Storytelling is a common cultural practice in Hawai‘i, where
many stories involve supernatural beliefs and ghostly encounters.
If we are to believe all the stories that this island is the
most haunted spot in the world, then seemingly innocent places
such as the Pali Highway are downright scary. What lurks around
your local cemeteries or, perhaps, your neighborhood movie theater?
Do statues really come to life?
Pork over the Pali
Attempting to take pork over the Pali Highway is dangerous,
as most island visitors learn. Despite repeated warnings that
your car will break down or someone will get hurt in an accident,
brave (and foolish) souls continue to challenge the gods – or
in this case, the goddess, Pele, Hawai‘i’s volcano deity.
In 1986, four Hickam airmen new to the islands decided to test
the Pali with a pack of bacon. They drove out to the Pali Lookout
at midnight and walked down the Old Pali Road. About 30 minutes
later, they came across a gulch and began to climb up from the
side. One of the men climbed up to about 150 ft. before he slid
and got stuck on a muddy and slippery cliff. As he struggled
to hold onto a couple of weeds and rocks, his friends made the
frantic call for help to the Honolulu Fire Department. When
the helicopter rescue crews arrived to help save the man, the
pilot, Capt. Charles Thomas, noted that, a ti leaf plant (dubbed
the “Hawaiian good luck plant” because it wards off evil spirits)
kept the man from falling.
According to legend, the man slipped because he and his friends
brought pork up to the lookout. Food, especially pork, attracts
hungry and agitated spirits. Folklorist and author Martha Beckwith
(Hawaiian Mythology) says tying a fresh green ti leaf, bamboo,
or lele banana leaf around the food container protects one from
angry spirits. This is known as placing a law upon the food.
According to Hawaiian legends, taking pork over the Pali is
linked to the turbulent relationship between Pele, the goddess
of fire, and Kamapua‘a, a human demi-god – half-man, half-pig.
The two agreed not to visit each other, but taking pork over
the Pali means taking a form of Kamapua‘a from his domain (the
wet side of the island) into Pele’s domain (the dry side of
the island). Those who ignore Pele’s warnings risk her stopping
the car from bringing Kamapua‘a’s body over the Pali.
Another supernatural place most visitors hear about is Morgan’s
Corner on the windward side of the Old Pali Road (Improvements
to the Old Pali Road in 1881 led to the construction of the
modern Pali Highway, thus making it hard to verify the actual
site of Morgan’s Corner). Said to be situated on a hairpin turn,
Morgan’s Corner is known for the huge tree that looms large
in urban legends of hangings and bloodied hands scraping on
the roofs of cars whose drivers dared to park under it.
Many years ago, a young, local couple drove to this place one
night and parked under the tree. When the car wouldn’t start,
the man went out for help while his girlfriend waited inside
the car. As she waited for hours in the dark for him to return,
she heard dripping and scratching sounds coming from the roof
of the car. Afraid to go see what it was, she forced herself
to close her eyes and fall asleep. She later awoke to the sound
of police officers knocking on the car windows, asking her to
step out. When she did, she saw her boyfriend tied upside down
on the tree. The dripping sounds she had heard through the night
had come from the blood of her boyfriend’s severed throat. The
scratching sounds had come from his fingernails dragging along
The State Capitol
Locals and island visitors alike have reported sightings of
Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands
(1891-1893), around the Capitol Building. One supernatural encounter
with the queen was reported in March 1982. A legislative aide
had worked into the wee morning hours. Around 2 a.m., she called
her husband to pick her up. Having no babysitter, he brought
their 10-year-old daughter. They waited for her in the basement
parking lot where the daughter, playing with a ball, allegedly
encountered a Hawaiian woman fitting the description of the
queen: tall and beautiful with plumeria lei draped on each arm.
The woman was barefoot, in a black dress with her hair up. By
the time the little girl told her parents about the woman with
whom she had played, the woman had mysteriously vanished. A
few weeks later, when mother and daughter went to the State
Capitol Building for the unveiling of the then new Queen Lili‘uokalani
statue, the girl identified the queen as the woman she had played
with in the Capitol basement.
Queen Lili‘uokalani’s spirit is said to be accompanied by the
strong smell of cigar smoke (the queen was indeed a smoker in
her time). However, thick and heavy clouds of cigar smoke sometimes
seen in the hallway of the basement of the State Capitol Building,
a non smoking area, are also attributed to the presence of the
late John Burns, Hawai‘i’s second governor, who used to take
cigar breaks on the mauka-Waikiki corner of the fifth floor.
Many years ago, a Dole Cannery employee experienced an unusual
roadside encounter while working the graveyard shift delivering
pineapples to the Iwilei Cannery. As he passed by the road near
the Mililani Cemetery around 3 a.m., he saw in his headlights
a man dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt, white pants, and
white shoes. It wasn’t unusual to see people walking in this
area at that time of night, since there was a Navy camp nearby.
The driver decided to pull over to the side of the road to offer
the man some help. As he got a closer look, he noticed that
the man’s costume had changed – he was now wearing a black long-sleeved
shirt, black pants, and black shoes. The driver panicked, stepped
on the gas pedal, and never dared to look back. Also, the Mililani
Cemetery displays a statue of a man on a horse. The statue is
said to come after anyone who drives around it backwards.
Manoa Chinese Cemetery
A portion of this cemetery is set aside for unidentified babies
whose headstones separately read “one month”, “two years”, “three
days”, and so on. Some of these children were placed in this
section more than 100 years ago when immigrants came to Hawai‘i
to work in the sugar industry. Infant mortality rates peaked
during this period. The parents of these infants left no one
to take care of their children’s graves when they died or moved
elsewhere in search of better opportunities. The graves are
old, cracked, and rarely honored with food or flowers, even
during Ching Ming, or “Grave-Sweeping Day,” a ceremony observed
on April 5 when relatives clean headstones, replace wilted flowers,
and light firecrackers to pay their respects to the deceased.
According to Chinese tradition, the children placed in this
particular section remain together so they can play and find
comfort in one another in the afterlife.
In the past, nearby residents have reported hearing strange
noises coming from the graveyard at night. Neighbors believe
what sounded like cats were the little babies screaming and
crying for attention, since no one came to take care of their
graves. In the mid-1970s, a Hawaiian couple moved into a house
near the baby section. One of their bedroom windows opened directly
above the babies’ graves. After hearing stories from the neighbors
about the strange noises during the night, the couple placed
a piece of candy on each tomb, trimmed the grass around each
headstone, and said a little Hawaiian prayer for the infant
spirits. No screams or cries in the night were ever heard again.
Black Point “crybabies”
Another story of crying babies involves an event that happened
at Black Point, a cliff overlooking the ocean just east of Diamond
Head. A hospital was once located on this site, before the cliff
gave way and fell into the ocean many years ago. It is reported
that at night, one can hear the cries of the babies who died
in the nursery when the hospital fell off the cliff.
The Dole Cannery Signature
Theaters Screen number 14 at Signature Theatres at the
Dole Cannery is rumored to be the regular hangout for the ghost
of a man in his late 50s. He would watch people in the audience
from a top corner seat of the theater. This place is also rumored
to be the site of a deadly bus crash that killed a group of
schoolchildren in the 1980s. Children can be heard screaming
and crying in the bathroom next to the theater. The theater
is said to be built on an ancient Hawaiian heiau, or a place
of worship or human sacrifice.ages of ancient Hawaiian gods,
stare at them as they walked by. Some of these stories are retold
in Glen Grant’s Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural
Do you have a favorite story of a scary Hawaiian place? Send
it to firstname.lastname@example.org.