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AUSTIN'S HAWAIIAN WEEKLY.
HERMIT OF THE DEATH CAVE.
A Story of Skeletons.
BY FRANKLIN AUSTIN.
"You don't mean to tell me, your
Majesty, that you actually believe in
"T am perfectly sure that ghosts exist,"
said his Majesty, "because I have seen
them myself. We all have an astral body
which, after death, may return to earth
with power to make itselt visible. Further
more, I am of the opinion that this astral
bod' can, under certain circumstances,
rehabilitate the skeleton of their former
selves and temporarily bring the dead to
life. Our Hawaiian philosophy does not go
thus far in its reasoning, perhaps, yet in
the past, after death, the ancient Hawaii
ans waited before burying their dead until
the body became so decomposed that all
the bones could be easihy extracted. The
bones were then buried in caves and laid
out systematically upon shelves or ledges
in the caves. Why did they do this? I
can assure you that I have witnessed the
phenomenon of the astral body taking
possession of the( bones of their former
selves and appearing again as though in
"Such a phenomena is impossible, your
Majestj'; perfectly inconceivable."
This colloquy took place in the early
eighties in the King's boathouse between
King Kalakaua and Ernest Greenwood, a
wealthy young New Yorker, who was
traveling around the world. He had come
to Hawaii armed with a letter of introduc
tion to the King from a prominent naval
officer. The King had entertained him at
a formal dinner at the Palace, and was
now giving him a taste of "high jinks" at
the boathouse, where only Bohemianism
There was champagne galore and at
intervals the King's dancing girls gave an
exhibition of the hula-hula before the as
sembled guests in the large and elegantly
decorated hall. The girls had just retired
and the quintette had begun to play an
Hawaiian air in the interval, when the fore
going conversation attracted the attention
of the "boj's," as his Majesty's immediate
circle were familiarly called.
"If you are willing to go to Hawaii (the
steamer sails tomorrow at 12 o'clock) and
investigate this matter for yourself; I will
wager a hundred dollars that you will re
turn convinced of the existence of ghosts.
I will give you a letter of introduction to an
old kahuna who has somehow learned to
speak fair English, and is generally known
as ' The Kahuna ' or ' Hermit of the Death
Cave.' The trip will take nearly two
weeks and I command that this same' party
shall be present here two weeks from to
night to hear the story of your adven
tures," said the King.
" It is a go," assured Greenwood, laugh
ing. " I'll take the wager and be off to
morrow. There is my hand on it." And
after several more bottles of wine and more
dancing the party broke up to meet again
at the appointed time.
Two weeks later Greenwood was the
center of attraction at the boathouse. With
Ihe circle drawn up around him lie related
the thrilling story of his adventures, which
was as follows:
" I proceeded at once to Hilo as your
Majesty directed and as soon as possi
ble sought out the people your Majesty
had directed to furnish me with saddle
horse and guide, and the next morning we
started for Puna, the land of caves and
cocoanuts. Except for the grand and pic
turesque tropical forest through which the
trail wound for nearly half the distance, the
journey was a tedious one. About 3 o'clock
in the afternoon, my native guide stopped
and surveyed the country around with his
eye, then plunged suddenly into a blind
trail, hidden by ferns and bushes nearly
as high as our heads, that led in the direc
tion of the mountains. After about half an
hour's ride, over the rockiest trail I ever
saw, we came to a bluff or precipice about
fifty feet high; there the trail turned to the
left, winding along at the foot of the hills.
In a few minutes we sighted a green spot
in the rocky desert, with a primitive hut
built close up to the precipice, with one end
of it abutting the wall of rock. Here
my guide again paused and with abject ter
ror depicted on every feature of his coun
tenance, he silently pointed to the hut, then
wheeling his horse started down the trail
we had just come over, like a scared wolf.
I would not have supposed a man could
ride a horse over that rocky trail at full
speed with safety to life and limb had it not
been that late that night I accomplished
that same feat and still live.
" I must confess that the sudden terror
of my guide, at only the sight of the hut in
this lonely spot, somewhat disconcerted me
and I felt like following him. But I was
determined to solve the mystery, and pull
ing myself together trotted leisurely clown
the incline into the hollow, or meadow, and
went boldly up to the hut. As I approached
an old man with white hair and whiskers
came out to meet me. He was entirely de
void of clothing, vith the exception of a
breech clout. His skin was dark-brown
and shone like polished ebony, only not so
dark. He was tall, erect and athletic, and
carried himself with extraordinary dignity.
The only thing about him that indicated age
was his white hair and whiskers and wrink
les under his eyes and around his knees.
As he approached he seemed to tower above
me like a giant. His eyes were riveted
upon me suspiciously, and he said in the
most scathing tones, 'Ka! he haoli!' ijt
is only a white mam.
" lie had such a commanding presence,
and he looked at me in such . way that 1
almost felt terrified. When I handed him
your Majesty's letter, a broad smile came
over his f.ice after its perns 1. In fact, an
expression of gre.it satisfaction overspread
his countenance, and I was very hospitably
invited to enter, lie took charge of my
"While my weird host unsaddled my horse
and staked him out on the lawn, I entered
the hut. The sight that met my eyes made
me shudder from head to foot.
" Now, gentlemen, remember th it I have
taken a course of medicine, and if my
father had not died and left me a fortune I
might now have been a very ordinary
country doctor; and yet, gentlemen, I
shuddered when I entered that room. It
seemed as if the room was frescoed and
upholstered with skulls and human bones.
There were human skulls everywhere. In
one corner, on a little shelf, was a particu
larly large skull, in which a candle burned
and the light streamed from its gaunt eye
holes in a most uncomfortable way.
I surmised, very correctly, that this was
the mystic shrine where the Hermit wor
shipped. But the horror was completed
when, in the other corner, I discovered a
skeleton, arm and hand protruding from
under the rude bed. Upon further investi
gation 1 found that the bed, consisting of
mats, was made upon a pile of human
bones. In what terrible company to sleep,
live and have one's being! I shuddered
again at the thought. My ancient host
came in and I found it necessary to pull
myself together. Without taking any notice
of me, he walked over to the corner and
made three salaams before the grinning
skull, muttering an unintelligible incanta
tion. " 'Skull of my most famous ancestor,'
lie said, ' I always keep him illuminated.
His eyes thus seem to stream forth their
old-time fire, especially at night.' Sitting
down on the pile of bones that constituted
his bed, he motioned me to a seat on a big
stone in the back of the hut.
" 'Those are also bones of your ancestors
I suppose,' 1 said, pointing to a pile of
bones he was sitting on.
" 'No, but all friends of the family. I like
to have my friends about me, especially at
night. 1 sleep better. Well I must catch
a chicken and cook you some supper.'
"While he went to catch the chicken I
sought the open air. I felt depressed.
Every few moments a nameless terror
would seize me and I wanted to run away
as fast as my legs could carry me. But I
had made up my mind to see the exhibition
in the death cave if I died for it, and resist
ed the inclination.
"The shades of night were creeping over
the vast expanse of lava that stretched to
the sea, by the time the chicken was cook
ed. Mine host brought out a finely woven
mat for a table cloth and there being no
table in the hut, placed it on the floor, and
inviting me to sit cross-legged on the rock
floor, served the chicken, some hard-tack
and poi. A melancholy light streamed into
the room from the eyeholes, nose and
grinning teeth of the skull in the corner.
It served in some measure to dispel the
darkness of the room, but it wasn't a
"'We must have a little more light I
think,' said mine host, and to my horror
he began taking down the skulls fastened
to the walls and lighting little candles inside
of them. The room was now well-lighted,
to be sure, but it was not a light that was
particularly soothing to the nerves. I felt
like sere. ming. Having finished this duty,
my ancient host sat down cross-legged on
the floor, -ind began to devour the chicken
"The chicken was good, well cooked
and I was very hungry, but somehow I
could not eat with any degree of comfort.
At every little noise I would start and look
around with a nameless fear, as if I ex
pected to see some phantom, only to meet
the glaring eyes of a grinning skull. All
the skulls seemed suddenly to have come
" How 1 ever passed the hours until mid-
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