Halloween in Hawaiʻi is pretty much the same as it is on the continent — it’s just that we can probably wear skimpier costumes and not have to worry about freezing our masks off. Fall temps in Waikīkī usually means that no one will blink if a few sexy mermaids, sexy nuns, and sexy cops all walk into a bar together. I think the only real difference is that the people of Hawaiʻi tend to be much more superstitious than truly fearful about things that go bump in the night. Traditionally Hawaiians believe that spirits come to warn and protect, rather than to scare or terrorize.
So I always love when “Hawaii Five-0” chooses to focus their annual Heleuī episode on the far more interesting stories that shape Hawaiian superstition and local legend — and this year they did not disappoint.
I have to admit, from the previews, I thought that this week’s episode “Ka Hale Hoʻokauweli,” (“House of Horrors” — “hale” means house, and “hoʻokauweli” means “horror, as stories or movies”), was going to focus on more terror and gore than the kind of supernatural spookiness that saturates our islands. I also loved that it was “the boys” — McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), Danno (Scott Caan), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Lou (Chi McBride) who caught the Haunted House case. They are always fun to watch — especially when there’s a spooky story to torture logical Danno, and opportunity to interact with Max (Masi Oka). While the secondary plot line with Kono (Grace Park) and Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) was definitely not my favorite choice in the Halloween candy bowl, it at least helped to add a bit of action to the episode.
Really, I think I am just happy that the episode took one of my favorite local ghost stories and turned it into cool case. I liked it so much, I will even forgive writers David Wolkove and Matt Wheeler for the very non-Hawaiian story of a “death cult” hidden in the rainforests of Oʻahu. I definitely gave them props for using the story behind the most famous haunted addresses in Honolulu to create the backstory for the murder case of Marjorie Webb (Jean St. James).
But I could not take seriously the Kono/Adam storyline about the newly reunited couple getting caught by a death cult. Seriously, folks, I promise you — the scariest thing that can happen to you in our rain forests might be that you get eaten alive by mosquitos. Huge mosquitos that act like vampires at a blood bank, but still — insects and a twisted ankle might be the worst that could happen to you.
I know bad things happen in Hawaiʻi, I’m not naive — but I can attest that in recent Hawaiian history, we’ve had one known serial killer, the Honolulu Strangler — who has never been caught; and one mass shooting, the Xerox murders, when Byran Uyesugi shot eight of his co-workers, killing seven. Sure, people kill each other in Hawaiʻi, and yes — our state was home to John Lennon’s assassin; let the Massie’s serve their ten year prison sentence by having tea with the governor; and gave birth to the infamous legend of Morgan’s Corner after two escapees kidnapped and murdered Mrs. Therese Wilder, a wealthy widow.
And I did appreciate how director Ron Underwood, dealt with both stories using a balanced hand. I was very glad he didn’t glamorize the terror of the death cult and treated the history behind the “haunted” house with a realistic touch. My reaction to several of the Halloween episodes of the past sometimes have caused me to want to remove my head like Jerry’s (Jorge Garcia) most excellent costume.
We’re going on six years of Halloween episodes (they didn’t do a Halloween themed episode in season one) of satanic serial killers, zombies, wanna-be Frankensteins, and horror film copycat killers. I’ve said so many times that the best Halloween episode was their first, “Ka Iwi Kapu” (“Sacred Bones”) from season two. I think I loved it the best because they used focused on our belief about what is kapu or forbidden in our culture. Just as I loved that this season’s spook meter was pegged by an actual story that I have heard about, read, researched, and investigated for years.
While the episode starts in Honolulu, 1940, the real-life story was said to have been printed in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin around 1942. I’ve seen the actual microfiched articles which were based on the only two paranormal police reports ever filed by HPD officers. I have never read the police reports, and the newspaper articles are the only hard evidence I’ve seen of the story. Besides reading the newspaper articles, I also read the late-folklorist and historian, Glen Grant’s book Obake: Ghost Stories in Hawai‘i, and talked to Grant during several of his ghost tours.
Here’s the story as I know it. Perhaps Hawaiian storyteller and legend expert, Lopaka Kapanui (who incidentally was just in “He Moho Hou” (“New Player”) as the murder victim, Akamu), could fill in some of my gaps. The article, “Police Called to Shoo Ghost From Kaimuki,” reports that police were called to investigate strange and paranormal occurrences.. Police found a mother and her children were being terrorized by a “ghost.” The “spirits first attacked [the woman’s son], then began repeated attempts to strangle his sisters.”
A 1970s newspaper article documents another HPD visit to what is assumed to be the same house. This story is about three girls who claimed that they were being terrorized by an unseen force, and when they girls asked the officers to follow them to a friends house in another part of the island, their car stopped in the middle of the street, the door burst open, and the police officers saw the one of the girls “was fighting off someone that could not be seen but who was strangling her.”
It was interesting to see the opening scene in “Hawaii Five-0” visualize the story of a mother trying to protect her children. And then the second story of the police officers arriving to help and then witnessing the unseen force terrorizing the family, which then turns on the officers. In the article from the 1970s — the police officer is grabbed by something before he radioed for help.
I loved that the ghost story then follows us back to McGarrett telling Danno the story in present day Honolulu — just as they are going to enter a new crime scene at the same house. The story of course is true in McGarrett’s mind because it was confirmed by his father, who knew the desk sergeant who was there in the 1940s when the hauntings first happened. This is how most of our ghost stories have been shared and kept alive all these years. Friend tells friend, father tells son, son tells new friend. Folklore doesn’t die when stories are continued to be told — and changed, embellished, or altered to protect the innocent.
Still the episode does a fine job in using our local ghost stories to create a real-life case that has a real ending — not a spooky one. I think that’s always what I love the most about a Halloween episode — when they use stories that are familiar and beloved by Hawaiians to create a tale that works for our Five-0 team.
I also loved the third plot line with Jerry being sent by working Daddy Danno, to babysit and entertain Charlie (Zach Sulzbach) and Gracie (Teilor Grubbs) for Halloween. Leave it to Uncle Jer to break through to a typical teenager. Poor Gracie — she’s still being punished for lying to Danno last Halloween, when she attended an epic North Shore Halloween bash. I felt so bad for her, still being punished a year later. But I did love that Jerry was so sweet with Charlie and with Grace, despite her sullen scorn. And that Grace put on her big sister costume and swooped in to save the day.
I think that’s what we all love about a Halloween episode, not that the team swoops in and saves the day, or shoos the ghosts away — but that the team is always there for each other. Max is newly married and back to help his friends — this year as John Wick, one of Keanu Reeves latest film characters. Jerry is there for Danno and his kids and helps Gracie to see what really matters. Kono and Adam work together in a scary and tough situation, and the team shows up just in time to save their friends. McG and Danno close the case — and find that there is no ghost like the past. It haunts us the most and scares us more than many of us care to ever admit.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
A bit of trivia from this week’s episode: Jean St. James, who played our murder victim, infamous psychic Marjorie Webb, is the real-life mother of Martin Starr. Fans of Five-0 would better know Starr as our friendly hacker turned app creator and millionaire, Adam ‘Toast’ Charles.
In last year’s Halloween episode “Na Pilikua Nui” (“Monsters”), Jerry dressed as Dracula in order to give blood on Halloween. While his attempt at ironic humor was lost when the Blood Bank was robbed in the episode, it did help to put a spotlight on the need to give blood. The Blood Bank of Hawaii always needs donations and a person who donates can save three lives and help supply the islands with much needed blood, plasma, and platelets. The Blood Bank says that they need 200 blood donors every day to help meet the needs of patients. That’s 200 Dracula’s showing up each day to give rather than to receive. You don’t have to dress up — but I’m sure they wouldn’t turn you away if you wore some fangs and a fancy cape. I promise. Give blood on Monday. It’s a great way to give yourself, and three others, a sweet treat.