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Ka Punahou

The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

The Famed Ghosts of Punahou

A view of Pauahi basement
A view of Pauahi basement

With Punahou’s rich history, it is not surprising to find that there have been countless ghost sightings over the years. This article focuses on two particularly eerie nighttime stories: the ghost of Mrs. Sybil Bingham and the night marchers. 

In the fall of 1989, Dee Romines, a former choir director, began “the long walk back from one side of the campus to his apartment located off-campus.” The sky was crystal clear and the full moon provided a well-lit path as he made his way across Middle Field. 

From the corner of his eye, Romines noticed a figure moving towards him. As he approached, the silhouette took shape, and he discerned it to be an elderly woman wearing a flowing white robe with a hood. They passed each other by the basketball courts in front of the Lily Pond, and Romines recounts that they couldn’t have been more than fifteen feet away. 

When they reached one another, he remembers thinking, “Why is this lady out walking around after midnight?” It later dawned on him that the woman he had seen was a ghost. Since then, there have been many other sightings of a similar woman, who is often referred to as the “Lady in White,” the “Lady in Grey,” and Mother Bingham. 

Most believe the commonly cited woman to be Mrs. Bingham. This is no coincidence as Mr. and Mrs. Bingham had a profound role in founding Punahou. Born in 1792, Sybil Moseley Bingham worked as a teacher for 9 years in Canandaigua, New York. Almost immediately after getting married to Hiram Bingham, they set sail to Oahu in 1820. As some of the first missionaries on Oahu, the Binghams helped develop the written Hawaiian language and translate several chapters of the Bible into Hawaiian. 

As a result of Mr. Bingham’s close relationship with Kamehameha II, Queen Ka’ahumanu “directed that roughly 244 acres of land be given to the Binghams”, according to Punahou Archives. This land is where Punahou School was built. In fact, it was Mrs. Bingham who planted the first night-blooming cereus, a now cherished symbol of our school. 

Unfortunately, she fell ill with tuberculosis and the couple returned to New England just before Punahou was established in 1841. Mrs. Bingham suffered a tragic death and never saw Punahou School, which leads many to believe her spirit still resides on our campus. 

The next story takes place over 70 years ago in Castle Hall, a girls’ dormitory at the time. Ermanie Cockett Gartley ‘48 was a junior at Punahou and attended as a boarding student. One night, Gartley and her roommate were suddenly awakened by a steady drum beat. As they listened in closely, the drum grew thunderous, and a torch light flickered through the hallway. 

All of a sudden, the girls heard a piercing scream followed by deathly silence and darkness. Eventually, Gartley and her roommate gathered their wits to venture into the hallway and found a friend, thoroughly shaken. Later, six other girls in the dormitory confirmed that they too remembered the same events. 

Ermine and others believe they might have seen night marchers (huakaʻi pō) that night. According to Hawaiian mythology, night marchers are the deadly ghosts of ancient tribal warriors. They are responsible for protecting the highest ranking chiefs and are said to frequent sacred Hawaiian grounds. Gartley heard a rumor that Castle Hall had been built on or near an ancient heiau, a Hawaiian temple. On days honoring specific Hawaiian gods, night marchers are believed to rise from their burial sites and march as a group. Perhaps the night marchers had risen from their burial underneath Castle Hall on that terrifying night. 

The legend claims that night marchers are man-sized warriors dressed in battle attire, carrying weapons, blowing conch shells or beating war drums, and carrying torches. If a person should see a night marcher, they would meet a violent death, unless they are fortunate enough to have an ancient ancestor present in the march. Gartley and her roommate were certainly lucky that night. 

Though there is no concrete evidence of these stories, regular reports of ghost sightings still occur today. Whether these stories show the existence of ghosts is yet to be seen, but they are still part of Punahou’s unique past. 

The closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the supernatural was an odd knocking in the Pauahi basement bathroom. It was early in the morning and eerily quiet. As I was washing my hands, I heard a repetitive ‘tap, tap, tap’ coming from the stalls. The knocking persisted and I became intrigued. When I checked for others in the stalls, no one else was around. Maybe it was just my imagination, or maybe not…

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    Eveyonne YassoDec 19, 2023 at 11:52 am

    My brother Mack Kalahiki worked at Punahou, he would take care the gym & drive the bus for sports. He experienced seeing her on campus & in the halls. He passed while still employed withPunahou