The Nightmarchers

As a Hawaiian blogging about Hawaiian ghost stories and myths, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the famous Nightmarchers. Known as Ka Huakai O Ka Po in the native language, the nightmarchers are one of the most respected and feared entities. Those who come to the islands are warned to be aware of their surroundings at night, because the paths they travel intersect both rural and populated places, with recorded paths stretching across the islands, with places like Moanalua Valley, Waialua, Kawaihapai, Schofield Barracks, and Mokule’ia in Oahu alone. They have very rarely been seen, but there are always by heavy winds and an overall feeling that one shouldn’t be there. There are different types of nightmarchers vary from relatively benevolent to downright terrifying. Some stories tell of people heavy winds that suddenly die completely, or the approaching sound of drums accompanied by a stifling, oppressive heat. These are warnings by the marchers for everyone living to get out of their path. Legend tells that people who ignore these signs or are unable to move in time are in danger of being killed by the spearmen that guard the ghostly procession. The only way to be saved from death is to have ancestors in procession, and by lying by the side of the path as if dead. that way, the ancestor will recognize you as their kin and tell the spearmen to spare you.

The nightmarchers appear in different varieties, from the benevolent menehune, mythical small humanoid beings that march silently from place to place, passing easily through any solid material in their way, to the terrifying ka huakai o ka po, the disfigured and tortured warriors of long past trapped in an eternal march across the islands. While the stories of the ka huakai o ka po are told the most around the campfire, stories of the menehune appear just as often. My uncle likes to tell the tale of his own encounter with the menehune: while asleep in his room at my grandfather’s house by the beach in Kailua, Oahu, he was suddenly awakened by a bright blue light that emanated from the lower part of the wall across from him. Silently, a small spectral door opened in the wall and a line of menehune, no more than 3 feet tall, began marching through the door, disappearing without a trace into the wall opposite. To this day, he will never near the old house.

The legend of the nightmarchers has seeped into Hawaiian culture, inspiring movies, bands, and even tourist destinations. They’ve gained the notoriety and local significance much like the Jersey Devil of New Jersey or Washington’s Lady of the Lake, both joked about and feared.

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