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Hauntings and legends of Hawaii

Updated: 
October 31, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — Banyan trees are known to hold souls that are kept trapped in the roots.

Barry Gitelson, a member of the Kona Historical Society, talked about the legend of the Banyan tree Saturday night just as the sun went down. Staring up at the hanging vines of the large tree at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, Gitelson continued the legend.

“If anyone grabs the roots, it’s the spirit’s way to escape to jump into a body,” he said softly.

Halloween brings costumes, candy and scary stories. Behind the commercial façade are hauntings, legends and history that make a place special. Those “chicken skin” moments are found in various places in Kona.

Gitelson was formerly employed by a company as a guide to offer ghost tours in the downtown area a couple years ago. He said he’s had an interest in Hawaiian stories since the 1970s.

“I’ve always been interested in psychic and paranormal things,” Gitelson said. “When you experience, things it makes you a believer.”

One of the sites is Ahuena Heiau, just across from Kamakahonu beach at the King Kam.

“There were human sacrifices performed for years,” Gitelson said. “Blood flowed freely.”

It wasn’t until King Kamehameha I came that the practice stopped and he blessed the heiau, Gitelson said.

Another site downtown is Hulihee Palace. Business office manager Anita Okimoto said the former palace curator, Fanny Au Hoy, described the palace grounds as a puuhonua or a refuge in that it gives a feeling of welcoming comfort.

“The mana is so special and so spiritually healthy that it creates a calm place to be,” Okimoto said.

Okimoto added, “every now and then you’ll get a chicken skin moment.”

Sometimes, she said, when she’s at the palace alone and locking up, she can feel that sense that you’re not alone.

“You know when you’re being watched, but it’s not a bad feeling — it’s a feeling of calm,” Okimoto said.

Moving away from Kailua-Kona, Maile Melrose, a member of the Daughters of Hawaii, told a true story of the first person buried at Christ Church Episcopal in Kealakekua.

On Monday, Melrose said she used to offer tours of Christ Church’s graveyard, where 10 or 12 people died before the 1900s. The first person laid to rest there was Mr. Glenney.

Mr. Glenney was a victim of cannibalism at sea.

In the August 1867, Melrose said, Mr. Glenney was aboard a boat headed to Ka’u with Mr. Rogers. They set out from Napoopoo and were warned to stay close to land and to take provisions.

They didn’t heed the advice and were eventually lost for about two weeks until the ocean brought them back to Napoopoo.

Hawaiians in the area found Mr. Rogers delirious. They also found what they thought at the time was meat and buckets of salt.

Melrose said the Hawaiians later learned Mr. Glenney had died and Mr. Rogers cut into his chest to suck on his liver.

The stories and legends could go on and on. From night marchers to the Kona Echo heard down Hualalai — the haunting tales live past Oct. 31. They are timeless.

“I think Halloween has gotten far away from the spiritual world,” Gitelson said. “It seems like party and candy to me.”

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