It was somewhat bizarre to see Halloween decorations sprouting throughout the island. It isn't cold or snowy, and the transplanting of this holiday with its European origins seems... well, odd. But transplanted it is, and Hawaiians seem to go after Halloween decorations with a creative and colorful vengeance.

Maybe it's not so odd—ancestors—and ghost stories are important in Hawaiian culture. The spiritual link to the past—and the place is woven into the very fabric of traditional Hawaiian life. Ancient Hawaiians (and to some extent Hawaiians today) were intimately linked to nature. They spoke with spirits of their ancestors, the elements, and the gods of the earth. And these spirits can talk back. They may be an ancestor guiding you on your way, a god testing you, a hungry apparition wanting to be fed or a hoard of ghosts haunting a new building.

Although Hawaiian ghost stories may feature such uniquely Hawaiian elements as helpful unseen old Hawaiian women murmuring in the old tongue, or violent warriors shaking cars blocking their traditional path, they also feature the women who disappear from cars or roadsides, sounds and rattles and disappearing food--many of the stories sound very much like ghosts stories from other places.

More Ghost Stories . . .

The Hawaiian ghost stories floating around may be familiarly ficticious, but as always there is at least one person who will swear it really happened. And in our case you have four. The story you are about to read is entirely true--we swear!

We were in a last minute rush, as usual, to complete the list of chores set out before us in time to catch our plane. We piled our mountain of stuff into the back of the USS Discovery and with the force of three people managed to latch the trunk closed. Some quick goodbyes, and we were off.

The drive into Hilo was about 45 minutes long, on a roller-coaster of a road along the ocean that plows through layers of old lava. A plume of steam billows up as fresh lava meets the sea. The road out here is far from everything. It runs from the small cluster of houses into Hilo with barely any interuption. And yet as we came up over one of the small hills there was a hitch hiker, out of no where, in the middle of no where.

She was dressed in a long turquoise dress that fluttered around at her feet and she had long blonde hair. Her eyes were an intense sea green and they almost popped out of her head. Out of all the hitch hikers we had seen in our two week stay, she was the first one we considered picking up. Something about her . . . however, even the USS Discovery couldn't hold all of us. So we waved "I'm sorry" and cruised by.

Now as our local Hawaiian friend tells it, our hitch hiker was most likely Pele. Many locals have seen her hitch hiking by the side of the ocean, usually at night, but matching our description. They say it is dangerous not to offer her a ride - and one should never mess with Pele.

So if for some reason along our travels we are mysteriously engulfed in flame - you will all know why.

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