Kalani Hanohano, a Hawaiian himself, has researched these stories in great depth and detail. I asked him to share with us how he came about researching the akualele phenomena and what he learned. Below is a summary of key points that he provided.
WHAT DOES AKUALELE MEAN?
Simple translation from the Hawaiian, akualele means "flying god" Akua = god; lele = to fly.
WHEN DID I BECOME AWARE OF THIS PHENOMENON?
When I was a young child growing up in Hawaii the most prominent parental and cultural dictate was that a child "should be seen and not heard." Knowing fully what this meant, I made sure that I quietly sat at the feet of my elders so that I could listen intently while they discussed the many Hawaiian ghost markers, menehune sightings, kahuna practitioners, phantom hitchhikers and the hidden art of the hula and lua (Hawaiian martial arts). It was during one of these many family discussion sessions that I learned about the akualele. Like most children of a certain age, stories of the supernatural energized me.
During my early teen years (60s) my father introduced me to Fate magazine. Shortly afterward I discovered at our downtown Honolulu newsstand Ray Palmers two publications, Flying Saucers Magazine and Search Magazine.
Discovering that there were groups "out there" dedicated to solving the UFO and other paranormal mysteries galvanized me, and I began by small steps to formalize my borderline intrests. Files were built, newsclippings clipped and my personal correspondence to pen pals increased. The NICAP and APRO Bulletins became close companions, while I yearned to save enough money to subscribe to Briatian's Flying Saucer Review.
It was during this formative period (the early 1960s) that I became aware of Rily Crabb. He had at one time directed a local Hawaii UFO organization that he called the Akualele Research Group. When I discovered him (via a local radio station interview), he had already taken over the directorhsip of Meade Layne's Borderland Sciences Research Associates (California).
Although I listened to a few Hawaii radio talk show interviews with him, I never met Riley Crabb. Nor have I ever been able to obtain copies of his old Akualele Research Group Newsletter.
But one thing struck me immediately and changed the way that I dealt with the UFO topic: I knew from my own personal research that the akualele was a supernaturally generated light phenomenon produced by Kahuna sorcery. It was not a visiting craft from elsewhere in the universe as was so commonly believed in the 1950s and 60s.
While I certainly appreciated what Riley Crabb was doing by suggesting that the akualele was also a stand-in Hawaiian term for UFOs, I felt strongly that this was greatly misleading. I developed the need to make a clarification of this discrepancy. The opportunity to do this would not rear its head until the early 1980s, when I left Seattle to return to Hawai. Within 6 months of returning home I began the production of 'FULL MOON: A Report From the Islands."
WHAT IS AN AKUALELE?
The akualele are devices manufactured by Kahuna sorcery whose main function is to harm or kill another human being.
RESEARCH DURING THE 1980s
I returned to Hawaii in late 1979 after having lived for 11 years in Seattle. During my period of residence in Seattle I had the great fortune to work very closely with Bob Gribble, former fireman turned UFO investigator. Bob Gribble established one of the very first UFO organizations in the United States during the 1950s. This was before either NICAP or APRO came into the picture. A small group of Seattlites interested in the UFO mystery began to meet at Bob's home. The result was the formation of an organization that Bob called Phenomena Research. About a year or so later, just in time for the 1973 UFO flap that clobbered the USA, the National UFO Reporting Center was set up. We were then receiving clippings from 3 sources: Rod Dyke of the UFO Newsclipping Service; the later Gilbert Bernier, a long time ufologist who subscribed to a press clippping service; and Bob Gribble, who was then subscribing to Allen's Press Clipping Srvice. Today, the National UFO Reporting Center is owned and run by Peter Davenport.
As Bob Gribble's assistant, I spent many, many hours, one-on-one, discussing many aspects of the UFO phenomenon. Discussions with other members of the group, particularly Aileen Garoutté, who has known Bob Gribble for much longer than I, transformed my relationship to the UFO topic. It forced me to be far more critical of the data that I was ingesting on a daily basis, and proved to me with certainty the necessity of establishing a more functional data-base of worldwide UFO sightings.
When I returned to Hawaii in 1979, I brought with me a good deal of UFO knowledge acquired through my association with the National UFO Reporting Center.
My formal research on the akualele began almost immediately after my return to the Islands. And then, all of a sudden, something extraordinary happened. Let me tell you about it.
In 1980, I was on the hunt for akualele information. Over the years I've developed a proficiency for library research, but my search for scholarship on the akualele topic was heading nowhere fast.
One beautiful afternoon one of many in the islands I drove to the Bishop Museum. I asked the ticket taker if she would let me in free as I wanted to see the museum's book store. What happened next is absolutely true! I will swear it with my hand on the Bible, or a used copy of George Adamski's "Flying saucers Have Landed."
On entering the book store, I looked around and unconsciously reached out to a paperbound book on the shelf. I did not grasp it correctly and it fell to the floor. I could see that the book had opened to reveal an article. I bent down to pick up the book and was shocked to the core to read the following:
"THE FIREBALL IN HAWAIIAN FOLKLORE."
By William K. Kikuchi
University of Arizona, Tucson
Thus began my formal and intense inquiry into the subject of this article. A gift from the gods of synchronicity. And it happened exactly as I have described it.
Dr. Kikuchi's article became the centerpiece of the first issue of my newsletter, "Full Moon." I received permission directly from Dr. Kikuchi to reprint his article. The response to the first issue was wonderful, particularly since some of it came from those in the anthropological and transpersonal psychology fields. I also received a great response from Bob Rickard (Fortean Times) and other British readers.
The next phase of my research began when I was introduced to, and was befriended by, the late June Gutmanis, herself an author of several books on kahuna healing and ancient Hawaiian prayers. She was aware that I worked at two jobs: one as an editor for several Hawaii magazines, and the second as an on-air technician and video editor at Hawaii's Oceanic Cablevision. She noticd that I needed to get out of the city to write and collect my thoughts so she offered me her Waianae home (located in the country area of Oahu) for weekend stayovers. I seized the opportunity and accpted her offer.
June Gutmanis was72 when she died in the late 1990s. She was a noted historian who lectured to university students. She authored 4 books on Hawaiian themes. She had also authored several articles for National Geographic and Readers Digest. She was also a consultant on the movie "Hawaii."
June Gutmanis was born in Pawnee Country, Nebraska. She was a pilot during WWII and worked alongside military meteorologists.
June had no formal college degree. Just a passion for things Hawaiian. She was a Caucasion woman who had found her way home to Hawaii.
June Gutmanis was a treasure trove of information about Hawaii. And if she did not know something, she knew who did.
June was the caretaker to the late Mr. Theodore Kelsey. He was also a non-Hawaiian who had a lot of knowledge of the old Hawaiian ways.
And he spoke the Hawaiian language fluently.
June would provide care to the very aged Theodore Kelsey, and in return, Mr. Kelsey would translate Hawaiian documents or newspaper articles that would come into her possession.
(To be continued)