In many places in the United States, the month of October brings the turning of leaves, crisp air at sunrise, elongated shadows in the early evenings and the urge to pull sweaters, hats and boots out of the closet. In my home state of New Mexico, October is always my favorite time of year when I like to take my horses out on long trail rides along the Rio Grande, enjoy Albuquerque’s world renown Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, and revisit the rich ghost stories of old New Mexico.
This year, my husband and I decided to spend the early part of October at our home in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, to cheer on the athletes participating in the Ironman World Championship, another world renown October event. No turning leaves, crisp air, elongated shadows or hot air balloons, and definitely no desire to wear a sweater occurs here, but one thing is still the same—the wealth of ghost stories that abound in such an old, spiritual place.
I’ve been learning about the many ghosts that reside on the Big Island since I’ve been researching a mystery series I hope to start sometime next year. My protagonist is a young woman who travels to the Island of Hawaii in the late 1920’s to escape a scandal involving a young man far beneath her station (according to her parents) and the possibility of a love child. She comes to the Island, lives at the Kona Inn on Alii Drive, and starts a newspaper. Oh, and of course, – she acquires a horse that she rides all over the island to find her stories of murder and intrigue. That is all I’m going to tell you – you’ll have to read the series when it comes out to learn more!
I had hoped that I would find a story about a ghost living at the Kona Inn, but none could be found. However, it is reported that some ghosts do reside right down the street. In fact, two are said to live next door at the Hulihe’e Palace. The Palace, built in 1838 was eventually passed on to Princess Ruth Ke’eikolani in 1848, who opened it up to the Hawaiian Royal Family and other reigning monarchs, to use as a summer home. (She herself preferred to sleep in a grass hut on the Palace grounds near the sound of the crashing waves.) One of the ghosts, a young boy has been seen playing on the Palace grounds, or heard stomping up and down the stairs. It is thought that he might be the ghost of Prince Albert, the son of King Kamehameha III and godson of Queen Victoria, who died of appendicitis at age 4.
A ghostly young woman in a white gown has also been seen at the Palace. Many think it is the spirit of the beautiful Princess Ka’iulani, who also died at a tragically young age, 27, from illness caused by complications of thyroid disease.
A bit further north on Alii Drive brings us to one of the most important historical sites on the island; Kamakahonu, the bay of King Kamehameha I’s final residence. The hotel situated adjacent to this sacred place is the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel, also home to a number of ghosts. Guests of the hotel have reported hearing footsteps, chanting, and battle cries. During his reign Kamehameha I rebuilt Ahu’ena Heiau, a temple next to where the hotel is located, dedicated to the Hawaiian god of peace, Lono. Kamehameha spent many hours in the temple with his councilmen chanting ritual prayers. Perhaps those prayers echo out over the water, disturbing hotel guests. Other guests claim that the portrait of Queen Lili’uokalani on the bottom floor gallery of the hotel is so lifelike they have seen her image breathing, leading some to believe that the painting itself is haunted.
Though Hawaii might not be filled with the rich colors of fall, it is always filled with the spirit of endless summer and a rich cultural past full of legends and myth. Come back next week for more history and mystery of the ghosts of Kailu-Kona, Hawaii.