Tales from da crypt

A group of 24 brave souls -including a MidWeek writer and photographer -set out on a mission one recent Saturday evening to search Oahu for the spirits of those who came before us.

Friday - October 26, 2007
By Kerry Miller
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Using a ‘ghost meter,’ Sydney Parrish hunts with Uncle Joe Espinda

A group of 24 brave souls -including a MidWeek writer and photographer -set out on a mission one recent Saturday evening to search Oahu for the spirits of those who came before us.

Led by the fearless “Uncle Joe” Espinda of Oahu Ghost Tours, we went from Iolani Palace to Nuuanu Pali, and from Morgan’s Corner to Manoa Valley. Spirits of night-marchers, a murdered woman and even children crossed our path, momentarily intertwining the living with the dead.

“This is not a tour where somebody gonna come out and go ‘Boo!’” says Espinda. “This is not a tour where you think you see something and go ‘What is that? I cannot explain that.’

“Folks, it’s not when we feel the spirits, it’s where we see the spirits. Protect your heart, protect your mind at all times.Your young ones, keep them close, ‘cuz this tour is not for the weak of heart. This tour where we going on is to another dimension.We are now going into the paranormal.”

Uncle Joe gave each of his fellow explorers bags of Hawaiian salt and large ti leaves to keep them protected during this ghostly journey. The first stop: Iolani Palace. “The history of this place,” he says,"you guys don’t even want to know what this place was before. This place was called Pokaka, and it’s an unspoken thing, what the locals talk about.

“This is a sacrificial heiau,” Espinda continues. “When Kalanikupule left this island, there were 2,000 people killed by the hand of Kamehameha -he took their heads off, stuffed a mule stick through their heads and a thorn. With that blood he draped the heiau. This man Kamehameha, 7-foot-2, 600 pounds able to rip a man’s body in half, was the most vicious man throughout Hawaii.”

This “most vicious man"chased Kalanikupule and his men all the way from Iolani to Nuuanu Pali (Pali Lookout), the next stop for Uncle Joe’s group. Nuuanu Pali is where Kamehameha drove Kalanikupule’s men over the edge, letting them fall hundreds of feet below to their death.

Uncle Joe Espinda burns incense before taking a tour into ghostly territory

At night the Pali Lookout is mysteriously serene -no wind,no cold air, as most daytime visitors encounter.

“We going to the wall to look for Pohaku Maka Nui (rock of big eyes),” Uncle Joe says. “His face is the watcher of this area -it protects all the spirits. If you guys find orbs, let me know. If you hear the conch shell,let me know.If you hear drumming, let me know, because those are warriors.”

Espinda chants in Hawaiian, allowing for the group’s safe passage down the Old Pali Road to where the rock is. He points out the infamous face in the rock, the face that sometimes is “looking right at you.”

“I have learned,being on the tour for 31 times now, every time when I get hot air, always it gets wild,” Espinda continues. “Every time I get the cold air, it’s all good. When I get like right now, the stillness of Nuuanu Pali, I know the next stop, when I go to Morgan’s Corner, it’s gonna be outta control. I gotta really protect this group.”

And onward to Morgan’s Corner we went ...

The story of Morgan’s Corner is quite a gruesome one. While several variations of this tale exist, telling why this spot -located just mauka of the intersection of Pali and Kamehameha highways -is such a spooky place, the most popular one, will send shivers up your spine.

According to an article written by Burl Burlingame in the May 1, 2005, edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, prison escapees John Palakiko and James Majors broke into the home of 68-year-old Therese Wilder in 1948, tortured and assaulted her, gagged her and left her to die outside. Her nearest neighbor, Dr. James Morgan, lived too far away to hear any of her screams. The men were sentenced to be hanged, but at the last minute the governor at the time stayed the execution. Both were paroled in 1963. Get this: Palakiko died mysteriously and as for Majors, nobody knows what became of him.

Uncle Joe tells the group of spirit seekers that Wilder was actually hanged from a mango tree at one of the hairpin turns at Morgan’s Corner.

“Sometimes you can hear her screams in this place of unrest,"he says. “We’re going up just to the other hairpin turn, and if we can make it to the other turn without any other encounters of any other type of spirits, we’re gonna go farther. If we encounter anything I don’t like,we’re gonna turn around.”

Something real and terrifying occurred at Morgan’s Corner, which alone gives the site a creepy feeling, but when Espinda reminds his tour group that many accidents happened here and to please walk on left side of the road because there’s a 20-foot ravine to the right, well, that’ll give you a jolt of “chickenskin.”

Suddenly, during the short trek up the road, Espinda stops. He begins shaking his ti leaf violently and then chanting in Hawaiian, telling the evil spirit he senses to leave the area. Slightly startled, the group is instructed to head back to the Oahu Ghost Tour vans, away from this dark and still spooky corner.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the group traveled on to Ulupo Heiau near the Windward YMCA in Kailua, hallowed ground on the Windward side.

“This place has more than 80,000 dead remains of ancient Hawaiian people,"says Espinda."It is an area of peace, a healing heiau. Do not remove the stones, do not take home the stones, do not even sit on the stones because the stones, they don’t want to go home with you. They are Pele’s off-spring.”

The rocks at this site came from 40 miles away. How? Espinda

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