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The Ghost of the Mauna Kea Hotel

THE STORY

The Mauna Kea ghost was in the area long before I ever went there. I first came to the hotel for my honeymoon in August of 1965, shortly after the hotel opened. That’s when I learned of the ghost. The Mauna Kea ghost was a beautiful woman. She was a native Hawaiian who fell in love with a white rancher who came to the island later in his life. They were so in love that they were destined to be married! Their families did not allow this, though, because of their different races. Her broken heart caused her much sadness, and she decided to drown herself in the ocean. Her last steps on Earth were on the very beach that the hotel now stands on.

People now say that they see the ghost at the hotel! My foolish husband doesn’t believe in ghosts, but even he heard her one time when he was alone in the bar area. That’s where she likes to be the most. She appears to men who have had too much to drink at the bar. She also likes to get in the elevator with guests. I once heard of a man at the hotel who saw a woman when he entered the elevator. Then, in the middle of the ride, she walked straight through the closed doors! I’ve never seen her myself, but I have been to Mauna Kea enough times to know that she is there.

 

ANALYSIS

Context: The respondent first learned of this story in August of 1965 on her honeymoon at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. The respondent has made several trips back to this location, and had learned of several additions to the story over the past few decades. One of these additions included a personal experience from her husband during their second trip to the resort. The story was collected over a lunch interview.

Respondent’s Beliefs: The respondent believed in the ghost of Mauna Kea, even though she had no personal experience with the ghost. She gave credence to all of the sightings of the ghost, and even interpreted an experience her husband had as a ghost sighting (despite the fact that her husband does not believe in ghosts himself).  The respondent was Roman Catholic, but did not reference religion when telling the story.

Motifs: This narrative is a classic example of a ghost of a suicidal lover. Many stories throughout history have featured lovers who are forbidden to be together by society, often leading to tragic deaths. Tragic deaths often lead to ghosts, and this story is no exception. The Mauna Kea ghost appears to haunt the hotel due to an unfulfilled life, which is consistent with many ghost narratives such as the Hispanic La Llorona legend. The ghost also haunts male guests the most, especially drunk men. Many ghost stories involve the consumption of alcohol, and from a skeptical perspective, intoxication can lead to increased hallucinations or misperceptions, increasing the chance of a person seeing a “ghost” that isn’t really there. This story differs from other common stories, though, in regards to the name of the ghost. Most ghosts that are based on real or legendary events have a name, or at least a nickname of some importance (such as “La Llorona”). This is not the case with this narrative, as the ghost is called by the name of the hotel with “ghost” appended to the end. The narrative tells a rather personal story of the ghost that is rather emotional, yet she does not have a name nor any other identity marker.

Narrative

A Cuban Haunting

THE STORY

I was traveling to Cuba when it was legal once again, and I was staying in this apartment place, kind of like an Airbnb. It was a really old place, and I could definitely see it being a place where a maid could have killed the family inside, maybe during the Revolution. I woke up in the middle of the night because I felt a tickling on my foot. This wasn’t just any tickling. It was a distinct tickling feeling. I could tell that I wasn’t dreaming because the feeling woke me straight up. The room was pitch black, so I couldn’t see anything. But I did hear a heavy breathing in the corner of the room. It was like [heavy breathing sounds]. I even stopped breathing myself to make sure I wasn’t making the noise, but the breathing continued! I didn’t leave the room because I wasn’t that scared. I was more like… the fuck? I think it was more scared of me than I was of it, so I didn’t feel the need to leave the room.

 

ANALYSIS

Context: This story was told to me by the respondent in a dorm room at USC. It was late at night on a Tuesday, at around 11 PM. The respondent did not hear this story from another individual, but rather experienced the story firsthand around one year ago.

Respondent’s Beliefs: The respondent clearly believed in the story, as it was a personal experience. He never showed any signs of doubt, and even cited instances of proof that the story was real, such as holding his breath to make sure he wasn’t the one making the noise. The respondent is an atheist, yet he still believes that a spirit was able to visit him in the apartment.

Motifs: The respondent’s story reflects many common motifs in ghost stories throughout different cultures. First, despite no evidence that the Cuban Revolution was somehow connected to the apartment, the respondent claimed that the Revolution could have somehow caused the death of a family inside. This relates to how ghost stories often reflect historical tragedies that haunt society. Second, the respondent claimed that the spirit may have been murdered. Many ghost stories involve murders because tragic deaths are more likely to lead to a reason for a spirit to stay on Earth. Finally, the respondent’s use of sensory details is very similar to how most people attempt to justify a ghostly experience. The respondent cited touch and hearing as a way to validate the claim that a ghost was in the room, and this is the most common way that people justify ghostly experiences. Thus, the respondent’s story fits with traditional ghost narratives.

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