Sunday, May 1, 2005


A hairpin turn on Old Pali Road is one of the spots many call Morgan's Corner, known for its spooky stories.

Morgan’s Corner has
deadly reputation

MORGAN'S Corner is probably the spookiest place on Oahu, even though few agree on exactly where it is. It's likely more of a state of mind.

There are a hundred variations of the spooky story about Morgan's Corner, and they invariably involve a dark Pali road, a stormy night, thrashing trees, a couple stranded in a car, the disappearance of the man, a steady drip-drip-drip on the car roof, a hook stuck in the door, and police who say get out of the car and don't look back ...

No kidding, it's a real place. The prime location is where Old Pali Road doglegs over Nuuanu Stream and then straightens out again. At night it's pretty dark.

It's also where Dr. James Morgan built a villa in the 1920s. Morgan's Corner was a well-known slow-down for Kailua commuters in pre-Pali Highway days.

But where does the gruesome reputation come from?

Likely it began in 1948, when prison escapees James Majors and John Palakiko broke into the home of Morgan's neighbor Therese Wilder. They tortured and assaulted her, then trussed up and gagged the 68-year-old woman and abandoned her to the elements. She died, and Palakiko and Majors were charged with murder and swiftly found guilty.

They were sentenced to hang in September 1951. While being shackled for the long walk to the gallows, Gov. Oren Long stayed the execution. The case polarized Hawaii citizens; many felt the two men were sentenced to die only because they were not haoles.

As it turned out, Palakiko and Majors would have been the last people executed in Hawaii. They were paroled in 1963 and had minor brushes with the law afterward. Palakiko died mysteriously and Majors' whereabouts are unknown.

THERE'S ANOTHER "Morgan's Corner" at another hairpin turn on the Windward side of Old Pali Road. On April 10, 1974, a group of University of Hawaii students and folklore instructor Glen Grant drove to check it out. They took photographs looking up into the tree, and when the film was developed, the seventh frame contained a large white object. The photographer, 10 witnesses and the chemical laboratory that analyzed the image for processing errors vouched for the image's authenticity.

According to Grant, it appeared to be a body hanging from the tree, photographed from below.

Grant went on to write several well-known "chickenskin" books about Hawaii's spooky occurrences, and died a couple of years ago.

So listen carefully if you happen to stop at Morgan's Corner one dark night. Is that the muffled mutter of the wind or the lonely screams of Therese Wilder?

"X Marks the Spot" is a weekly feature documenting historic monuments and sites around Oahu. Send suggestions to xspot@starbulletin.com

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