The Mystery of the Haunted Trail by Janet Lorimer, 1989.
Brian Kelly wasn’t too excited at first when his teacher assigned his class to write letters to students at a school in Hawaii. He doesn’t really like to write, and the whole thing sounded boring, but it turned out to be pretty fun when his new pen pal, Alani, wrote back. Brian discovered that he and Alani had a lot in common, and he even got to meet Alani when his family came to California on a trip. Then, best of all, Alani’s family invited Brian to spend part of the summer with them in Hawaii!
Brian loves Hawaii from the moment he arrives. Alani’s family lives in a rural area near Kalawa. All of the families in the area raise their own vegetables and keep animals. They depend on what they earn from selling food although some of them, like Alani’s mother, who is a nurse, have other jobs as well. Alani’s father, like Alani’s grandfather, is primarily a farmer. Alani’s grandfather lives with him on land that the family has owned for generations.
Alani and his family enjoy showing Brian around their island and talking about the history of the place. Brian particularly likes the stories that Alani’s grandfather, who they call Kupuna, tells them, although some of them are frightening. At the luau that the family and their friends have to welcome Brian to Hawaii, Brian overhears people talking about the Night Marchers. They say that the Night Marchers have been seen recently and that bad things have been happening in the area, like crops dying and the nearby stream starting to dry up. Some people seem to think that it’s a sign of bad luck and that maybe they should move away from the area.
According to Kupuna, the Night Marchers are a ghostly parade of the ancestors of the people who have lived there for generations. Sometimes, it’s just ordinary people and sometimes it’s the souls of warriors. Sometimes, Hawaiian gods may even walk among them. But, when they march, any living person must either flee from them or, if that is impossible, they must lie down and hide their eyes. At the head of the Marchers is a ghostly spearman who will strike down any living person who sees them, unless that person is related to one of the Marchers themselves. They spare members of their own families. People who are struck by the spear of the Marchers appear to have died of a heart attack.
The place where the Marchers supposedly walk is an old trail that leads to a sacred place where Alani’s ancestors are buried. Brian is curious to see the place, but Alani warns him away, saying that they are not allowed to go there because it’s too dangerous. However, Brian soon sees the Marchers himself one night in Alani’s family’s fields, and the next day, their crops are dead. When Brian notices strange footprints in the fields as well, he realizes that some living people may be responsible for the awful things that have been happening in the area, but the only way he can prove it would be to explore the haunted trail himself and track the “ghosts” to their lair.
Janet Lorimer’s books are interesting because they are often a combination of mystery and ghost story. There are logical explanations and living villains who are responsible for the things that are happening to Alani’s family and their neighbors, but there is also a definite supernatural element to the story as well. Telling you where one ends and the other begins may be saying too much. It may be more fun to let you find out yourself.