Nightwalkers Legend

The informant is a caucasian male. His father was born in Denmark, but was raised in America. He was raised in Virginia, but attended high school in Pasadena, CA. The informant later lived in Hawaii for 8 years, Northern California for 7 years, and now resides in Southern California again. He is a professor, teaching molecular biology to pharmacy students. He was brought up episcopalian but is no agnostic. The informant is divorced with one child.

The informant learned about this during the time he spent living in the Hawaiian islands. He heard stories about the Nightwalkers from colleagues and friends at the University of Hawaii. Back before the haole, the caucasians, invaded the islands, pre-18th century, the natives used to walk everywhere, creating paths and trails as they travelled. They mainly lived in the valleys of the islands, so these trails were usually on the valley floors and leading from one valley to another. When the haole came and invaded the islands, they made war with the native Polynesians, many of whom were killed in battle or murdered in attempts at suppression. There is a belief in the culture of Hawaii that when people are murdered, or die under unnatural circumstances, their spirits do not disappear, but rather remains in this world. The spirits are the Nightwalkers and they walk the ancient paths and trails of Hawaii. Some of the old trails are aligned with new modern roads, so the Nightwalkers will walk down modern roads. Others are still more natural paths on valley floors. The Nightwalkers will harm people if they encounter them. When the informant was in the Sierra Club, he took a trip to the Halawa valley, on the island of Molokai. While camping there, he would stand outside of his tent at night, trying to see the Nightwalkers go past him.

Analysis: The informant’s attitude towards this legend is an interesting duality. Just like how a legend is defined by its unverifiable truth value, some believe and some do not, the informant both believes in the Nigthwalkers and does not almost simultaneously. He tells the legend as a make believe story and characterizes it as a native Hawaiian belief, a group of which he is not part of. He does not actively share in the belief of the Nightwalkers, relegating their story to fantasy. And yet on his trip he actively tries to participate in the legend, he tries to see the Nightwalkers in action. Even while he separates himself from the belief system that incorporates the Nightwalkers as real, he attempts to have an experience that would change his mind. While he does not believe, he wants to be proved wrong. And so it is with many legends. Most people do not believe, but they want them to be true. This is an interesting and complex outlook: knowing you are right, but wanting to be wrong, that probably characterizes many peoples’ relationships with legends.

Annotation: Grant, Glen, ed. Obake: Ghost Stories in Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, LLC, 1994.