Whether it’s wearing that lucky shirt when gambling or taking a few steps to avoid walking under a ladder, some people convince themselves certain actions will influence some aspect of their lives. Yet in the age of science, people with academic backgrounds based on logic and reason still have superstitious tendencies.
“When I was getting my master’s degree, I used to drive to campus (from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara), so my superstition was that if all the lights were green, it was a good omen,” said Dr. Ronald Heck, a professor and the department chair of Educational Administration at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He has published extensive articles and books in organizational theory, leadership, policy and quantitative methods. Despite his education credentials, the fact that Heck saw good and bad omens when he was a grad student and followed local Hawai‘i superstitions when he moved here is a telling sign of how a little superstition plays a role in peoples’ lives.
“I like to whistle, but everyone around is like, ‘don’t whistle at night’,” Heck said. “So I try not to, and I’m conscious of it.”
There are many stories in Hawaiian folklore that tells of how doing so will lead to bad luck; one being that it mimics the sound of Night marchers, the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors. Many of Hawai‘i’s folklore and mythology have been made popular by Glen Grant, the author of the Obake Files and Chicken Skin series, who ironically was a professor of history, American studies and political science at UH Mānoa. [One of our books, the Kona Haunted Hele Guidebook, was dedicated to Glen and can also be found on Amazon here. Receive one free copy per group when you book the Kona Haunted Hele ghost tour with Big Island Ghost Tours!👀 ]
The Night Warriors or Night Marchers, called “Huaka'i Po” in Hawaiian, are spirits of deceased soldiers doomed to wander the world of the living. Some traditions contend these warriors are marching to or from battle. Other tales tell of restless spirits, aimlessly searching for their respective entrances into the next world. But in every story, such ghostly ranks are formed by Hawaiians who died gruesome deaths in battle and now, marching to primal drumbeats and led by the spirits of high-raking rulers known in Hawaiian as “Ali'i”, pace about in orderly ranks visiting ancient battlegrounds and holy sites.
It is a widely held belief in traditional Hawaiian spirituality that souls of relatives who die gruesome, unexpected or tragic deaths often remain in the realm of the living and cause mischief. Ancient Hawaiians would go to great lengths to ensure hospice-bound relatives were comfortable and at peace, so that when death came at last their spirits would freely travel across the “rainbow bridge” to the world beyond. Owing to the circumstances of Night Marchers' deaths, their pain and struggle has bound them to this realm, unable to peacefully relinquish existence, marching in-step as they did in life, rhythmically chanting, blowing horns, carrying torches and ancestral weaponry, adorned with cloaks and decorative helmets.
Night Marchers move under the cover of darkness, and before the first rays of a new rising sun breach the horizon, they have climbed back into their graves once again. Foreigners' documented run-ins with these spirits date back to the time of Captain Cook, the first European to make contact with the Hawaiian Islands. Recovered historical texts from the 1880s make reference to the Huaka'i as a mighty phantom army of “spirit ranks” marching angrily around Big Island - known as O'io - led by the ghost of King Kamehameha I. Sightings of these ghostly bands have been reported on every major Hawaiian island.
For Those Brave Or Crazy Enough: Where To Find Huaka'i Po On Big Island...
Night Marcher sightings have spread across the Island of Hawai'i. From tales of ancient temples filled with the spirits of deceased warriors in Kona, to groups of marching apparitions in Mackenzie State Park in Puna District, to ranks of marchers making their way across the 300-foot footbridge to Coconut Island, known as “Moku 'ola” in Hilo Bay, Big Island is ripe with stories of these ghoulish processions.
For those visiting or living in Hawai'i who want nothing to do with Night Marchers, avoiding them is simple:
Never interrupt the march of the Huaka'i.
Avoid eye contact with Marchers, for their gaze is said to be deadly.
Crouch down low to the ground and play dead, not making any sound of movement.
Use Ti Lead to protect homes and walkways.
On the other hand, for those hoping to catch a glimpse of Night Marchers in action, Big Island Ghost Tours (BIGT) conducts walking tours at night in Bayfront Hilo and Kona Town which traces the footsteps of these ancient soldiers, visiting numerous sites built atop ancient grounds where they were once interred.
BIGT is partnered with researchers from Kahuna Research Group, Hawaii's premier paranormal investigators led by author and certified lead paranormal investigator Zach Royer.
Why Hawaii? Besides the glorious spectacle of sun, sea, and sand, Hawaii may just be one of the most crucial destinations in the world for the advancement of paranormal knowledge. The Hawaiian Islands are among the most remote places on the planet geographically. They are not only remote in terms of mileage, but also genetic novelty. For a relatively small archipelago, Hawaii has the highest percentage of species that exist nowhere else on Earth. Given such unique status, you’d expect far more differences than similarities. However, when it comes to the expression of cryptozoological and paranormal phenomena, I’ve found just the opposite.
Although Hawaii is the only state where Bigfoot has not been reported, many other familiar wonders reprise their proverbial roles albeit with a whole, new cultural context. Such startling cross-cultural connections may be the key to uncovering the truth behind these extraordinary experiences. I examine just a few of these intriguing connections below. Investigating recurrent similarities across time and space may reveal that there is some reality to even the most curious of encounters.
Dogmen & Kupua
The Bray Road Beast has been spotted for decades in Wisconsin. Dogmen or werewolves have been reported all over the U.S., especially in the Midwest. Accounts of bipedal wolfmen crouching by the roadside eating roadkill is nothing new here as depicted in this illustration sketched from the recollections of the witness by artist, author, and the OG monster researcher, Linda Godfrey. I was shocked when I heard of an identical sighting along a deserted road on Oahu. In Hawaii such shape-shifting spirits are known as kupua, which can come in many plant, animal, and mineral forms including the form of a dogman. The cultural context in this case is the story of a demigod named Kaupe. But that aside, the witness reports from across thousands of miles of ocean, on the other side of the planet, are remarkably similar to those in Wisconsin and many other Midwestern states of the Mainland — a bipedal creature seemingly half human and half canine.
River Deaths & ‘Uhane Kahea
Another parallel that leapt out and grabbed me on my first trip to Hawaii in 2015, involved a far scarier specter called ‘Uhane Kahea or the Calling Spirit. This is no ordinary ghost, but a murderous creature whose sole purpose seems to be luring eligible, young men to their deaths. The phantom appears as a ravishing, wanton young woman who calls the name of the unsuspecting man, drawing him closer with an alluring smile. She leads him on literally and figuratively and he follows blindly, failing to notice a cliff’s edge, surging water, or another equally deadly hidden pitfall. When I heard the story of one such fatal mishap from Zach Royer, I saw it as one possible answer to a perplexing question. What could drive almost 300 young men on the Mainland to drown mysteriously in rivers and other bodies of water miles away from their last known locations? These cases have collectively become known as the work of a shadowy cabal of Smiley Face Killers. But alternative explanations for mysterious drownings abound throughout the histories of different cultures. The Scottish had the deadly water horse known as the Kelpie. The Japanese have the anally obsessed, but fart-repelled Kappa. The Slavic have the soul-stealing Water Man. Closest to home, the Ojibwe tell tales of the pernicious “Water Panther” also known as Mishipeshu, whose villainy can only be curtailed by the protection of the Thunderbird. Yet are any of these water spooks better suited to ensnare a young man than the irresistible Calling Spirit?
Fairies & Menehune
An ancient race of people who built sacred structures and who may still live among us playing mischievous tricks and cursing road construction projects on the sacred land they guard so fiercely. Wait. Where are we Ireland . . . Iceland? Nope. I’m still talking about Hawaii. However, all of these far-flung cultures seem to harbor the same beliefs just as many native people of the Mainland do. These little people are guardians of nature and must be respected. Some may even be our ancestors. Other fae traditions also appear in a new guise. The Wild Hunt of Germanic and Scandinavian lore, for example, features a threatening procession of fairies or the dead that are an eerie echo of the ancestral Hawaiian warriors called the Nightmarchers. Those unlucky enough to cross the path of either are as good as dead. Perhaps these strange similarities between Hawaiian tales and Mainland lore are just due to coincidence or the cultural contamination resulting from colonization. The only way to know is to investigate. It’s worth studying if there’s even a small chance that such close connections between cultures separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles point to consistent attributes of authentic phenomena.
Haunted History of Hawaii Tours
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