A mysterious story from Keaukaha, 1915.


Written in the English-language newspaper, Hawaii Herald of Hilo, was a truly strange story about some Hawaiian women here in Keaukaha, and here are some of what we translated.

On this past Christmas, Kawaikuhea and Elena, women who live in Keaukaha, went to pick opihi on a rocky island off of Keaukaha; they swam out for perhaps close to a hundred yards. Elena jumped into the water first and Waikuhea followed, but Waikuhea was the first to reach the rocky island and began to pick opihi, but while she was picking opihi, she heard the cry of Elena saying, “Auwe, I am dying. Aloha to [my] grandchildren.” Kawaikuhea¹ looked to where Elena was floating, and saw her floating easily upon the water. Seeing her friend floating there, Kawaikuhea spoke to Elena, “Hey you blundering woman, swim over here and I will help you”.

But there was no response from Elena to this call by Kawaikuhea. Because there wasn’t a response to the call by her friend, Kawaikuhea began to shudder in fear, and she said, “What a truly blundering woman swimming until there and then floating; that silly woman probably doesn’t realize that where she floats is the cave of a man-eating shark.” Kawaikuhea left the rocky island upon which she was picking opihi, and she swam over to where her friend was floating atop the water. Kawaikuhea grabbed the hand of Elena and pulled her to the island, but the amazing thing was that Elena did not budge, as if she was restrained by a strange force. Kawaikuhea was pulled back and forth by the current but Elena just rested in one place, not affected by the movement of the waves. After Kawaikuhea pulled her by the hand without Elena budging, Kawaikuhea thought to swim behind Elena’s back, and when the wave came, Kawaikuhea shoved Elena toward shore, but amazingly Elena didn’t move.

Kawaikuhea was all out of breath, and she swam back to the island that she had reached earlier, and she began to call to those upland. And she waved a piece of her holoku which she had torn off.

Some folks fishing up on the beach saw this, and Elena’s husband saw some of them running to the area facing the island. He ran as well, and when he came near to where he wife was floating, he swam along with others for where his wife floated. When the husband and his fellows reached the place where Elena was floating, he asked Elena what was wrong, but his wife did not respond.

The husband and those who swam out with him tried to pull the woman to land, but the astonishing thing was that she did not move, as if there was an arm grasping the body of Elena from below. The husband swam back ashore and got a pandanus rootlet [a-a puhala] and swam back to where his wife floated. He dove under where Elena was floating with the aid of the a-a puhala, he freed the body of Elena and brought her to shore, and they returned to the village. She lay motionless for about 15 minutes, then regained consciousness, and when asked about this trouble, Elena revealed that when she realized it, it was as if she was being pulled by her waist and she could not call out. This is most of what we translated from the English newspaper from here in Hilo. As to whether it true or not true, we do not know.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 1/7/1915, p. 2)


Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Buke 9, Helu 31, Aoao 2. Ianuari 7, 1915.

¹You will often see names beginning with “Ka” or “Ke” with it left out, so for instance Kawaikuhea and Waikuhea are used interchangeably. For more recognizable names, Kaahumanu = Ahumanu, Kaumualii = Umualii, Kawaiahao = Waiahao, Kekuanaoa = Kuanaoa, Kamoiliili = Moiliili…

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