Superstitions and Hauntings of Hawaii

An eerie, ghostly image of a girl in a white dress

As a melting pot of cultures, Hawaii has dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of spooky stories and superstitions originating from all corners of the globe (or, at least Asia). And depending on the household they grew up in, someone born and raised in Hawaii may be familiar with more or less of them. But regardless of culture, there are a few that every kid in Hawaii knows and every visitor should know. Here are a few.

The Lady in White

The most popular figure in local lore is Pele, goddess of the volcanoes. She appears in many forms, but one of her favorites is an old lady dressed in white. As the adage goes, if you're driving and see a woman dressed in white, you should stop and offer her a ride. She'll disappear from your backseat mid-trip but leave you with good luck.

Don't take rocks or sand away from Hawaii (esp. volcanic rocks)

Pele doesn't appreciate being stolen from, so never take anything away from her lands or you'll have bad luck. Every fourth grader in Hawaii goes through a Hawaiian culture/history curriculum, which includes (or at least it did when I did it) a trip to the Big Island to see the volcanoes. When I was there with my school, I distinctly remember being told by one of the park rangers that every year they receive hundreds of pounds of volcanic rocks in the mail from people who didn't listen to this warning and were cursed for it. 

Don't take pork over the Pali

One more about Madame Pele. The Pali Highway connects the east and west sides of 'Oahu, and you shouldn't have pork with you if you're driving on it or your car will break down. According to legend, Pele had a romance-gone-wrong with Kamapua'a, the pig demi-god, and the pork in your car will anger her. 

Be wary of drums

If it's midnight and you hear drums and the sound of a conch shell in the distance, run and hide. That's the sound of Night Marchers approaching. The Night Marchers are the spirits of the protectors of the ancient chiefs, and even looking at them spells certain death. They travel along certain paths leading to and from sacred sites such as Ka'ena Point, Diamond Head Crater, and King Kamehameha III's summer palace. If it's too late, and you can already see their torches approaching, to avoid being killed you should strip naked and lie face down on the ground. 

Morgan's Corner

There's an urban legend that goes: One night, a young couple were sitting in their car parked on a dark, old road in Nu'uanu on 'Oahu. The car wouldn't start up again, so the guy decided to go out and get help. The girl waited a long time, but he didn't return. Eventually, she just fell asleep to the sound of the tree branches scratching against the roof in the wind. In the morning, when she awoke, she saw that there were police officers surrounding her car. They told her to get out, walk away, and don't look back. Of course, being curious she looks back, and above the car she sees her boyfriend's body cut open, hanging by his ankles, with his fingers grazing the roof. It wasn't tree branches that she'd been hearing all night. 

While this story isn't true, there was a pretty gruesome murder that happened in a house near where this story is supposed to have taken place.

The No-Face Woman

This ghost comes from Japanese lore, but she's been seen hanging around 'Oahu since the 1950s. Although the location of her appearances has changed as the city's developed, she seems to tend to haunt women's restrooms (she's currently either at the Kahala Mall Macy's or the Kahala Zippy's). In the stories of her sightings, the person who sees her will come out of the stall and see what appears to be a woman crying at the sink. Upon being asked if she's alright, the woman at the sink will lift her head up and reveal that she has no face.

Don't wear a lei if you're pregnant

Although lei are ubiquitous parts of any celebration, there's one event that you won't see them at, at least not in their usual form: baby showers. According to this superstition, a lei worn around the mother's neck signifies an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby's neck. So expectant mothers are normally given maile lei, which are open and draped around the neck. Or, if they're given a normal lei, it's cut so that it hangs open.