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True Travel Tales: Haunted Hawaii

Haunted Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii undoubtedly has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. In the southeast part of the island lies a somewhat hidden gem of a park. MacKenzie State Recreation Area is an isolated park that looks fairly common at first glance.

The park is heavily shaded by the swaying trees and slopes towards jagged red-rocked cliffs. Smashing waves bulldoze into the impenetrable rocks a good forty feet below.

boys go campin

DANGER signs are posted intermittently as there are no guardrails to protect from the cliffs. It’s truly a most beautiful and enthralling sight to near the edge and look north and south for miles. However, this park is not your average park. It holds a very dark past that is subject to ghostly encounters and supernatural phenomena, which I would experience firsthand.

coconut forest

My friends and I were told, according to Hawaiian folklore, that a certain tribe was once forced to walk off the cliffs to their deaths by a rival tribe centuries ago. In the 1800s, many convicts that helped build the park died of disease and malnourishment. Their bodies are rumored to be buried within the grounds.

There’ve been accounts of park-dwellers seeing scraggly frail men with pick-axes roaming the grounds. Others have heard screams and noises that made their skin crawl. A few more modern deaths and disappearances were also attributed to the supposed supernatural phenomena lurking within the palm trees. The engulfing ocean breeze that typically comforts, has a much more eerie feel at MacKenzie.

This is my story of strange and unexplained occurrences when I camped there in 2010.


Three friends and myself lugged camping gear from our van down the sloping coast until we were just about at sea level. Through the thick coconut forest, we strolled, eager to get settled in. I was lost in the geographical haze of the beautiful coastline. The symmetry of the waves and sun and trees was enough to make you forget there was a whole world out there.

Eventually, we unpacked, set up our tents, and nestled within the forest. Nothing but the sound of crashing waves and swaying trees surrounded us. Stomachs rumbled as the sun started to recede, so we went to gather kindling for a fire. Old pieces of palm fronds littered the ground with some other hunks of bark, but not the best fire materials.

I started to dig through the cooler to take out some Portuguese sausages when I heard a loud crack. Before I knew it, a palm frond came falling towards the earth and smashed over my back. The recently deceased limb couldn’t have landed more square across my back.

My friend Jake witnessed it and was just as shocked as me. From a good twenty-feet high this thing came plummeting. The base of it where it connects to the tree was nearly rock-solid, and had it come down at a different angle, it could’ve knocked me clean out or worse. Luckily it hardly hurt at all. It was a sign of some sort. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the strange happenings.

trees and camp

My other friend Dan was in sandals and decided to switch to his shoes that were sitting around a nearby tree. It took him a little while to find where he’d put them, but when he took off his sandals to slip on his shoes, he got a vicious surprise. We heard a piercing yelp as he hopped around on one leg.

We immediately ran over to investigate with our lights. Out of his shoe slithered a five or six-inch bright blue centipede. We all stood staring as it disappeared into the ground. It left a distinct looking vampire bite on his ankle. It began to puff up and turn a hazy purple. An uneasy feeling swept over all of us as night fell.


Shortly after hanging around the fire, we decided to cash in for the night. I was sleeping in the same tent as Dan. When I got into the tent I did a thorough investigating under the sleeping bags and made sure there’d be no fifty-leg surprises in the night. Dan was already half-asleep while I read for a bit.

Although my body was worn, my mind wasn’t quite on pace. Just when I thought I might be drifting, I heard something right outside of the tent. Something crept around and it wasn’t a human. Apparently, none of us thought twice about the trash and dirty dishes left scattered around.

post tsunami

There were definitely some orange rinds and banana peels in a tight radius. I could hear sniffing and bags being rustled. I was too stiff and nervous to make any words to get Dan’s attention. I tried kicking his legs, but he was deep in a lumberjack’s sleep. I could hear the footsteps make its way around my head. I didn’t blink an eye.

I just imagined a wild boar plowing into my head, ripping open the tent, and squealing its war cries while it ravaged me to a pulp. Nothing but a paper-thin polyester separated me from whatever monster or ghost lurked inches away. It had to be a boar. Hell, maybe even a ghost boar. It didn’t seem to be light on its feet like a dog, so I ruled that out.

I sensed something much different. I waited for a grunt but never distinguished one. My heart was beating fast and I pulled my sleeping bag over my head. Eventually, its footsteps became softer and softer until it vanished into the night. MacKenzie State Park truly lived up to its spooky lore.

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Written by Paul Howard

Paul Howard is a writer and musician living in Nashville, Tennessee. He's originally from Geneva, New York. He's traversed much of the United States in the past seven years which has heavily inspired his writing. He recently published his debut book, Vagrants in Paradise, which chronicles his time spent volunteering on organic farms and the misadventures in between on the Big Island of Hawaii. You can purchase it on Amazon today.

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