Hawaii -- The Haunting Of Paradise: A Guide To Island Ghosts

"The princess had no name . . . and no face . . ." the Waikiki shopkeeper began. She came one night when he stayed late to do inventory, a regal spectre who angrily knocked merchandise off the shelves.

Furthermore, he was certain she would return, and he might have to move.

The mall, he explained, was built by a foreign investor on royal and sacred ground. The princess is obliged to protest forever or until something is done about it.

Honolulu, the modern city of spectacular hotels, exotic restaurants and urban problems, grew large without the approval of previous residents. Where shops nuzzle and tourists cluster today, fierce and dreadful things once happened.

And sightings of vengeful ghosts are commonplace.

You don't believe?

Just ask any bartender, flower seller, sweeper, beach boy . . .

Ask Glen Grant, University of Hawaii Ph.D., scholar of spiritualism, author and Director of American Studies, Tokai University at Honolulu. His nighttime walking tour, "Ghosts of Old Honolulu," has grown to four different tours (one for children), three storytelling productions at the Waikiki Heritage Theater, two books and an audio tape.

Grant conducts all tours himself and while tales and sites may vary, you can expect to be led to a sacred stone; the Pohukaina tomb of the Kamehamehas; Iolani Palace where Queen Liliuokalani wrote the poignant song "Aloha Oe" while under house arrest; a spot frequented by a Calling Spirit and other female wraiths; a banyan tree beloved of sorcerers; the Kawaiahao graveyard favored by Night Marchers, those military phalanxes of the dead known to knock away all who impede their path; the state buildings haunted by an ex-governor and a phantom typist.

The original downtown walkabout was so popular with islanders it was usually booked too far ahead to allow room for tourists.

Another problem was time. Even though the brochure warned the walk might run late, tour-takers (often repeaters) moved by the experience lingered hours to tell Grant privately about their own paranormal encounters.

One of the most frequent is the appearance of a tie-down ghost that the Japanese call kanashibari. Here a sleeper wakes pressed to the bed, unable to move or breathe. Sometimes an old Hawaiian woman is also lying in the bed watching and laughing.

Grant estimates nearly 20 percent of tour participants or members of their families have been "gripped by the kanashibari."

Stones and bones are typical holding places for spirits. The long-dead guards of the royal families still rattle their keys and patrol the palace grounds. Warriors, buried where they fell, materialize again on the slopes of Diamond Head.

(The goddess Pele seems to prefer hanging out on islands with active or dormant volcanoes. She appears spasmodically on Maui and the Big Island as a long-haired old lady usually accompanied by a black dog.)

Hawaii's blend of many cultures extends to its phantoms. Tales of faceless and legless Japanese obakes vie with Filipino aswangs, Korean kwi shin and Chinese qui. Portuguese witches called feiticeros wilt flowers with a look that in New England would sour milk.

Many ghosts have been pushed to action by the encroachment of public buildings, condos and shopping malls on ancient burial grounds. So what's a ghost to do?

Banging about the merchandise, making pounding noises and flickering automobile headlights register displeasure. If that doesn't elicit appropriate response, well, humanoid forms without feet have been reported in rest rooms and elevators.

In any case, prevention is easier than cure. Better to bless the ground with Christian and Buddhist ceremonies before any untoward digging. It is also now law that developers who come upon a human burial site must stop work immediately and report to the state's Historic Preservation Division's Burial Council or risk a $10,000 a day fine.

You may see a wreath of ti leaves hung on a half-finished bulding or attached to the front of an earth-moving vehicle, or ti leaves scattered loosely on a building site. All show native Hawaiian umbras are being placated.

Grant draws no fine line between superstitiion and belief. He also denies being seer, spiritualist or active ghostbuster. His interest began in childhood when his father told him ghost stories and grew when he moved to the islands and found such tales intrinsic to the culture.

"I . . . take a spiritual stance of respect for the ghosts we discuss," he says. "The ghosts of Hawaii are the product of a multicultural society sharing their spiritual traditions as they collectively face the mysteries that await beyond the grave."

On the other hand, maybe Hawaii's ghosts just won't let go.

There's an old joke about a Hawaiian couple reaching the gates of heaven and being asked where they were from. When the answer is "Hawaii" the gatekeeper replies. "Oh dear, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed . . ." ----------------------------------------------------------------- IF YOU GO

Ghostly Hawaii

-- Ghost Tours: Ghosts of old Honolulu, $7. GhostHunters Bus Tour of Oahu, $35. Haunted Honolulu trolley, $25. Children's Haunted Honolulu Tour, $3 for kids, $4 for accompanying adults.

Advance reservations recommended.

For full program and schedule, Honolulu TimeWalks, 2634 King St., No. 3, Honolulu HI 96825; phone (808) 943-0371.

-- Staying There: For haunts of famous visitors, Royal Hawaiian (800-782-9466); Sheraton Moana (800-782-9466); New Otani Kaimana Beach (800-733-7949).

The Hyatt Regency Waikiki (800-233-1234) is across the street from 4 Wizard Stones.

The Best Western Outrigger Waikiki Tower (800-528-1234) sits atop the Kawehewehe, a "removal stream" believed to restore-health and forgive sins.

Information: Waikiki Oahu Visitors Bureau, 1001 Bishop St., Honolulu HI 96813; (808) 524-0722. Betty Lowry is a freelance writer who lives in Wayland, Mass.