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Haunted Hawai‘i: My Personal Experience With the Supernatural and the Unexplained

Many say that Hawai‘i is full of ghosts and otherwordly beings–not just from one culture, but all of the cultures that live together in the islands. This is one writer’s experience with the supernatural.


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This story originally appeared online in October 2015. 


If you see a faceless obake on old pali road, keep driving. 
Photo: Aaron Yoshino 


Hawai‘i is one of the most isolated island chains on earth. Add to that a mix of Hawaiian and immigrant cultures, each with their own supernatural beliefs, and you have a potent recipe for eerie late-night stories. Look around with the right eyes, and the Islands are full of ghosts.


There are stories I never liked sharing.

About an overnight stay in an old dorm in Kalaupapa on Moloka‘i when I watched the manifestation of a nurse stand over the bed of my roommate, who had been coughing all night.


About the Japanese hiker who followed us down the Keālia Trail in Mokulē‘ia late one morning, then vanished on one of the switchbacks, and no one else saw him.


About the strange scratches around my ankles for a week after my best friend’s cat had died. (I hated that cat.)


And yet, we all have them. Stories about unaccounted for shadows or schizophrenic televisions. Stories about seeing the spirits of dead relatives or getting a strange chill when you walk down a dark hallway or into an empty elevator. Stories about Pele, fiery orbs of light in graveyards, the drumming of night marchers, faceless ghosts.


There’s a universal theme that runs through these tales, says Dennis Ogawa, professor of American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa: “We all want to know what happens when we die. Where do we go? Do we still live on?”


These tales of the supernatural and the unexplained are as much a part of the culture of Hawai‘i as plate lunches and slack key music. They’re stories we share at potlucks, over hibachis and after a few drinks at pau hana. Everyone knows someone who’s seen or felt something, and we repeat these stories with gleeful abandon, recounting every chilling detail until it’s almost as if we’ve experienced it ourselves. 


Except for me.

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Honolulu Magazine April 2020