weeks. Taken on its own, this is not so unusual. After all, the humble cat is not famed for its fidelity. The vanishing felines caused a few ripples in the local community and the odd disgruntled letter to the district newspaper, indignant at the apparent lack of response from the authorities, but nothing more.
Then there were several sightings of a tall, pale skinned and dark haired woman striding through the park late at night. These sightings would also not be unusual, were not for the fact this woman appeared completely naked. Indeed, one couple out for a midnight stroll claimed that the unclothed lady gave off a slight, almost ethereal glow.
But missing pets and naked women do not a case for the paranormal make.
Then a young boy disappeared.
15th June 1972
Adriano Martínez lived with his family in an apartment block close to Parque del Oeste. According to police reports, his parents recalled their son taking himself to bed just after 10pm. His mother checked in on him as she retired at midnight and found the window to Adriano’s room open and her son nowhere to be seen. None of his clothes or other belongings were gone. Whilst it’s certainly possible that he just stole away for the evening, the Martínez’s apartment was on the fifth floor, a climb that would be difficult for an adult to make, let alone an eleven year old boy.
Adriano was not seen for the next thirty six hours. A thorough search of the apartment block, the park, and the other surrounding areas by the local Policia Municipal revealed no sign of him.
And here is where events began to take an even stranger turn.
17th August 1995
Inigo Gómez is a short, lithe, and deeply tanned man, and the faded scars on his face and arms speak of a life lived on the lowest rungs of society. He currently works for the local social services, mentoring wayward teens, but he admits to a much more ‘fluid’ lifestyle back in the early 1970s. Homeless and an alcoholic, he would spend his nights in the Parque del Oeste, avoiding the police and snatching at sleep wherever possible.
We meet on a sunny afternoon and share a table outside a cafeteria on the edge of the park. After an hour or so of small talk, Inigo tells me the tale of what he saw on that warm night in 1972.
(My Spanish is a little rusty, so please forgive any errors in my translation. The expletives are all Inigo’s own.)
“I’d been in a fight that night, I think. I can’t remember quite where or why, I just remember the pain in my head from getting punched and the pain in my knuckles from fighting back. I was very angry in those days. I thought the whole world was my enemy. Somehow I ended up in the park with a bottle of orujo. That was my usual routine back then; get some booze, find a bench or piece of ground somewhere out of the way and just drink myself to sleep. Either the sun would wake me in the morning or the police would kick me awake and then move me on. It wasn’t the best time in my life.”
“There were rumours among the other homeless hombres in those days, about the woman in the park. A friend of mine told me that he’d seen her, and that he’d be sleeping somewhere else for a while. Me? I didn’t care about that. I just wanted somewhere to drink away the rest of the day. But the cats though… they fucking bothered me. Seemed like there had been fucking dozens of them those past few nights. I hate cats. Still do. Puta gatos locos, me comprendes?”
He smiles and twirls a finger around the side of his head.
“It was the cats that woke me up, all yowling at the same time. I remember opening my eyes and seeing them all walking past me, like there was some fucking ‘reunión’ somewhere. I don’t know why, but I staggered to my feet and decided to follow them…”
He is gazing toward the park now, a faraway look in his eyes.
“…they went to that damn temple. I never liked that place. And they were all gathered there. Hundreds of the little bastardos. They were on the stone, around the arches, looking at the building at the end. In the doorway was the woman, just stood there, completely naked with her hands in the air. It looked like there was a light behind her. She had this weird kind of glow around the edges. I have to tell you, she was beautiful.”
He smiles at me again and winks.
“In front of her was a little boy, ten, maybe eleven years of age. He was naked too. I saw the woman had something in her hand, a knife maybe, and for some reason that made me sober up quickly. Before that point I think I thought I was just having a drunken dream, but seeing the blade was like a slap in the face. If it hadn’t been a kid I probably wouldn’t have cared. That’s what I was like back then. But I couldn’t see a child get hurt. Even I knew that was wrong. I had to do something. So I shouted out. I’m not really sure what happened next.”
It takes some coaxing to get the rest of the story out of him.
“Well… and I understand if you don’t believe me… all the cats turned to face me. I remember hundreds of pairs of eyes looking at me. There was a flash of bright light, and the woman… she flew towards me…”
Flew? I ask him for clarification on this.
“Yes. She had wings. Giant wings with white feathers. I don’t remember what happened after that.”
Police records reveal that Inigo was found the next day wandering through the park with the boy in his arms and mumbling incoherently. The child in question was the young Adriano.
Inigo was held for questioning for the next few days under suspicion of kidnapping. He was later released without charge due to a lack of evidence against him.
Adriano was taken to a nearby hospital. After a thorough examination he was returned to his parents, apparently unscathed, the only sign of his ordeal a streak of grey now running through his otherwise jet-black hair. He had no memory of the previous night’s events. Not long after, Adriano’s father accepted a job in Geneva and moved his family out of Madrid.
They declined to be interviewed.
As for Inigo Gómez, the incident that night forced him to question his life choices. He has been sober ever since.
A short while later, two of the archways of the Temple of Debod are dismantled and swapped around, a configuration they remain in to this day.
No further incidents are reported.
It has long been theorised that certain emotionally charged events can be recorded by organic materials, and these events can then be replayed when specific conditions are met (see Thoughts on Place Memory and Residual Hauntings, where I discuss this in greater detail). However, in this instance, the phenomena’s apparent ability to interact with its surroundings casts this theory into doubt. It is unfortunate that all the evidence in this case is anecdotal, and Inigo Gómez’s past makes him not the most reliable witness. But something unusual took place that summer at the site in Madrid, and whatever occurred was evidently deemed sufficiently serious to sway the Spanish government into action, and that action was enough to alter conditions sufficiently to end the associated phenomena.
One can only wonder what might occur if the two stone archways were to be placed back in to their original positions.
Dr Thomas Gotobed