Night Watchers, Mo’o Wahine, and Hawaiian History

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Night Watchers, Mo’o Wahine, and Hawaiian History

Mo’o Wahine ghost

The Kaniakapupu Ruins, located in Honolulu Hawaii are one of the island’s best kept secrets.  Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, the area is largely unpublished and hard to find.  Kaniakapupu means “song of the land shells” and King Kamehameha III, turning the area into his Summer house, named it after “heiau” or the sacred healing site, the place of relaxation.

(images:asviaje/flickr) Kaniakapupu Ruins

(images:asviaje/flickr)
Kaniakapupu Ruins

The Nu’uanu Oahu hike takes visitors through a bamboo tunnel trail, over fallen logs, through a stream bed, and up to an old rock wall.  The portal seems to take them into another world.  Located in the Nu’uanu Valley, the site is also the home of the Pali Lookout.  A luau of over 10,000 people is boasted as having taken place in the area.  The area is also where King Kamehameha III hid from the heat and had meetings with his people and chiefs.  He rested his soldiers here during the conquest of Oahu.

While visitors explore the Kaniakapupu Ruins, they are quick to notice the off centered windows.  The windows were placed that way to support an old Hawaiian legend of the Night Marchers.  Night Marchers are ghosts of Hawaiian warriors.  Legend has it, anyone who lays eyes on them will die.  The only way to remain breathing if spotted is if an ancestor, marching with the warriors, recognizes you.  He will call out “Na’u” meaning, mine.  The life of the fated person is saved.  They march over anyone and anything in their path.

Villagers, even today, keep the leaves of ti on their homes to keep the evil spirits out and ward off attraction to the Night Marchers.  The Kaniakapupu Ruins are said to be a meeting site of the marchers.  First you hear the drums and smell a distinct, rancid smell.  Torches seem to be bobbing toward you, all the while getting brighter.  The only other way to avoid uncertain death is to lie face down on the ground until the warriors pass, showing respect and admiration.  Many have seen accounts of pictures or recordings that show the warrior’s spirits.  They can be heard speaking to each other in their native tongues.  Others have felt the presence and even heard their names being called.

The Pali Lookout is another area riddled with spirits of warriors past.  The area was home to the bloodiest battle in Hawaiian history.  As King Kamehameha III made his claim on Oahu, thousands of soldiers were led through the whipping winds into the cliffs of Pali Lookout.  Trapped, they were driven to their deaths over one thousand feet below.

(images:nostri-imago/flickr)

(images:nostri-imago/flickr)

In 1898, a highway was built near the bottom of the cliffs at Pali Lookout.  Over 800 skulls were found, likely the bodies of the lost soldiers who were left to rot without a proper burial.  They are claimed to haunt the area, according to a Hawaiian legend.  Beautiful flowers grow at the site, and many are so struck by their beauty they cannot help but pick one.  Unfortunately, the spirit attaches to the flower and follows the unknowing victim home where they are plagued by illness and nightmares.

Two large statues in the valley are said to be a pair of guardian goddesses who are the guardians of passage.  Offerings are left for safe travel and parents leave the umbilical cords of their children to earn protection of their children.  Many are scared of the Mo’o Wahine or lizard woman.  Legend has it, she takes the shape of a beautiful woman and leads travelers to their deaths over the cliffs.  Similarly, curses placed on the area by volcano goddesses in early times require “placing the law on food.”  Banana leaves and bamboo are fastened to food containers to deter spirits.  Cars have been known to stop until food is removed at certain areas near Pali Lookout.

Whether or not you believe in spirits or superstition, one thing is for sure.  Hawaii boasts more than just beautiful sights and great food.  Hawaii is full of a rich history- one wise travelers are sure to familiarize themselves with before embarking on what could be the adventure of a lifetime.

Megan Borchert
Megan Borchert
Lover of all things unusual, Megan is a staff attorney for the state of South Dakota. When she's not stuffed in an office writing case synopses, you can find her at home with her army of Schnauzers, snuggled up with some strong wine and a good book.

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