The prince's portrait hangs
on the building's first floor.

Workers say ghosts
dwell in state building

Many people say they feel the presence
of Prince Leiopapa and others

By Rod Ohira

Inside a 16-story downtown office building that bears his name, Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Leiopapa's spirit is restless.

Leiopapa, great-grandson of Kamehameha I and only child of Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, was 4-1/2 years old when he died in 1862, but his presence has been felt by many in the building at 235 S. Beretania St., also known as the State Office Tower.

"There are security cameras on each floor, and once I saw the image of a little baby crawling on the floor trying to stand up on a monitor," retired custodian Betty Lopes of Ewa Beach said. "I wasn't the only one who saw it.

"I've also seen the tiny footprints they talk about," she added.

Renwick "Uncle Joe" Tassill, state Capitol tour coordinator, has also seen the footprints.

"I know it was him because they were wet," Tassill said. "Leiopapa's untimely death may have had something to do with water.

"He threw a tantrum, and his father doused him with cold water," Tassill added.

"Shortly after that he became ill and died. Because his time wasn't up, I think he reappears every now and then."

Tassill and a security officer saw the footprints at the end of a first-floor hallway near the elevators.

"They were facing the wall, as if the child was looking at something," Tassill said. "That wall was where Leiopapa's picture was hanging at the time."

The captivating photo portrait of the heir to the Hawaiian throne is now displayed on the first-floor wall facing the elevators.

"When you look at the picture, his eyes follow if you move," custodian Daren Higa said. "Sometimes when I'm working and nobody is around, I get this feeling someone is watching me.

"It's kind of spooky, but it's not the kind of feeling like there's danger and you're going to get hurt," Higa added. "I've heard a lot of stories. A custodian who used to keep toys on her desk came to work one day and found the toys had been moved around, like someone had played with them."

Higa leaves candy on the frame of Leiopapa's portrait once a week. "I believe the boy's here," he says.

Young boy's singing heard

A custodian cleaning the fire escape once heard something that sounded like a young boy singing, Higa said. "He didn't see anyone, and when he yelled out 'hello,' there was no reply."

Security officers have also reportedly heard a child crying, and wet footprints were once found in the office of a state representative, Tassill said. He would not identify the representative.

Tassill, however, was present when the photo portrait of the prince, framed with a glass window, fell from the wall.

"It fell about 3 feet onto a hard floor," Tassill said. "The glass should have been broken, but it wasn't."

Disembodied footsteps

The Leiopapa building is unusual in that it has a 13th floor.

"I used to take care of the 13th and 14th floors," Lopes said.

"Once when I was cleaning the men's room on the 13th floor, the image of a bearded man appeared in the mirror.

"Another time, I went in to clean then-Lt. Gov. Cayetano's secretary's office and found all the pictures on the walls turned upside down," Lopes added. "They thought somebody was playing a practical joke, but all the inner offices are locked."

Lopes says she also heard footsteps -- "like someone is approaching from behind" -- on the 12th floor but saw no one.

"I never felt scared working there," Lopes said. "I don't think they're there to harm anyone."

A child plays with the queen

The haunting extends to the adjacent Hemmeter Building.

"I've heard all kinds of stories," said Marilyn Seely, director of the Executive Office on Aging located in the Hemmeter Building. "One woman who was vacuuming saw what looked like a child in a room. She was so scared she quit."

There are some ghostly tales across the street at the Capitol, too.

Gail Sagara, currently the office manager for Rep. Ron Menor, was working for the House sergeant-at-arms in April 1982 when her young daughter told her about a beautiful, barefooted woman she had met in the hallway.

"I was working late that night, and we were headed to the parking garage," Sagara said. "Shelley was in back of me playing with a ball, and when I turned around, she said, 'Mommy, see.'

"I didn't see anyone, but Shelley said there was a woman, dressed in black with long black hair and no shoes on, who talked to her."

Later in the week, Sagara and her daughter attended the unveiling of the Queen Liliuokalani statue at the Capitol.

"We were passing the statue, and Shelly says that's the lady she saw who played with her," Sagara said. "I first I didn't pay much attention to it, but then I remembered the night earlier in the week. I believe she really did see Queen Liliuokalani."

'Unfinished business'

Tassill recalls another encounter that occurred during Gov. George Ariyoshi's administration.

"When the doors are locked, you can't get up to the fifth floor or the executive level unless you're summoned," Tassill said. "A security guard making his rounds on the fourth floor noticed some heads bobbing on the fifth floor and went up to check.

"He talked to a group of people who said that a gentleman had invited them up to the fifth floor and that someone would meet them shortly after they got there," he added.

The visitors later identified the gentleman who invited them up from a portrait they saw.

"They pointed to Gov. Burns," Tassill said.

When asked why the late Gov. Burns would want to be at the Capitol, Tassill replied with a straight face, "Unfinished business."

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