Friday Frights: The Legend of Hawai‘i’s Night Marchers
We consulted with Lopaka Kapanui, owner of Mysteries of Hawai‘i, for some spine-tingling Island ghost stories. This week: Night marchers.
This story originally appeared online in October 2014.
While most ghost hunters are out looking for spirits, there are some ghosts you should never look at. Hawai‘i’s night marchers, the phantoms of ancient Hawaiian warriors are said to roam the Islands at night. In life, these warriors supposedly traveled at night to protect people so sacred that the common man was never allowed to look at them. Breaking that rule meant death.
The night marchers’ job wasn’t to terrorize people. It was simply to protect the most sacred, high-ranking chiefs (depending on kapu status, the chiefs marched in front or behind the procession). The night marchers showed mercy by traveling at night to spare people from harm, storyteller Lopaka Kapanui says.
It’s easy to tell if night marchers are approaching, he says. They carry torches. They march to the thunderous sound of drums. They give warning by sounding a conch shell. That’s when you know it’s time to run and hide.
If you’re already in the path of the night marchers’ trail, legend dictates you must strip naked and lie face down. There’s a rumor that peeing on yourself will keep you alive. Whatever you decide to do, don’t look at them! If you’re lucky enough to share a blood line with somebody marching in the procession, you’ll supposedly be saved.
The night marchers are said to frequent sacred Hawaiian grounds, such as sites of sacrificial temples, and other areas of O‘ahu, including Yokohama Bay, Kamehameha III’s summer mansion, Mākaha Valley Plantation, Ka‘ena Point and Kalama Valley. There’s even a night marchers path that goes through the armory inside the Diamond Head crater, Kapanui says.
In downtown Honolulu, there’s reportedly a night marchers trail that runs through the footprint of the Davies Pacific Center (not our building, thank goodness). In 2012, Kapanui met with attorneys on the 23rd floor, who claimed that the building’s security cameras captured the night marchers on video. A native Hawaiian cleaning lady was reportedly doing her job at night when a column of mist appeared. The woman died the next day. The following month, someone claimed to have seen the ghost of the lady marching with the night marchers and disappearing to the other side of the wall.
The night marchers are said to march on the last four Hawaiian moon phases, before the moon goes completely dark. This month, beware of Oct. 20-23 when Kapanui says the night marchers will appear. Kapanui recommends showing respect to the night marchers: Don’t go looking for them.
Yet, sometimes you don’t have to try looking for them.
Ricky, a security guard at the Cades Schutte building, claims he once caught a glimpse of the night marchers during a brief trip to Waialua some 19 years ago. Ricky and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer, visited their friend Richard and his son Ryan, who were camping on Mokulēʻia Beach. Ricky remembers the exact date: July 5, 1995. They arrived on the beach between 10 and 11 p.m. A distant flash of light caught their attention in the dark: It looked like a line of fire ants marching down the mountain by Dillingham Airfield.
“I thought people were hunting, but there was a long line of torches,” he says.
It was a strange sight at first, because it looked like a endless line of torches disappearing off the mountain ridge. But he later realized those weren’t hunters, but night marchers. He recalls hearing the legend of the night marchers as a kid at YMCA Camp Erdman. One staffer always used to warn young campers about a night marchers path in the same spot he saw them. Luckily, Ricky and his friends survived to tell the tale.
He hasn’t been back to Mokulēʻia since.