Forgotten cemetery hides in plain sight

St. Ann’s Church cemetery is surrounded on three sides by Windward Mall –RICK OANIA-ELAM

Amid the usual hustle and bustle one would expect to find at a shopping center like Windward Mall sits a quiet little cemetery.

The St. Ann’s Church cemetery is the resting place of approximately 120 souls. Surrounded by fencing with a small nondescript entryway, some Kāne‘ohe residents don’t even notice it. Others are surprised when they see it for the first time.

Mall goer Danielle Yuen said it was shocking the first time she parked in front of a broken portion of the fence and laid eyes on the headstones.

“At first it seemed kind of creepy to me that it was right there in the middle of everything hiding in plain sight, but I got used to it and now it almost seems normal that it’s there,” she said.

While the cemetery may seem creepy, there are few reports of ghosts or hauntings in and around its grounds. Occasionally, a homeless man can be found sleeping there.

The cemetery and the surrounding area were originally the site of the old St Ann’s Church, which was founded in 1841 by Catholics fleeing persecution in Honolulu.

From 1829 to 1839, Catholic priests were banished from the islands by Protestants. Native Hawaiians who converted to Catholicism were also ill-treated, imprisoned, tortured and forced to go to Protestant churches. The isolated location in Kāne‘ohe offered them sanctuary.

According to the website, the land was obtained by the Catholic Church when a village chief came by requesting lamp oil.

This chief’s request had been turned down earlier by the Protestant missionaries. So when the Catholics gave the chief the lamp oil, he rewarded them with a piece of land.

The newly established church soon grew to include a school, a boarding house and eventually a cemetery. Ran by the McAbe family until the Maryknoll sisters arrived in 1927, the church and school thrived and grew to include high school classes before the school’s closure in 1969.

The church, however, remained a staple in Kāne‘ohe for decades until it was demolished in 2001 because of asbestos and relocated across the street.

The cemetery remained. Eventually, it was surrounded on three sides by the Windward Mall parking lot.

The stories of hauntings at Windward Mall are common, although not many originate from the area near the cemetery. According to mall workers, there have been reports of shadows and unexplained noises.

Kawika Walker, who works at the mall, said that he and a companion were leaving late one night when they observed a balloon slowly drifting down the parking lot.

As it came by, his friend grabbed it and pulled it into the car. Upon driving away, their car and the car radio started acting strangely. After they threw the balloon out of the car, the vehicle started to act normally again.

Although they didn’t think much of it at the time, they wondered if the balloon was the spirit of one of the children buried at the cemetery. Walker said his car has never done anything like that before or after.

Many of Walker’s coworkers have other ghost stories and sightings from around the mall, claiming that the mall was built over old Hawaiian burial sites causing unrest.

However, none of them could recall any paranormal activity in or around the cemetery. One of them, who wished to remain anonymous, even said the cemetery was a very nice place for a lunch break.


by Rick Oania-Elam, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter