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Spooky Oahu Cemeteries


Photo: istock

Oahu is home to more than 70 cemeteries, all of them rich with history (and the occasional spooky story). Hawaii historian Nanette Napoleon told us about a few burial grounds worth visiting.

IF YOU. . .want an inviting garden setting

Oahu Cemetery in Nuuanu is the Island’s oldest public graveyard; burials date back to 1844. The site was constructed during the era of Victorian cemeteries, when customary simple markers were replaced with elaborate headstones imbued with symbolism. Napoleon, who has studied cemeteries for over 25 years, refers to Oahu Cemetery as an “outdoor museum.” Her book, Oahu Cemetery: Burial Ground & Historic Site, chronicles the site’s cultural significance and includes profiles of more than 100 of its prominent residents, like Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, and Alexander Cartwright, the “father of baseball.” Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., 2162 Nuuanu Ave., oahucemetery.org. Watch a video as we visit Oahu Cemetery with storyteller Lopaka Kapanui.


IF YOU. . .like ghost stories

The King Street Catholic Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Oahu’s Roman Catholic missionaries from the late 19th century. It is also a good spot for ghost hunters. Napoleon spoke with a woman tracing her family’s genealogy who was led to the burial ground by a dated obituary. After tirelessly searching for her ancestor’s grave for three hours, the woman says she turned to exit and was met by an older Hawaiian woman, standing barefoot in a white muumuu, her hair long and gray. The new visitor asked the woman whose name she was scouring the yard for, then led her to the marker directly and vanished before she could be questioned. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 839 South King St.


IF YOU. . .have an affinity for the supernatural

Napoleon often visited the Manoa Chinese Cemetery when she was completing her fieldwork in the ’80s. One day, she noticed a curious wooden pole topped with a red cone by one of the graves. She questioned a nearby groundskeeper about the pole, and was told that it had been placed there to mark the grave, because whenever the maintenance workers got near, their lawn equipment broke. The men traded their mowers and weed whackers for hand shears when tending the plot. Oahu’s largest cemetery (34 acres) is home to the White Mound, an urn containing 300 untraceable remains collected when the cemetery was remapped. The Tomb of the Unknown Chinese Soldiers also sits on the property, housing the remains of seven Chinese WWII soldiers accidentally shipped to Hawaii. Open daily, dawn to dusk, 3225 Pakanu St.


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Honolulu Magazine March 2017
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