Some people call Lanai the “Pineapple Island.” Others call it the “Island of the Ghosts.” About 3,000 people call this Hawaiian island across the channel from Molokai and Maui “home."
While pineapples are delicious, man-eating spirits are more interesting.
According to Hawaiian mythology, Maui and Molokai chiefs believed that Lanai was home to the goddess of nightmares, Pahulu. She ruled over her akua, an army of man-eating spirits. Pahulu would invade the dreams of her victims and practice her nightmare sorcery there. Legends tell of countless brave warriors who unsuccessfully attempted to defeat Pahulu.
Her eventual vanquisher was a young Maui chief named Kaululaau, who was apparently a bit of a screw-up. He pranked one too many chiefs, and was banished to Lanai as punishment. He realized his only path to redemption ran through Pahulu: They would have to take him back if he could defeat the evil goddess.
One moonlit summer night, Kaululaau waited in a milo tree overlooking a spring. Pahulu stopped for a midnight drink. When Pahulu knelt to drink from the spring, Kaululaau dropped a heavy stone onto the unsuspecting goddess below.
Pahulu’s spirit escaped into the water, made it to the sea and possessed a nearby weke (goatfish).
Today, health officials warn people to avoid eating certain types of weke, known as nightmare weke, or weke Pahulu, caught off the coasts of Oahu, Kauai, Molokai and Maui. People who eat the weke, particularly fish caught in summer months, can suffer from hallucinations and unconsciousness, and many report recurring vivid nightmares.
Robert was in waters off Lanai when he took this photograph. “The light rays were beautiful. I wasn’t expecting to shoot this shot, but the ethereal rays behind her outlined her form so perfectly.”