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Article: The Bizarre Mystery Monsters of Hawaii, Part I

When picturing the islands of Hawaii, the first image one may have is of a tropical island paradise, perfect for a getaway from the stresses of daily life, where people can enjoy the beaches, azure waters, impressive volcanic splendor, magnificent scenery, and warm tropical weather. This is certainly the image of Hawaii that most people undoubtedly have. Yet this is a land where mystery runs deep. Here we have folklore, legend, and tales of creatures roaming the jungles that are just as strange as any other mysterious monster of the world. As weird as it may seem, the Hawaiian islands seemingly hold a plethora of bizarre cryptozoological mysteries that have continued to elude us, and which show that sometimes appearances are not what they seem. Although this volcanic archipelago, comprised of hundreds of islands scattered over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) is home to a wide variety of endemic wildlife, mostly birds, there seem to be things allegedly living on and around the islands which by all means should not be here, and which baffle those who have seen them. Out beyond the throngs of vacationing tourists, just out past the tree line and out over the horizon from these postcard perfect locales allegedly prowl enigmatic monsters which we can only try to begin to comprehend. Let us take a tour of the bizarre mystery monsters of Hawaii.

It is often said that Bigfoot has been sighted in every state except Hawaii. However, this is not exactly totally true, and as bizarre as it may seem, there are ample reports of at least two types of hairy hominids lurking about in the wilds of Hawaii as well. Perhaps the most oft discussed of these is an alleged race of hairy dwarves known to the islanders as the Menehune. These creatures are said to be around 2 to 3 feet tall, with stout, muscular frames covered in hair, broad shoulders, a pot belly, and faces possessing long eyebrows on a protruding brow, sharp ears, and large, intelligent eyes. The Menehune are said to be nocturnal, living in caves deep within the forest during the day, and to communicate via a series of grunts and growls. They are supposedly masters of mimicry, able to even copy the language of humans, although it is unclear if they grasp the meaning behind the words. In some folkloric traditions, they are even said to be able to communicate telepathically.

One common feature attributed to the Menehune is their skills as builders, and it is said that they were proficient in constructing a wide variety of structures around the Hawaiian islands, including homes, temples, bridges, and canals, and are credited with building the Alekoko Fishpond, on Lihue near the Nawiliwili Harbor, which is the largest aquaculture site in Hawaii, as well as the Kikiaola, or the Menehune Ditch, an irrigation ditch that funnels water from the Waimea River on Kauai. The Menehune legend is so entrenched within Hawaiian folklore that many modern-day Hawaiians actually claim to be descended from these creatures, and still identify themselves as such.

Although it seems as though the Menehune must be totally mythical constructs, there have been numerous alleged sightings of the diminutive beings that have continued right up to modern times. One of the most well known such sightings was made by a group of 40 schoolchildren and their teacher, a George London, in the 1940s near the Waimea Parish property. According to the report, the group spotted several of the creatures jumping around in some trees near the property, and when they realized they were being watched the enigmatic beings silently dispersed into the wilderness and into openings that led below the church’s foundations, although no sign of any such openings, tunnels, or caves could be found with later investigations of the area.

Another interesting report relayed by a caller during an appearance by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman on Coast to Coast AM in May of 2006 described an encounter the woman had had with the creatures when a group of 20 of them passed in front of her car as she was driving along a remote road. In this case, they were described as little hairy humans, 3 feet tall and each covered in slightly different colored hair. The woman claimed to have actually hit one of the creatures and later found that there was a dent in her car and reddish hair left behind, but that she no longer had the hair for analysis. In yet another report, a man known only as Arnold S. claimed that he had been relaxing on the beach with friends on a dark night at around 11PM when the bushes nearby began to shake violently. The group of friends then dashed towards their car and noticed that a group of “little wild people” were running across the road towards them before driving off in great haste.

Homo Floresiensis

Indeed there have been many sightings of these strange creatures over the years, and there has been some debate as to over what they might be. One theory is that they may represent an actual race of dwarves or pygmies, perhaps predating the arrival of the first known Polynesian settlers of the islands. Another popular theory is that these miniature humanoids could have some relation to the Flores “Hobbits,” (Homo Floresiensis), a small race of hominids whose remains have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores and which are thought to have still existed just 12,000 or 13,000 years ago, making them contemporaries of human ancestors and suggesting the possibility that they may still live in some remote areas of the Pacific. Indeed, there are several Pacific islands where there are long traditions of sighting miniature hairy wild men, so perhaps these early hominids had a larger range than has been thought.

In addition to the tiny, dwarfish Menehune, there have also been reports from Hawaii of something more similar to the hulking mainstream image of Bigfoot. In 1973, a 35-year-old Rob Carlson reported that he had had a curious and frightening encounter while out fishing for catfish with a friend in Whitmore Village, by the Wahiawa Mountains. According to the account, the two had just finished setting up some catfish traps and were preparing to go home for the night when they heard an otherworldly howl blast forth from the surrounding wilderness, which sounded like a “wild man.” At first they thought it was a joke being played on them by their friends, but as the wailing intensified they ran away in a panic. As the two friends ran down the hill along a trail they reached a curve in the path, and it was then that the source of the alien howling made itself known. According to Carlson, a huge, 7 to 8 foot-tall hairy female creature, naked except for a cloth around the waist, lumbered into view. Carlson would describe the escalating chaos thus:

I tell you, he was coming right for us! So we turned and ran back to the river. As he stumbled down the side of the embankment, a giant woman stepped out from behind a tree. She must have been at least seven feet tall!

The friends reportedly made their way home, where they were unable to sleep with all that had happened weighing heavily on their minds. When they awoke the next morning, they allegedly went back to where their encounter had taken place to go retrieve their catfish traps, and were able to find a series of massive tracks that measured around 20 inches long. It was then that they swore to never go fishing in the area ever again. The creature in this case was decidedly more in keeping with the traditional physical description of North America’s Bigfoot, being a massive, hair covered wild man type of beast, rather than the smaller, dwarfish Menehune.

A carving of a Menehune

In a similarly strange account, a teacher from a school in the Makakilo area relayed a tale of an enormous hairy creature that was known by the locals as the Aikanaka. The creature was said to prowl the vicinity of an isolated rural, two-lane road that meandered through pineapple plantations from Wahiawa to Waialua. The giant, ape-like beast was said to be around 8 feet tall and covered with shaggy hair. It was reported as startling more than a few drivers along this lonely stretch of road, and the locals were reportedly in constant fear of it. One startled driver claimed that a large, man-like hairy beast had lurched from the underbrush to smash into their car and nearly send it tumbling end over end. Although such sightings have continued to this day, there is little in the geological history of the Hawaiian Islands that gives credence to such a monster, and it remains largely thought of as an imaginative myth.

Sharing the wilds of the Hawaiian islands is another mysterious creature said to prowl the forests here, and is another creature that would be very out of place here indeed. Since the 1980s, there have been the occasional reports from the island of Maui of a enigmatic big cat, with fawn colored hair and a long tail, described as being similar in appearance to a puma. In particular, December 2002 to June 2003 saw a series of 8 reports filed of the mystery cat lurking about in the Olinda district of Maui, leaving the authorities scratching their heads.


Although the thought of a big cat roaming the wilds of Hawaii seems absurd, authorities took it seriously enough, thinking perhaps an exotic pet had escaped and was running free. When the Hawaii Invasive Species Committee investigated one such sighting on June 9, 2003 a clump of unusual fur was found that was similar in color to what was being reported, and this was enough evidence for authorities, fearing for public safety, to attempt to capture whatever it was. A series of baited box traps were set up in the area, but these produced nothing. However, in the meantime more evidence of the mystery cat turned up right under their noses when tracks of what appeared to be a big cat, claws marks on a tree, and the partially eaten remains of some birds were found in the area where the traps had been set. Encouraged by this evidence, authorities set up more traps baited with chicken, but nothing was captured. Oddly, one of the traps was destroyed, although it is unclear if this was the doing of the enigmatic big cat.

The search for what is sometimes called the Maui Mystery Cat gained renewed interest when the remains of a mauled pet fawn were found. Worried about the potential impact on public safety, Hawaiian officials brought in an expert on big cats from Arizona by the name of Bill Van Pelt, who went about using an array of advanced methods to try and get to the bottom of the mystery, including using infrared cameras, recordings of wild cat calls blasted into the wilderness, and recordings meant to simulate those of various prey items in order to bring the cat closer. Although Van Pelt was unable to capture or film the mystery cat, more claw marks and tracks were found, which were enough to convince him that indeed some sort of big cat was likely stalking the area. More sightings came in and more tracks were found, culminating in the brutal mauling of a pet dog by some sort of wild animal. More mysterious hairs were also found and subjected to DNA analysis, but these proved to be frustratingly inconclusive. After 2003, sightings and other evidence of the mystery big cat started to fade in frequency, and it remains unclear of just what the Maui Mystery Cat was.

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