Hawaii is no stranger to the paranormal. Accounts of a hitchhiking Pele are not unusual. Neither are stories of night marchers. Boulders that move on their own. Sounds of singing in the night. Balls of fire. And ghosts, well, they’re almost as prolific as chickens on Kauai.
Uncle Joe Espinda, Jr., leads a tour called Orbs of Oahu
for Oahu Ghost Tours
, and he believes it all. Absolutely every word.
Uncle Joe descends from a Hawaiian chief, his father, whose body was tattooed from his face all the way down to his left foot. His mother was a kahuna. Joe graduated from San Diego State University with a teaching degree and University of Hawaii with a master’s in Hawaiian culture. “This is one of four jobs I have,” he says.
The four- to five-hour Orbs of Oahu driving tour starts in Waikiki with a bus pick-up and visits five different locations known for heavy paranormal activities. “Some of these sites are not right,” Uncle Joe says. “You might feel sore stomachs. You might feel headaches.”
Tip from Uncle: The most important thing is to keep a strong mind, keep a strong heart. Do not to ask for things you cannot handle. Stupid things like, I’d really like to know what it feels like to be dead. Because, according to Uncle Joe, things like that happen. No ifs, no butts about it. “It’s great to be scared,” Uncle Joe says. “But to be scared to death is another thing.
This isn’t a ghost story. But it is a story about ghosts.
The company’s website notes, “This tour is very intense. We DO NOT
recommend it for children under 10 years of age.”
Uncle Joe: This is called the Orbs tour. There’s a technical science to what we do. In order for something to make an apparition-like shape there must be an alternative energy source, such as your camera, low level lights, and cell phones. Even yourself. That’s what makes orbs light up. There are different colors of orbs. White is considered passive. Blue is considered family members or guardian angels or as the Hawaiians call it aumakua. If we see too many blue orbs, I say what are you protecting us from? Orange, yellow, and red are degrees of hostility. You get those in your camera, please let me know. But each spirit wants to tell you their story.
Every year, the company offers a “graveyard shift” tour on Halloween, starting, of course, at midnight. Here’s an abbreviated account of the night.
The first stop is Nuuanu Pali.
Nu’uanu translates to English as “the cool heights.” In 1795, Kamehameha the Great set his eyes on O’ahu in his bid to conquer the Hawaiian Islands. Here, in an infamous battle, either Kamehameha’s warriors drove defenders over the precipitous pali [cliffs] to their deaths or the O’ahu army leapt of its own accord rather than surrender. In 1897, when the Pali Road was constructed, more than 800 skulls were found at the base of the cliffs.
Uncle Joe: This is not the Polynesian Cultural Center. This is the real deal. This is what’s gonna happen. You guys are going to be absolutely quiet as we go up there. Take many pictures. When I say stop, I mean stop. Nobody passes me. I might walk up to you and ask to see what’s in your camera, because I want to see what I am getting my okole [behind] into. Because up here, it’s already wrong. The wind. That’s already different. The cold. When does Hawaii ever get this cold? That’s two things not right about this place. If you see guys wearing the ikaika [gourd] helmet or big, large guys with no shirts, those are warriors.
Now let’s go to modern history. About a year ago, a very rich man made his money through software. He lived in Lanikai. One night in December, he was very distraught, came here, stood right here and leapt. Sometimes when we take pictures we see a guy jumping. If you get that, that’s the Lanikai Jumper. Take many pictures in general area. If you get sick, get headaches, let me know.
The second stop is Ulupo Heiau.
Ulupo translates literally to “night inspiration” and hints to the story behind the building of this heaiu, or place of worship, offering and/or sacrifice, and that is the construction of this mammoth rock structure was completed in one night by Menehune who passed the rocks by hand in a human chain that spanned for miles. But Hawaiian words have many translations. Uncle Joe shares another.
Uncle Joe: Do not remove the lava stones. Do not take home these lava stones. These lava stones don’t want to go home with you. They carry the entity and spirit of the people who died here. This place is between 400 to 600 years old. Treat with respect. I need everybody to bunch up and stay close together. Be careful for divots. Be careful for loose rocks. Watch as you step. Now face the rock mound.
Aloha ladies and gentlemen. I like to welcome you to Ulupo Heiau, 90 feet long and 100 feet wide. Ulupo means all beginnings, all endings, from the light to the dark, from the start to the finish. In this place, there are two histories. In the beginning, there were two chiefs. One lived here on windward part of island, and the other lived on the leeward side. They had plenty taro here, a lot of coconuts, breadfruit, fish pond, enough to sustain life. But the only thing the chief on the leeward part of the island had on his land was lava rock. Nothing grew out there. Everybody was starving. So the chief on this side felt the spirit of lokahi, that means to come together, so he had all the people in here walking over 40 miles away, carrying food, and they passed lava rock and food for many years. Once this was finished this was a place where they could bury the bones of their dead in here and a place that they could pray to the god Lono, the god of good harvest. And that’s the first part of history.
Second part. This story is basically untold, what Hawaiians don’t like to talk about, the innocent loss of life. But this is history. This is what happened. It was war. Kamehameha came here with his warriors, his kahunas—priests—and a new god, the god of war. The kahunas tell Kamehameha that the god of war demands more blood. So Kamehameha makes a proclamation that five people every day will be killed, island-wide. But the chief in this village was an overachiever, so he killed 5 people every single day right here. It was most horrific.
As Uncle tells this story, an emergency vehicle screams past, sirens blaring.
There are 80,000 Hawaiian remains here and you know how freaky that is. The wind is silent. How many of you get so many orbs in your camera now. Protect your mind. Protect your heart. Do not go into the heiau. Do not cross the bridges. Do not stand under the coconut trees, because death by coconut is not good. Do not go into the taro fields, because that’s mud up to your knees. If you’re feeling not right, let us know.
They’re actually walking now. In the taro field. There’s a white apparition. Walking this way. What we’re going to do is make our way back to buses and vans. I’m going to ask one question. Anybody feel afraid in here. You do. You. You. You don’t. There’s a reason to be afraid and there’s a reason not to be afraid. This place, a lot of evil stuff was done during war, but if you look around, this place is very well maintained. A couple groups take good care of this place. The reason why is it’s now a learning center. What was sacrificed is now growing taro and papaya and bananas. So the place has taken a different complexion. But it’s safe to say that in this area, we have a lot of spirits. I know some of you guys look at me like this is so surreal. Wait until we go to the next spot.
The third stop is Old Pali Road.
This place is 100% evil. So, protect the mind. Protect the heart. That’s the most important thing. Think good thoughts. Me? I no like go here, but we gotta show you different places. I cannot keep my balance here. If you see me falling down, try to pick me up. Very important.
This was an old footpath from Waikiki to the windward part of the island. Then, it became a horse and buggy path. The road was made by the Army Corps of Engineers to transport military troops to windward part of island. But what’s more freaky is what happens on this road. Many accidents. Many wrong things. Creepy, yeah, this place? We good? Alright. I’m going to chant before we go in. Keep your mind. Keep your heart very strong in here. Everybody come. Stay close. Stay tight with each other. Come inside. I like to welcome everybody to a place that has various names. Now, everybody turn around. This tree. They call it the hanging tree. In the 1920s there was this lady by the name of Susie who worked at a dim sum restaurant during the day. At night, it turned into dance hall, and if you wanted to dance with Susie, it would cost you a quarter. One night, her favorite sailor boy came to pick her up after work and brought her out here. This was the famous make-out spot of the time. Famous. The bruddah gets out of the car to go relieve himself. After working so hard and late into the night, Susie fell asleep in the car, only to be woken up by police tapping on her window. She rolls down her window and police tell her, please get out but don’t look back. But while she’s in the car, she hears something, thinks it’s rain, and she looks out the window to see her dead sailor boy hanging from this tree. Sometimes in this area, you can capture the picture of that guy hanging from the tree.
Now, just down the road from here, we call it Morgan’s Corner. In 1940s, two local guys, prison escapees by the names of James Majors and John Palakiko came all the way up here from town. They found Therese Wilder, went to tool shed and grabbed two 2x4’s, a rope and a snipping shear. They tied Therese Wilder up, hoisted her up on giant mango tree and tormented her, demanding money. She had no money. So, they beat her to death and took snipping shears to cut a ruby red ring off her finger. Two weeks later, the two men were caught in a barroom in Kalihi. They were tried and sentenced to death by hanging. But law enforcement stayed their execution. In 1963, James and John were paroled from jail. They came for James in his cell but only found his clothes neatly folded on his bunk bed. He is considered missing and at large. John, the other guy, gets released from jail. The gates open up, and he takes two steps into freedom and dies of a heart attack. My true belief is Therese Wilder is haunting those two guys in this place for all eternity.
The fourth stop is at the end of a road in Manoa Valley
I’m terrified of this next place. If you see your guide running for the bus, run with your guide. Very important. Halloween for the last three years, we never had a Halloween night every run smooth—bus breaks down, man goes nuts on tour, and we always have to end it. We still on our tour, yeah? I better knock on something. We good with this one.
I’d like to welcome you guys to the end of Mano. They call this tree the all-seeing tree. It carries all the energy, the spirits of this general area. We believe it was here at the turn of time. In the 1920s, early 1900s, if you found yourself escorted by two large Chinese men, you were definitely going to die. This was the area where the Chinese mafia dumped their bodies. If you had a bill, you owed them money, or they didn’t like you, you probably ended up in this water. But before they’d kill you, they’d carve Chinese characters on your body. This stream goes all the way down into Front Street and into downtown Honolulu. So, as your body floated by, people would see the characters carved on the body and would get totally afraid. Not more than about three or four weeks ago, there was a bruddah fooling around and somehow, the brake got loose on his car, and he ran over his friend and killed him. That was a mishap. But sometimes, this bruddah is out here and he’s hopping onto people to tell his story. He’s very ornery but he’s not a bad person. If he’s on you, please tell him to go away.
The fifth stop is at the Manoa Chinese Cemetery
I like to welcome everybody. This place is considered to be very lucky. Lum Ching came here in 1852. Landed in Waikiki. Looked at this place. He practiced geomancy, what is known as feng shui. He took readings with his compass and a mirror and came to conclusion that this place was “the pulse of the watchful dragon of the valley” and would be a suitable cemetery, a haven for the living as well as the dead. This banyan tree was planted by Lum Ching’s brother 150 years ago. Chinese culture considers the banyan tree to be the portal between this life and the after life. Now, take many pictures. Anybody afraid in here? Good. This place is not a scary place to be.
Just in case you’re carrying a friend with you to your destination tonight, we try to take it off here. Now, you can close your eyes or you can look out into Waikiki. If you want to contact any of your family who you really care about, you can. If you get tingling sensations or buzzing sensations, they’re probably here with you already. If you are feeling the effects of this tour, go home, take a hot shower, and take the night off. Don’t watch any spooky movies. Be a little more friendly to your family and friends. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for coming to O’ahu Ghost Tours. Halloween is pretty much over, and I am so glad, because this is the only tour for three years that went totally smooth.