Friday Night Frights: Chilling Ghost Stories from Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout
Mysteries of Hawai‘i takes us on a guided ghost tour of O‘ahu. First stop: Pali Lookout.
This story originally appeared online in October 2014.
Photo: Diane Lee
I grew up reading Glen Grant’s Chicken Skin Tales as a kid. I often snuck off with my brother’s book, hiding in my room to read ghost stories at night. I got jealous when my brother and cousin snuck out in the middle of the night to Morgan’s Corner, Pali Lookout and other haunted spots on the Island in search of the ghosts I read about.
On Sept. 30, I finally went on my first guided ghost tour. Mysteries of Hawai‘i owner Lopaka Kapanui, who worked under the guidance of the late Glen Grant, offered to take me. I couldn’t resist. I had no luck convincing my co-workers to join me, so I dragged my friends, Dustin and Steve along with me.
We met Kapanui by the steps of the main Downtown branch of the Hawai‘i State Library, just a few minutes before 7 p.m. About 30 people were already waiting. We climbed on board a huge tour bus exactly at 7; had I arrived a few minutes later, I would’ve missed the bus.
Kapanui doesn’t like to waste any time. Through a microphone, he started telling us stories of a haunting at Stevenson Intermediate School, the legend of the night marchers and the mysterious menehune.
Most amateur ghost hunters make the rookie mistake of hanging out at graveyards, hoping to spot an orb or some ghostly figure. Kapanui says hauntings usually occur in places where people died or spent the majority of their lives. I secretly hope we don’t see anything on the tour.
Our bus driver navigated up the winding road that leads to the Nu‘uanu Pali State Wayside. He pulled the bus into the entrance. The Pali Lookout is gorgeous during the daytime, with sweeping views of the Ko‘olau Mountain Range and coastline. But at night, it’s dark and spooky.
One of the bloodiest battles in Hawai‘i’s history occurred at the Pali Lookout, where King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands. Kamemehameha’s warriors forced Maui chief Kalanikupule’s men to their deaths off the cliff. An estimated 400 warriors died in the battle, and their ghosts are said to haunt the Pali at night. But they aren’t the only ones known to haunt the place.
Before leading us inside the lookout, Kapanui recited a Hawaiian chant as a sign of respect to those who have died here. Kapanui usually offers a Hawaiian chant at haunted places, asking the spirits for permission to enter. I got goosebumps when Kapanui said it’s supposed to protect our group from harm.
Pork Over the Pali
Earlier on the bus, Kapanui had asked if anyone in our group brought char siu bao, SPAM musubi or any other pork-related products with them. When no one answered, Kapanui suggested stopping by a 7-Eleven to pick up some pork products. Immediately, some people in our group answered a resounding “no.”
It’s a well-known Hawaiian legend that you’re not supposed to carry pork over the Pali from the windward to the leeward side, especially at night. That’s because the pig god Kamapua‘a lives on the windward side, and his ex-girlfriend, volcano goddess Pele lives on the leeward side. Because of a dispute, they agreed not to bother each other, Kapanui says. Taking pork from one side to the other side would symbolically break that agreement. Some drivers have claimed their cars mysteriously stalled on the highway, but started up after they threw the pork product out the window.
I had no intention of testing the legend myself. But others have tried to.
In early November 2007, local news reporter Walter Makaula said he wanted to bust the legend. Makaula and Kapanui stopped by a 7-Eleven to pick up manapua and pork hash. They took their new purchases to the Pali Lookout at night. Kapanui handed Makaula the food and instructed him to walk down the path with the dim sum.
“It’s your news report, go do it,” Kapanui recalls telling the Makaula.
While carrying the pork items, Makaula got chicken skin when he stopped at the invisible line from the windward to the leeward side. Kapanui yelled at him to put the food on the ground.
As soon as Makaula dropped the items—their flashlights died. A few seconds later their flashlights came alive. As they walked back to the car, Makaula turned around and shined his light on the food.
“I swear it looked like the two pieces of pork hash were now missing, but there was no way I was going back for a closer look,” Makaula said in his news report. The story aired on KHNL on Nov. 7, 2007.
After that incident, Kapanui says he returned to the lookout to offer an apology. “Because there is something very real about that pork over the Pali,” he says.
In 2001, Kapanui brought a group to visit the Mānoa Chinese Cemetery’s haunted tree. He explained to them that swirling fireballs would appear according to the mood of people there. When Kapanui noticed a girl sitting alone by a tree, he asked if she was OK. The girl told Kapanui she was afraid something bad would happen if she went inside the tree.
The night before joining the tour, her boyfriend dumped her for another girl, who was standing underneath the haunted tree. “It’s my sister,” Kapanui recalls her saying. “I’m afraid if I go in there with everything that’s in my heart, she will probably drop dead. If you don’t mind, I’ll sit out here.”
Later, something terrible did happen—at the Pali Lookout.
“The story never made the newspapers, but for some reason it just became too much,” Kapanui tells us. “And that poor girl from McKinley High School came out here and jumped to her death.”
Good thing her boyfriend was stupid, Kapanui says. About a year later, Charlie brought his new girlfriend to the Pali Lookout for a nighttime make out session. They take a walk around, before heading back to the car. They stop at the edge of the lookout to hug, kiss and admire the sparkling city lights.
The boy freezes when he hears a distant voice, calling out his name, “Charlie. Charlie.”
The girlfriend asks, “Did you hear that?”
“Yeah, who is out here this late at night?” Charlie says.
“Down here, Charlie, come down,” the mysterious voice says.
Frightened, Charlie ran away. He jumped in the car and sped off—without his new girlfriend.
A few months ago, Charlie’s ex-new girlfriend retold the story to Kapanui when she was on his ghost tour. After that experience at the lookout, she said, Charlie was never seen or heard from again.
“Ladies, if you are seriously wanting to find out if your boyfriend is being unfaithful, you should all walk down this way pass that point,” says Kapanui, pointing towards the edge of the cliff. “Apparently the girl who committed suicide because of infidelity senses there are men who are cheating and she calls out their name... Nervous?”
I smiled, thinking to myself: Good thing I’m single.
The tour didn’t end there.
We hopped back on the bus and drove past the infamous Morgan’s Corner. The driver pulled off the side of a deserted road in upper Nu‘uanu to our next stop: The Kaniakapupu Sacred Ruins. To get there, we trekked through the pitch dark bamboo forest that led to Kamehameha III’s summer palace ruins, a known spot for night marchers among other creepy things.
We ended the tour at ‘Iolani Palace, which is said to haunted by the ghost of Queen Lili‘uokalani. By 9:10 p.m., we parted ways.
I walked back to my car with my friends, hoping that nothing would follow us home.
Want to hear more ghost stories? Storyteller Lopaka Kapanui will host Chicken Skin ghost tours. Visit mysteries-of-hawaii.com for details.