The islands of Hawaii are as mysterious as they are beautiful, with a history that stretches back thousands of years. As we might expect such a location also harbors many intriguing legends from ancient times.
Just one of these legends is that of the Night Marchers, apparent manifestations of warriors who called the islands their home in long ago. Some people claim to have heard this ghostly group, while others have sensed their movements around them. There are also people who claim to have witnessed them visually in a physical form.
There would appear to be much more than just a ghostly presence witnessed by passers-by to the legends of the Night Marchers, however. For example, a knowledge of the local legends and traditions as far as these strange apparitions are concerned just might keep a person safe from harm in their presence.
While many from the outside of the islands may look on such legends with intrigue but a disbelief that they are anything more than myths or tall tales, they are taken extremely seriously by many on the islands. Especially those whose ancestors stretch back to the times when the marchers were themselves alive.
Before we examine one of the most intriguing encounters with the Night Marchers, we will first examine the history behind them.
Marching Warriors From Ancient Times
The Night Marchers, according to the legends of the islands, are the ghostly remnants of an ancient army. They usually appear holding fiery torches and dressed in full ceremonial or battle regalia. Indeed, some believe that the manifestations are following the routes they used in ancient times on the way to battle. Others state that the marches are more ritualistic and ceremonial in nature.
However, they are more than merely ghostly apparitions, though. As we shall see, some accounts warn of physical harm coming to anyone who stands in the way of these mysterious marches. And what’s more, on some occasions, footprints have been discovered on the ground where the ancient warriors were seen marching.
Some people state that the marches themselves are very much tied in with the Moon, hence why the vast majority of such displays appear at night. Furthermore, they appear all over the islands, perhaps suggesting the following of routes they once traveled for real in past times.
Of even more interest, according to some legends and accounts, some of these intriguing processions actually feature various Hawaiian gods of ancient times. If such a deity is present, it is said that the torches will burn particularly brighter or that the sound of drums and chants will be louder.
There is said to be several specific details to note that would indicate the presence of the Night Marchers. For example, a sudden heavy and swirling wind often arrives with these warrior spirits. This can also be accompanied by sudden thunder and lightning and a downpour of rain. Even stranger, on some occasions, the area will become enveloped in a heavy fog or mist. Many people will also hear strange, but rhythmic, chanting as well as equally rhythmic drum pounding.
Early Legends And Encounters Of The Night Marchers
According to the Pacific Studies paper entitled Phantom Night Marchers In The Hawaiian Islands by Katherine Luomala (written in 1983)  the Night Marchers legends have been documented since the late nineteenth century, although accounts of them would have existed orally likely for a considerable amount of time before that.
According to Luomala’s research, the first documented case of the Night Marchers goes back to 1883 when witnesses claimed they saw the ghost of King Kamehameha leading an entire army of phantom apparitions. Another account from the same era claimed that a march led by Kamehameha’s nephew “left many dead persons in its track”.
This is an interesting account in that legends of the Night Marchers, according to local people, state that should a “mortal” not show respect for the marchers they will meet a painful and violent death. Tradition states that by laying on the ground, face down, mortals show the necessary respect for the marching apparitions, and consequently they will pass them by unharmed.
Another legend states that should a mortal happen upon the Night Marchers, if they happen to be a descendent of one of the spirits of the march, they will also be spared. Even more intriguing, upon recognizing this descendent, the spirit will allegedly cry out “Na’u!” which means “mine” and so alerting the marchers to leave them be.
The Night-Fishing Encounter Of Pepe Ekeo
One of the most intriguing encounters examined by Luomala is that of Pepe ekeo, a fisherman on the Hawaiian Islands who claimed to have experienced the Night Marchers close up.
According to the story, Pepe ekeo was sitting on the rocks on the Mahu-Kona side of the island fishing one evening with a friend. It was around 10 pm when they each suddenly heard a “conch slow blowing in the distance”. They at first dismissed the sound as just the wind. However, several moments later, they heard it again, only this time it was closer. They would hear the sound a third time. This time, they turned in its direction.
It was then they saw the “line of torches”. And what’s more, it was perfectly obvious to the two men that whoever, or whatever, was holding them, they were moving “along the coastline of the island”.
Each man then withdrew their weapon, but not to use it. They each laid down on the ground. Pepe ekeo would state later that:
We knew about the Night Marchers from other fishermen. We knew you aren’t supposed to look upon the marchers and to lay on the ground face down!
This is exactly what each of the men did. The mysterious marchers passed right by them, around 50 yards from where they lay on the sandy pathway. As they did so, the men could hear the sound of a “drum pounding beat by beat”.
Both men remained where they were for some time making sure the marchers had passed them. When they did look up, all they could see was the dim line of torchers and the sound of the conch shell that first alerted them, near a lot less audible as it seemingly moved into the distance.
Documented Encounters Go Back Decades
There are many other similar accounts, some dating back decades.
One particularly intriguing account took place in the 1930s at Waikiki and involved a tourist who knew nothing of the legends of the Night Marchers, perhaps indicating a phenomenon that can be observed also by those not indigenous to the island. One evening, he would encounter strange lights moving at a steady pace near the shore. He would discuss the incident with those local to the area. They would inform him of the legends and that their destination was to the grounds of an ancient ceremony.
Another account comes from the 1940s and tells of several fishermen who claimed to witness the ancient warriors, carrying their distinctive torches across the water. They would continue until they came to the shore from where they marched up the hill to an ancient burial ground.
At around the same time, a physician who had moved to the islands from abroad would seek the help of a “mainland-educated Hawaiian girl” to observe one of these enigmatic processions. And see them, they would. They would witness the ancient army with their torches. What’s more, some of them were so clear their “faces (were) almost visible”. They too would watch as the marchers went across the water and then up a hill on the other side. Once there, they each heard the sound of drums beating.
Appearances That Foretell Of Imminent Deaths?
There is also, according to the research paper by Luomala, an element of foreseeing a person’s death who might have connections to the location where the ghostly procession is witnessed.
For example, during the First World War, a family in the Wai anae region witnessed the ancient phantom warriors march directly outside of their home. The ancient army wore helmets and extravagant feathered capes. Understanding the local legends of the area, the family would immediately take their appearance as a sign that their son, who was fighting with the armed forces in Europe, was dead. Indeed, their fears materialized a short time later. They received official news of their son’s death on the battlefields of France.
This account takes an even stranger twist. The mother of the dead soldier witnessed the strange marchers several years later. This time, she believed that her death was approaching. Indeed, according to the account, she died two days later.
Another such incident would unfold in 1917. This time, a procession would unfold at Ka u, apparently an escort procession, according to local legends. The following day, news broke that one-time Queen, Lili u-o-Kalani had passed away. What is interesting, the ancestors of Lili u-o-Kalani had connections and ties to the region the march took place the previous day.
The Encounter Of Lopaka Kapanui
Just one of many people who claim to have witnessed  these mysterious marching ghostly warriors is a priest and cultural practitioner (known as a kahuna), Lopaka Kapanui. According to Kapanui, attempting to purposely seek out the warriors puts you in potential danger. It is ill-advised to even whistle in the dark in case you might summon the warriors to appear. Kapanui also offers that many residents on the islands plant ti plants around the home. Legend states this is one of the few things that will cause the marching warriors to stray from their course.
On the evening that Kapanui witnessed the Night Marchers for himself, he claims he was leading an evening ghost tour. He was in a Chinese cemetery which had been built on ground that the Night Marchers were said to march through. And on this evening, he was “standing in the middle of their path”.
He would state that he had a sudden feeling of “being encapsulated”. Although he could see the trees and grass moving due to the wind, suddenly the “sound was gone”. He also had a sudden “hot” feeling around him. When he later told of the incident to a family member, he was told that this likely meant that one of the marchers was an ancestor of his and he was given protection from the ancient warriors.
While Kapanui’s experience left him unharmed, he strongly advises anyone who might happen to find themselves in a similar situation to get out of the area as quickly as possible. He would even add that people should not try to capture them on film or take selfies.
The short video below features Kapanui speaking a little further.
A Meeting Point Of Two Worlds
The legends and accounts of the Night Marchers are indeed unique and intriguing. And very much a testament to how little we understand about realities and other realms of existence. As well as what determines them.
Are the strange appearances of marching warriors from ancient times merely imagined by the local populace? Ones immersed in their own culture? Or does the fact that tourists and visitors to the islands also witness them dismiss this notion entirely? And are they merely ghosts, something we can see but not interact with? Or do the legends of physical harm coming to those who don’t respect the traditions of the Night Marchers mean they are perhaps something more than just an apparition?
When we factor in the elements of foretelling a person’s death then the mystery of the Night Marchers takes on another level of mystery and intrigue.
Perhaps more than anything, the Night Marchers demonstrate that there is a meeting of worlds. A meeting point that exists between our level of existence and theirs. It is a meeting point requires our collective understanding to unlock the secrets and reasons for such appearances and encounters.
Check out the video below. It looks at the legends of the Night Marchers in a little more detail.
|↑1||Phantom Night Marchers In The Hawaiian Islands, Katherine Luomala, Fall 1983 http://www.explorationhawaii.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/03/PhantomNightMarchers-Luomala.pdf|
|↑2||The Legend of the Mysterious Night Marchers of Hawaii, Nathan Chandler, How Stuff Works, October 18th, 2019 https://people.howstuffworks.com/night-marchers-hawaii.htm|
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