Hilo days might be warm, but when the sun goes down and there's a chill in the air, it's easy to imagine eerie happenings among the quiet beaches and rustling palms.
Explore some of Hilo's most haunted sites on the Hilo After Dark walking ghost tour, offered nightly at 7PM. Read more by selecting a night below, or Book Online Here.
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.
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