Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Haunted Heiaus Of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii has been my favorite vacation spot since my first visit in 1988. In fact, I had hoped to retire there before getting sick. Kailua-Kona is on the western side of the Big Island, and is the epicenter of the island's tourist industry. Being in the rain shadow of Mauna Loa, the weather is usually dry and sunny (in contrast to the frequent rains on the eastern, or Hilo, side of the island). There are extensive coral reefs near shore for divers and snorklers, great deep sea fishing, and a wide selection of nightclubs and restaurants. Most of the latter, along with the most luxurious hotels, are on Ali'i Drive, which winds along the seafront. But there is one site that is a jarring contrast to the glitter and glitz of the rest of Ali'i. Several hotels have opened and closed there over the years, and that's because the site is supposedly haunted.

The last hotel there was the Kona Lagoon Hotel, which closed in 1988. It was demolished in 2004, but the building was still standing when I took the photo below in 2002:

The site was fenced-off, but I was able to gain access to the site by the shoreline; the beachfront is public property on the Big Island. This is the view of my access route:

When the hotel closed in 1988, the official reason was because the Japanese owners ran out of money and were unable to obtain additional financing. But rumors said it was because the hotel was haunted. Guests supposedly saw lights and shadowy figures in their rooms and hallways. Sounds like human screams were reportedly heard. And there were numerous non-paranormal problems at the hotel, such as power failures and water leaks. The Kona Lagoon Hotel closed a little over four years after it opened.

But that wasn't the end of the reported supernatural activity at the closed hotel. There was a big turnover in security guards, with many quitting after supposedly seeing ghosts, seeing strange lights, hearing human screams, etc.

I have no idea whether any of those stories are true-----and I have my big, big doubts------but I had heard them prior to my last visit to the Big Island in 2002. I decided to visit the site and see for myself.

I must regretfully report I observed no ghosts, apparitions, spirits, shadowy shapes, or other manifestations of the supernatural. Nor did I see any floating orbs or blobs of mist; I didn't hear any bloodcurdling screams either. The only things that startled me were a couple of large rats that darted out when I didn't expect them.

The reason for the reports of the site being haunted is because there are two sacrificial heiaus on the property. A heiau was a platform made of volcanic rock used for human sacrifices. In the ancient Hawaiian religion, human sacrifice was a key component; the killing of a sacrificial victim allowed Hawaiian kings, priests, and upper classes to absorb the life energy of the victim. No one knows how many victims were sacrificed here, but it is believed the total was in the tens of thousands. Here is a photo of the main heiau:

The "secondary" heiau is below:

The most gruesome sacrifice here took place early in the eighteenth century. At that time, each of the Hawaiian islands had their own king and bloody warfare between the islands was commonplace. During a battle between Maui and the Big Island, the King of Maui was captured and taken to this site. Apparently there was a lot of animosity between him and the King of the Big Island, because the latter had the king of Maui impaled on one of the heiaus instead of killed outright. He was given water but no food as he lay on the heiau.

And he lay on that heiau for eleven days before he died.

The site has several petroglyphs and "brain coral" grows very close to the shoreline:

I understand current plans are to develop an "authentic" Hawaiian resort on the Kona Lagoon Hotel site. I have no idea if human sacrifices on the heiaus will be part of the "authentic" Hawaiian theme.