Category: Ghosts

The Passenger

By Rick Carroll, excerpted from Madame Pele: True Encounters With Hawaii’s Fire Goddess


My day full of strange encounters began in Honolulu at the airport, when a security guard asked to inspect my carry-on. “Oh, I love your books,” she said, finding several spooky titles in my bag. I handed her one, and she gave me a big Mahalo (Hawaiian for “hello” and “thank you”) and waved me onward.

In line at Starbucks, a Charles Manson look-alike, one of the terminals homeless denizens, hit me up for three bucks. He wanted “a wet, double tall, French-vanilla latte.” His outrageous request made me laugh. I gave him a buck.

While waiting for my coffee I was paged repeatedly: “. . . please return to the security gate.” It turned out I’d dropped my ticket to Kona International during the security check. I ran to the gate only to find my plane was late, and then arrived at the Keahole airport to learn Budget was out of cars.

“We have a ten-passenger van,” the clerk said. “You can have it for the same price as an economy sedan.”

“It’s only me,” I said.

“It’s all we have,” the clerk said.

That’s how I came to be all alone driving an air-conditioned, ten-passenger van on the Big Island’s Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway on what felt like the hottest day of the year. My destination was Waimea School, where I’d been invited to read to children as part of the Marriott Waikoloa Outrigger’s annual spooky “talk story” event.

Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway is unique in Hawaii. The two-lane black asphalt not only runs through twenty miles of black lava landscape, it crosses over several layers of historic lava flows and under four of the island’s five volcanoes: Kohala, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. Pele, goddess of fire, land if there ever was.

I saw the hitchhiker on the highway just after leaving the airport. Since it was just me, all alone in the air-conditioned ten-passenger van, I stopped. She got in. Immediately something was wrong. The chilled van seemed warmer with her aboard.

“Where’re you going?”

“Waimea,” she said.

“Me, too. Do you live there?”

“No,” she replied, “just visiting.”

She was neither young nor old but somewhere in between. Her caramel skin, charcoal dreadlocks, bright clear eyes, and soft voice entranced me, but there was about her a distinct flammable odor. I thought for a moment the ten-passenger rental van had a gas leak.

As we crossed what looked like a bleak charcoal expanse, my fervid passenger knew and identified each and every lava flow with evident pride, as if each flow were an object of art in her private collection.

“Ka’upulehu flowed to the sea in 1801,” she said as we passed under Hualalai volcano. “It filled Kiholo Bay . . . and the 1859 Mauna Loa flow ran from nine thousand feet near the summit to the sea . . . the Kaniku flow covered Waikoloa and ran into the fishponds at Ansaeho’omalu . . . “

Her keen recitation startled me. “How do you know all this?” I asked.

“Just do,” she said. “It’s my hobby.”

We rode in silence for a mile or so. I half expected her to ask for a cigarette – a common request of Pele, the fire goddess.

“Don’t you want to ask me for a cigarette?”

“I don’t smoke,” she said, smiling

We rode in silence

“Are you sure you’re not Madame Pele?” I finally asked. I couldn’t help it.

“Oh, no,” she said. “I’m not Madame Pele.”

“How do I know?”

“Believe me.” She laughed.

“I’m not sure I do,” I said.

In misty rain, we approached Waimea town. She said good-bye and thanks at the T intersection.

“I’ll get out here,” she said at the stoplight, opening the door and jumping out. She cut across the corner gas station, walking fast. I half expected the gas pumps to burst into flames.

That never happened, but something just as startling did. As I watched her walk away, she vanished in thin air. One minute she was there, the next she was gone – li’dat! I asked the gas station attendant if he’d seen the woman in white.

“No, brah, see nothing.”

It suddenly felt real chilly inside my air-conditioned ten-passenger van.

I found the Waimea School library full of kids that Friday afternoon. The library was cool and quiet. I, by contrast, was hot and sweaty.

“Are you okay?” a librarian asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I’m not really sure,” I told her, “but I think I just gave a ride to woman who may have been Madame Pele.”

The librarian had a sympathetic smile. “I know,” she said. “It happens a lot here.”

That night at a dinner party, I asked the other guests if they had ever seen that woman hitchhiking along the Queen’s Highway or walking about their town. Now, Waimea is a very small town, and surely someone would have noticed a woman in a white dress with charcoal dreadlocks who knew a little too much about old volcanoes. Nobody ever had. At least that’s what they told me.


Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway is located in the northwestern corner of the Big Island of Hawaii.


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The Howling Ghost Of Cornwall

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Jan, or John, Tregeagle provided the country of Cornwall in south-west England with its most notorious ghost.

Tregeagle, who was chief steward to Baron Robartes at Lanhydrock, is thought to have earned the reputation of being unjust after winning a lawsuit over property in St Breock in about 1653. By the beginning of the eighteenth century he was remembered as an evil man who, among other crimes, murdered a couple to get his hands on their child’s inheritance. He is alleged to have been buried in an unmarked grave in St Breock churchyard on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Some said he had sold his soul to the devil and only managed to get himself buried in the churchyard by bribing the parson.

Most versions of the legend agree that he was summoned back from the grave when a debtor in Bodmin court, trying to get out of repaying a loan witnessed by Tregeagle, exclaimed: “If Tregeagle ever saw it, I wish to God he would come and declare it!”

In a bright flash of lightning, Tregeagle appeared, ominously warning that it would be more difficult to get rid of him than it had been to summon him. But the parsons of Bdomin cunningly decided to set him tasks that would take him an eternity to complete, thus keeping him out of mischief.

First he was asked to empty Dozmary Pool – a reputedly bottomless lake on Bodmin Moor – using a limpet shell with a hole in the bottom. He was to weave ropes of sand at Padstow and after that to clear Bareppa beach of sand. And then he was banished to Land’s End, where to this day he labors at the everlasting task of sweeping sand away from Porthcurno Cove into Mill Bay.

These are the kinds of tasks exorcists often set the ghosts of the wicked. On Goss and Bodmin Moors, and along the coast from Helston to Padstow, the roaring of the storm is said to be Jan Tregeagle howling.


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The Ghosts Of Flight 401


On the evening of Friday, December 29, 1971, Eastern Airline Flight 401 carried 176 people as it approached USA’s Miami airport. At the controls of the L-1011 jumbo jet Captain Bob Loft and Second Officer Don Repo were engaged in routine touchdown procedures when a warning light flashed on the control panel, indicating a problem with the landing gear. The plane sank lower and lower until finally it slammed into the swamps of the Florida Everglades. Rescuers arrived moments later, but 101 of the passengers and crew perished in the tragedy. Both Loft and Repo survived the initial impact, but they were seriously injured. Loft died before he could be pulled from the tangled wreckage and, just over a day later, Repo succumbed.



Eastern Airlines salvaged many parts of the stricken jet and redistributed them among similar aircraft in their fleet. And not long afterwards reports of ghostly haunting began to circulate. Most apparitions on these aircraft were observed by Eastern crew members, especially those on one particular plane of the airline’s fleet. Repo’s ghost appeared frequently, both in the cockpit and in the galley where attendants prepared meals. He seemed to be overly concerned with flight safety and on one occasion repaired a faulty oven circuit. On other occasions he pointed out a potential fire hazard and a hydraulic leak.


Ghosts of Flight 401 (Unsolved Mysteries Series) (Unsolved Mysteries (Raintree Paperback))


Loft’s ghost was also seen sitting in first class or the crew cabin. A stewardess once asked Loft why his name was not on her passenger manifest. Receiving no reply, she reported the incident to her flight captain. He recognized Loft, who immediately disappeared!



The airline management was understandably skeptical of such sightings and suggested that employees seek psychiatric counseling at the company’s expense. Eventually the stories were turned into a bestselling book, The Ghost of Flight 401, by veteran newspaper reporter John G. Fuller. And, ghosts or no ghosts, Eastern was forced to remove the salvaged parts of the ill-fated Flight 401 and take them out of active service.





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