Locals Share Spine-Chilling Ghost Stories, Just in Time for Halloween

Everybody’s heard spooky stories about paranormal experiences, but for these Hawai‘i residents, seeing is believing.
Faceless Lady Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images


Growing up in Hawaiʻi, we learned not to take home lava rocks from Hawai‘i Island, were told of the legend of Morgan’s Corner, and knew to lie down and not look up if we heard the sounds of drums approaching in the dead of night. And while many of us may never have a run-in with a restless spirit or angry Pele, plenty of people say they have. And that likely includes some of your own co-workers, neighbors, cousins, or just people you walk past every day.


Here, four locals share their own spine-chilling stories about the dearly (not quite) departed.


The Faceless Woman

Cynthia G. of Honolulu

Back in 1985, my late ex-husband and I were dating and had just moved in together. One night, we decided to go watch a movie. The popular spot back then was Waiʻalae Drive-In Theatre. About halfway into the film, I had to use the restroom. When I entered the restroom, I saw what appeared to be an Asian woman in her 20s or 30s, dressed in an old white, sleeveless cotton dress. She was motionless, with hands to her side, staring at the paper towel dispenser on the wall. This woman had long black hair, and I recall it being a bit messy.


I felt that there was something wrong, but I proceeded to use the restroom anyway. I didn’t hear any sounds or movement while I was in the stall and thought that the lady went outside. When I came out of the stall, the woman was still standing in the same position, absolutely motionless. I felt creeped out but went over and washed my hands next to the woman anyway. As I walked toward the paper towel dispenser to dry my hands, I felt uncomfortable as the woman was still standing there in front of the dispenser.


I foolishly got up the courage and asked the woman, “Excuse me, are you all right?” The woman then slowly turned her body toward me to reveal that she had no face. There were no features. No eyes, no eyebrows, no nose, no mouth.


Terrified and in utter disbelief, I ran out and screamed all the way back to the car. When I got back to the car, my date asked me, “What’s wrong? Why are you screaming—what happened?”


“There’s a lady with no face in the bathroom! There’s a ghost!”


“Come on, you must be seeing things,” he said, trying to make light of the situation.


I insisted, “NO, I’m serious! This woman had no face!”


He didn’t believe me and thought I was joking around. I then turned around to look out of the back window, and, to my horror, the faceless woman was there, perhaps 30 yards away from the car.


“There she is!” I exclaimed. My date turned around and saw what I was seeing. We both witnessed this entity swoosh swiftly across the parking lot as if carried by the wind, going from one spot to another in an instant. Then the woman started to move toward our car, and that’s when we both saw that she had no legs.


“Start the car! She’s coming—she’s coming toward us!”


My date tried to get the car moving, but something was wrong. He started yelling, “F—, f—! It won’t start!” All I could do was scream, “Hurry, hurry!”


After what felt like forever, the car finally came to life. And the figure kept coming closer and closer. We burned rubber so fast out of the parking lot that the drive-in speaker ripped off and was dangling inside the car. We were honest, do-good citizens, but at that moment, we couldn’t care less about the speaker. We just wanted to get out of there. That’s how scared we were. I kept staring out the back window as we peeled away. What’s interesting is that the faceless woman stopped at the boundary of the parking lot, stared at us, moved back into the parking lot and disappeared.


We went home and were so scared that we couldn’t sleep. “Did this really just happen?” we asked each other. “We both saw that, right?” The next day, us lolos decided to go back to see if we could see her again. I guess there was a part of us that needed to know if we were just imagining it all. We went back to the same movie at the same time. I walked over to the concession stand, which was right next to the bathroom, and got hamburgers and fries.


All seemed calm and normal, and I started to let my guard down a little. I came back to the car and didn’t see anything, but suddenly felt strange. Something seemed off. Trying to shake off the feeling, I sat in the car and distributed the food. At some point, we both got the urge to turn around at the same time.


The faceless woman was standing there again.


Her body swept across the parking lot, just like the night before. She stopped and was facing the back of our car. She slowly glided closer and closer. Same dress, same hair, no face, no legs. Realizing how crazy we were to have come back in the first place, we burned rubber again. I looked back one more time only to see the faceless woman stopped at the end of the parking lot, as if at a threshold. We never went back again because we were just too frightened by what we saw.


Although it was a terrifying experience, the faceless woman seemed sad and lonely to me, as if she needed help or maybe saw us as a comforting presence. It’s easy to hear stories of this ghost and deem her malicious, but she may simply be lost. Maybe even angry or trying to send a warning. At the time, we had no idea of this local legend, and no preconceived notions or expectations. When I finally did start to hear about similar experiences at the theater, I felt validated. And terrified.


My ex-husband passed away in the summer of 2021, but two years before he passed, our daughter asked him: “Dad, is Mom just making things up to scare me? Did it really happen? Was it real?” We remember him turning pale as a sheet. His facial expression changed, and he sank back into his seat.


“Yes, it really happened.” He then changed the subject and turned up the volume on the TV to escape the conversation. He was an honest, logical and skeptical person, but this was something even he could not deny.


SEE ALSO: Friday Night Frights: Chilling Ghost Stories from Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout


Goodnight, Great-Grandpa

Jared N. of Kona, host of Ghostlore of Hawai‘i podcast

Growing up in Hawaiʻi, I heard all the obake stories and the supernatural legends discussed in my Hawaiian history classes, but for most of my childhood, that’s all they were: stories. When I hit my teens, however, things began to change. Now, I’m not a ghost whisperer, medium, sensitive or anything else to describe someone who communicates with spirits, but I have experienced unexplainable events that I can only describe as paranormal. I once heard the disembodied groans of 40 or 50 people suddenly surround me while walking through a Japanese cemetery one night. Another time, the sounds of slow dragging footsteps approached a friend and me as we explored our deserted high school campus after hours. Yet not all of the experiences were frightening.


After living on the mainland for several years, I was finally able to take a trip back home with a girl I was dating at the time. We spent several nights on Maui to visit my grandparents, who I hadn’t seen in years. Exhausted from a long day of travel, and bellies full from Grandma’s home cooking, my girlfriend and I retired to our room. We sprawled across the bed scrolling through social media on our phones, the hum of the ceiling fan bringing me back to the many nights spent in that room as a child. Before I knew it, we had both dozed off, light still on, bedroom door cracked open.


The sound that awoke me was the light switch being flicked off.


“Oh, Grandpa, I still gotta brush my teeth,” I groggily said to the silhouette standing at the bedroom’s entrance. The figure disappeared back into the hall as I rolled off the bed to turn the light back on. I headed to the bathroom as my girlfriend, who also woke up, began rummaging through her suitcase for her toiletry bag. As I brushed my teeth, I wondered what my grandpa was doing up at that hour, as my grandparents had notoriously early bedtimes. After we finished getting ready for bed, and my girlfriend and I were both back in the room, I finally turned the light off for good and quickly fell into a deep sleep.


The next morning at breakfast, I asked my grandpa what time he had turned the light off in our room and what he was doing up so late. “Whatchu talking about? I neva go in your room. Maybe it was your grandma,” he chuckled. Thinking back, I never actually saw the face of the person who turned the light off. The room was dark; just the silhouette of the figure wearing a white T-shirt was backlit from the hallway night light. I had assumed the person was my grandpa, as it was definitely a man. I looked to my girlfriend who confirmed seeing the same thing—a man in a white shirt—but also could not recall seeing the person’s face. “You messing around with us,” I laughed accusingly to my grandpa, but he flat-out denied it. “I’m too damn old to be playing pranks in the middle of the night!” Fair point.


“Was the spirit of your great-grandpa,” he laughed. “He wanted fo’ say ‘Hi.’”


Even though my great-grandfather passed away when I was about 5 years old, I still had many fond memories of him. Every night before bed, he’d have a cup of black coffee and a slice of buttered toast. Our family still jokes about the one night he decided to skip his pre-bedtime snack and, for hours, tossed and turned unable to sleep. He finally got up to have his coffee and toast, and fell fast asleep soon after. Another thing he was known for was always wearing crisp white T-shirts, as if they were his uniform. To describe him as a man of routine would be an understatement. I told these stories to my girlfriend later that night as we lounged in bed, laughing at the warm memories.


“Which one is your great-grandpa?” she asked, pointing to an old framed photo propped next to her side of the bed. I had completely forgotten about that picture, taken at a family reunion sometime in the ’50s or ’60s. I scanned the photo of my relatives, all dressed in floral aloha attire, until my eyes landed on my great-grandpa, of course wearing a white T-shirt, sitting in the middle of the group. I immediately pointed him out.


“Whoa … that’s so … weird,” she said. “I was looking over this picture last night, and before dozing off, the last thing I remember was wondering who that man sitting in the center was. He stuck out because he wasn’t dressed like everyone else … just that white shirt.”


Ha! Now I get it. He wasn’t coming to say “hi” to me! He came to meet the new girlfriend!


Listen to Jared talk about an even spookier experience of his own on his Ghostlore of Hawai‘i podcast: ghostloreofhawaii.com. Follow Ghostlore of Hawai‘i on Instagram: @ghostlore.of.hawaii


SEE ALSO: Friday Night Frights: The Legend of Hawai‘i’s Night Marchers


Facelss Lady Aaron Yoshino

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


The Little (Dead) Girl Living in Our House

Austin K. of Nuʻuanu

My mom is the one who experiences paranormal phenomena the most. She’s probably the most sensitive out of all of us, and the one “who can see things” more than anyone else in my life (that I know of). My old family’s house is in Nuʻuanu Valley. Many strange things have happened, and of them all, my mom seeing two little children on the ground level of our home is one of the most compelling and recurring. According to her, there’s a little Hawaiian boy who wears a malo, and there’s a little Chinese girl wearing Mary Jane shoes, a white dress and a bobby clip. I’ve also seen this little girl.


One day, after coming home from a haircut, I laid down on my bed to take a break. After a little while, I sat up for some reason—and caught a glimpse of a little girl standing in my doorway. Assuming it was my little sister, I laid back down; but then I thought about it and realized that my sister was at school. I got up to look outside and saw no one. I roamed the house until I found my mom downstairs.


“Mom, I didn’t know Zoe came home from school.”


Stunned, my mom turned to me and said, “She’s not home from school.”


Confused, I explained that I saw a little girl in my doorway and described what she looked like. My mom then revealed to me that I had seen one of the ghosts that live in the house. To my surprise, my mom said she had a run-in with her before.


One time, my mom told me, she was holding a door open and talking to my uncle in our kitchen. She suddenly felt a gust of wind rush past her, and the door she was holding open slammed shut.


“I can’t believe you let her do that to you,” my uncle said in shock.


“What are you talking about?” my mom asked.


“You just let her shut the door like that?” my uncle replied.


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


My uncle then explained that he saw a little girl come skipping through the kitchen, spin around, grab the door handle and slam it shut while my mom was holding it open.


Another creepy encounter with this ghostly child was years ago, when my mom was working on the computer and my younger sister, a baby at the time, was asleep in a room all the way across the house. My mom’s concentration was suddenly broken when she heard a toy car going off behind her. She turned around, saw nothing and started to get chicken skin. Sheepishly, she turned back around and went back to work, but then heard a soft voice of a little girl whisper, “Mama.” Frightened, my mom sprinted upstairs and checked on my sister who was still asleep. She quickly picked her up and took her outside, where my mom could calm down. Eventually, she went back inside the house and handed off my sister to our grandma, asking her to watch over her upstairs. Reluctantly, my mom went back to the computer. And then, out of nowhere, the chicken skin returned. She then heard “Mama” again. She darted out of the room, giving up on work for the rest of the night.


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


The Night Visitor

Ann A. of Kaimukī

Back in the 1950s, I was a kid living in the same Kaimukī house I still live in today. There’s something to be said about being 10 years old going on the rest of your life; some believe that at this age, the door to the old world you knew as a spirit starts to close. When we’re born, we can see both sides—both this mortal world and the unseen world. I was able to see strange things in my yard when I was younger. They were never a bother to me, though, and they didn’t strike me as either ghosts or humans. However, right around 10, when I was in fifth grade, my mother woke up several nights in a row to the sound of me speaking another language from my bedroom. I would be struggling, kicking off my blanket and punching the air. The day after each episode, I would explain to her that “this old man keeps coming to my room, sitting on my chest. He’s choking me. He’s not a nice man.”


At the time, my mother was attending a Mormon church in the area. She talked to a few Hawaiian elders, women who were of Mormon faith but practiced Hawaiian traditions and held Hawaiian beliefs. They came to my house and asked me to describe him. I said, “He’s really old, has long white hair, is almost skeletal and has one really ugly face.”


They sat me down and one of them said, “You are going through a change in your life.” They predicted that I was going to start puberty soon. Some people say that’s about the time the door to the old world starts to close. That closing door, they say, attracts older spirits who want to be reborn or have renewed life. This old man spirit found me and begged me to give him my life. At the time, I didn’t know that. I didn’t understand what a ghost or spirit was. This was a body. I could feel him on my chest, his hands around my neck.


The Hawaiian women left and returned with ti leaf and Hawaiian salt collected from the seaside. The Hawaiian salt was placed in each corner of the house. The women then sat in my house and prayed in Hawaiian for a couple of hours. All I wanted to do was go outside and draw or make clothes for my dolls. I didn’t want to deal with any of this. Luckily, after the blessing over our house, the entity never came back.


A couple of months later, lo and behold, I started puberty. I would see these ladies in church whenever we went to the weekly services, and they would always look over at me. My mother would say, “You go and thank them.” Now that I’m an adult, it’s also apparent to me that there are most likely ancient people buried in every yard in Kaimukī. Can’t help it, this was an area that had a huge population back in the day, with ovens set up against the cliff sides where people roasted ti leaves. (The name Kaimukī means “ti oven.”) That’s why I have ti leaves in my yard. We use it a lot for cooking, but I also consider it a spiritual boundary.


This is your world, and this is my world.


SEE ALSO: Friday Night Frights: The Ghosts Who Haunt Hawai‘i’s Historic ‘Iolani Palace