Home Archives Ka Huaka'i Po (The Night Marchers)

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Witness: The Aloha Spirit
Location: La'ie, O'ahu, Hawai'i
Date of Encounter: July, 1990

Ancient Hawai'i had a feudal system of government. Each island had one chief ali'i. Each village had lesser ali'i. Each island also had a city of refuge where the soldiers of the ali'i couldn't enter.

Laws were harsh at this time. One would be clubbed to death by merely stepping on the shadow of the ali'i or eating one of the many forbidden foods (women couldn't eat bananas!). To escape the king's wrath, the criminals would flee to the city of refuge.

The city of refuge on O'ahu is now La'ie. Three ancient heiau (temple) mark its extent. These are the only heiau on O'ahu where human sacrifice wasn't performed. After a sufficiently long stay in the city of refuge, criminals would try to sneak out. The ali'i had a special troop of soldiers who patrolled the outer limits of the city of refuge, ready to carry out punishment.

Today, the spirits of these soldiers still patrol the ancient boundaries of the city of refuge. Two in front beat drums, followed by four pipers. A thousand warriors march behind, looking for anyone trying to sneak in or out of the village.

This ghost story became real to me on a camping trip at Hukilau Beach. As is the custom, we used tarps to create a roof and wind block. We didn't bother with regular tents. Our shelters opened up to Hukilau river and the beach. We told all sorts of wild tales and stayed up until a little past midnight, then turned in.

About two o'clock, I was woken up by the sounds of distant drums. My tent mate also was awake. We looked around but couldn't see anything. The drums were louder now, and the sound of a flute floated through the air. Scared, we ran back to our sleeping bags. More noises played on our ears — marching feet! As we gazed out toward the river, we saw a long column of mist advancing. It hugged the river down to the beach then turned right. The sounds grew stronger as the mist got closer. After the mist passed, all was quiet again.

That morning, we found thousands of footprints following the same path the mist traversed during the night.

Never again will I camp so close to the boundaries of the city of refuge.

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