Scary Ghost Stories from Hawai‘i’s “Haunted” Plantation Village
We met with Hawai‘i Plantation Village executive director Jeffrey Higa, who shared some chilling ghost stories from Waipahu’s historic sugar plantation.
This story originally appeared online in 2014.
From 1850 to 1950, Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village housed Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Filipino and Hawaiian sugar plantation laborers. Today, local guides give hour-long tours to tourists and school groups visiting the 50-acre village to learn about immigrant life back then.
Of the 25 plantation houses, about half of them are reputedly haunted. The Portuguese family house is said to be haunted by a ghostly young girl from the plantation’s past. At the Puerto Rican house, there are reports that the Japanese doll mysteriously appears outside of its case. One worker claimed a choking ghost from the Okinawan home followed him home. The Sy-fy Channel’s Ghost Hunters team once visited the village to investigate the reports of paranormal sightings.
Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village executive director Jeffrey Higa admits he didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits when he first started working at the village in 2006. That changed after Higa was forced to deal with numerous supernatural reports from visitors, tour guides, workers and even haunted-house actors, he says. People aren’t allowed to work alone in the houses; as a safety precaution, they work in pairs.
Higa doesn’t even visit the village alone either. He usually brings his 55-pound Collie to work.
“He’s a Collie, he never barks,” Higa says. “But, all of a sudden, he’ll stop and he’ll bark at something and there’s nothing there. And I go, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to turn that corner.’”
The Portuguese House
Photo: Diane Lee
Some say a ghost of a young girl, dressed in white, haunts the Portuguese house. You can’t avoid the house, because it’s the first building—after you pass the temple—to greet you upon entering the village.
No one apparently knows the girl’s name. But she’s a playful ghost, who often appears to kids and mothers during the daytime, Higa says.
“She initially appeared to us when we had school children here,” Higa says. “We wouldn’t really know about it, until one of the children would ask who that girl was.”
One docent, a Filipino woman, claims she felt something touching her hair and shoulders. The woman immediately ran to Higa after her hair flipped over her face. She vowed to never set foot inside the Portuguese house again.
That’s when Higa called a minister to investigate. Higa says the Rev. Kahu Silva came by the house three times without informing him he was on the property.
“The first time he went through, he said he felt a heavy male spirit in the house,” Higa says. “And then, the third time he came, he said he felt that same male spirit in the front bedroom, in a different location.”
Then, after asking Higa and the female docent to meet him at the Portuguese home, Silva used holy water to bless every window and door inside the house. He also used ti leaf and Hawaiian salt to purify the house, Higa says.
Higa says Silva told them: “The good news is the spirit is a good spirit. She feels very close to this area. She is protecting the houses. And so we don’t need to worry about her, she is not an evil spirit.”
But then the minister turned to the guide: “But she is very interested in you.”
The guide replied, “I don’t want her to be interested in me. I don’t know who she is.”
Silva told the woman, “She is interested in you, because she has never had a mother.”
The docent started to cry. Higa recalls asking, “What do you mean she has never had a mother? Everybody has a mother.”
As the story goes, the girl’s mother abandoned her newborn after taking one look at her. Her husband was forced to raise the girl alone. Without daycare, the man tied his daughter to a table or chair when he went to work in the plantation fields.
One day, there was a fire in the camp. All the plantation workers rushed back to the village to help put out the fire. They were deathly afraid the fire would spread when one wooden house caught on fire. Bitter and ashamed, the man went inside the house and realized he could either rescue his daughter or “get rid of his problem.” He decided on the latter, and she died in the house.
Because the young girl lacked a maternal figure, Higa says her spirit is supposedly attracted to women who are mother-like.
“My guide was crying and shaking, ‘I don’t want her near me. I don’t want her touching me. I don’t want her bothering me,’” Higa recalls. “Kahu got really mad. He said, ‘This is a gift. You have to understand. She is reaching out to you. So you can’t reject her. You have to understand her story.’”
For about three to five years after that incident, the girl did not bother anyone in the village until last year and recently this year. Higa says she appeared before some children two weeks ago.
“I guess she’s starting to come back now,” Higa says. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Haunted Plantation
Photo: Noa Laporga
For a couple of nights every year for Halloween, the Hawai‘i Plantation Village becomes a haunted house attraction called the Haunted Plantation. It’s not a typical haunted house.
“I didn’t want to build sets to make it look scary,” says Noa Laporga, the Haunted Plantation creator.
Instead, Laporga relies on the village’s creepiness at night. Throw in some fog, spooky music and at least 50 costumed actors hiding in the dark corners of the houses—BOOM—you’ve got yourself one of the scariest haunted houses in town.
Laporga started the Haunted Plantation almost nine years ago in 2006. He does the actors’ makeup, from the sad-looking clown to the disfigured faces. At first, he was skeptical about the reports of the plantation’s haunting.
Initially, only a handful of actors, including Laporga’s family members helped with the Haunted Plantation. About six years ago, Laporga says his mother helped to scare unsuspecting visitors inside the Portuguese home. She felt something tugging at the keys inside her jeans pocket.
“We’re thinking it was the little girl, who was just curious about the Hello Kitty toy in mom’s pocket,” says Laporga, laughing.
But not all the stories were playful. One haunted house actor, who was scaring in the Portuguese home last year for Halloween, reported strange bruises on her legs. It looked like somebody—or something—had grabbed her legs. Another actor experienced the same thing.
During the nine years of Haunted Plantation, Laporga says between 15 and 20 actors have quit.
“There’s one house, where people get physically choked a lot by something they don’t see,” he says.
Laporga recalls one female actor claiming she felt pressure on her neck and could barely breathe in the Okinawan house. She never returned.
If you’re brave enough to explore the Haunted Plantation for Halloween, Laporga recommends visiting on the last two nights because lines aren’t as long.
Just don’t go alone.