As we approach the Halloween holiday, it may be appropriate to retell a frightening story that happened here on the Big Island; in fact just some twelve miles south of Hilo in the quiet village of Ola’a.
Ola’a is in the sacred Ola'a forest, which was once an area restricted to bird-catching families (whose occupation was to collect hulu or feathers for the ruling class) until the abolishment of the kapu system in 1819 and the arrival of the missionaries shortly thereafter. A small church was established in 1835 to serve Hawaiians living in the area. As Hawai'i island developed with small coffee farms and with the establishment of sugar plantations in the 1890's Ola'a saw the arrival of immigrant labor. Soon the church and community embraced an ethically and culturally diverse plantation community. Ola'a Church
In 1947 in Ola’a children were playing near the local pond when one of them fell in and drowned. The boy, named Tanaka, was later found by divers sitting on a rock with his eyes and mouth open and body swaying with the currents. Yet, he was dead and his corpse was retrieved and buried.
Later, people who walked by the pond would often fell something tug at the bottom of their trousers. Rumors spread that the boy’s spirit was trapped beneath the water. In his book, Obake Files, Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii, Glen Grant writes:
“On some evenings the villagers could hear a cry emanate from the pond in the middle of the night. At first most everyone believed that the haunting cry was the wind blowing through the tall sugar cane fields. But a few of the older people said they knew the spirit of the Tanaka boy- cold, wet, and desolate at the bottom of the pond. The soul was crying out for help and deliverance. Trapped in this world by accident, he sought someone’s spirit as a substitute. They would take his place at the bottom of the pond so that he could be free to go to the otherworld.
“Those who were present at the second accident swear that the other boy was pulled into the water against his will. It was the noon hour. He was walking about 50 yards behind his father along the edge of the pond, occasionally picking up a flat stone to skim across the water. When he fell, he screamed out to his father that something was pulling him into the pond. He clawed at the earth, trying to hold on, to fight back. But in what seemed like an instant, the force tugging at his legs pulled him into the watery depths of the pond. By the time the young boy’s body had been located, it was found sitting naturally on a rock on the bottom of the pond. He seemed so natural sitting there- arms placidly at his side, eyes and mouth open, swaying gently to and fro in a light current. Fortunately, the rescuers were able to bring him back to the surface in time to be resuscitated.
“A Shinto priest was brought from Hilo to bless the waters, and the haunting cries finally ceased. Yet, on peculiarly dark nights when the evening skies seem bathed in black ink, those who live closest to the pond say that they sometimes hear the Tanaka boy’s cry. But are the cries melancholy or sinister? And will the Tanaka boy ever find peace?” Weird Hawaii
Pretty spooky…..I’d say!