The Real Story Behind Honolulu’s Haunted Morgan’s Corner
Everyone that grew up on O‘ahu has heard at least one story about Morgan’s Corner. Since Halloween is right around the corner, writer Christine Hitt decided to separate the truths from the urban legends.
This story originally appeared online in October 2008.
What happened at Morgan’s Corner?
In 1948, two escaped prisoners murdered Mrs. Therese Wilder, a 68-year old widow, in her house. They bound and gagged her and left her unconscious on her bed. She died of suffocation due to the broken jaw she had received during the struggle, and from the gag placed tightly around her neck and mouth. The men were captured a few days later, but the case continued to horrify Honolulu and began a lengthy debate over capital punishment in Hawai‘i.
Where is the real Morgan’s Corner?
Its location was named after Dr. James Morgan, who lived on a hairpin turn of the Nu‘uanu Pali Road (now Nu‘uanu Pali Drive) during the 1920s to 1940s. The exact location was illustrated in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on March 17, 1948 issue, which was the paper that headlined the murder of Mrs. Therese Wilder.
Mrs. Wilder’s address was 3939 Nu‘uanu Pali Rd. Her house is no longer standing, but the address is still being used by a gated, housing community. When you find that address, you’ll know that you’re at Morgan’s Corner.
What about the guy hanging from the tree?
This is in reference to an urban legend that has been told repeatedly. The story involves a young couple, a large, old tree, and a tapping sound on the roof of the car.
The couple had parked under the tree late one night and when deciding to go home, the car would not start. The boy decided to go and get help, leaving the girl alone inside the car. She waited a long time. It was windy and the long branches of the tree could be heard scraping against the car’s roof. Eventually, the girl fell asleep to be awakened in the morning by policemen surrounding the vehicle. They asked her to get out and walked her away from the car, telling her to not look back. She told them what had happened, but curiosity made her turn towards the car… she saw her boyfriend hanging upside down from the branches of the tree. His torso was sliced open and his fingertips were scraping the roof of the car as his body swayed in the wind. It was not the tree that she had heard scratching the roof of the car that night.
The “tree” is at the trailhead to the Judd Memorial trail that leads to the Jackass Ginger waterfall. It’s just a short distance away from Mrs. Wilder’s old residence.
Does the urban legend have any factual basis?
After much research, I have deduced that it was completely made up. I scoured the Hawai‘i State Archives for murder references; I went to the Hawai‘i State Library to look through newspaper archives and even contacted the curator at the HPD Law Enforcement Museum for assistance. No murders exist on Nu‘uanu Pali Road or at Morgan’s Corner, except for the Wilder case.
However, I did find a blog post titled “The Boyfriend’s Death” from Snopes. It has some interesting information and history regarding this common urban legend.
So, are there any ghosts haunting Morgan’s Corner and that old tree?
Possibly. Watch our on-site investigation of Morgan’s Corner as we bring along 808 Ghosts to help us out.
[Update 9/9/11: 808 Ghosts were paranormal investigators, specializing in claims of paranormal activity. They are no longer in business.]
Another Morgan’s Corner myth exposed:
Some people place the story of two 13-year old girls who were kidnapped by a military man at Morgan’s Corner. The girls ran, and one was shot dead. This is a true story of a 1975 murder, but its location was actually on Kionaola Rd. under the Pali Highway bridges—nowhere near Morgan’s Corner.
Have you gone looking for ghosts at Morgan’s Corner? Do you even believe it’s haunted? Let us know in the comments!