Taking Sacred Ground
Taking Sacred Ground is a powerful true story of a young man whose carefree adventures in paradise cost him just about everything – including his freedom. It’s a first-hand tale of supernatural punishment, of the bizarre and terrifying manifestations of a curse that’s been around since ancient times. More
“If you disrespect Pele, she will kill you.”
-- University of Hawaii professor Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, in the A&E Network special Curse of the Goddess Pele
Pele didn’t kill Timothy Murray, a young, ambitious computer tech looking to relocate from Florida to the Hawaiian Islands.
She only left him wishing he were dead.
Murray, whose incredible story of preternatural payback has been cited in such publications as the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, and the recent book Super Volcano, as well as on the urban-legend website snopes.com, hit the island of Oahu in 1997 and was immediately captivated by its seductive beauty and potential for adventure. It didn’t take him long to begin exploring his surroundings – even places where the locals, and his own roommate, warned him not to go.
“I was full of testosterone, strong and carefree, and nothing intimidated me,” Murray recalls in Taking Sacred Ground, written with veteran author and journalist John Wooley. When told to stay away from ancient Polynesian grounds and their sacred rock altars, Murray couldn’t wait to hop in his kayak and explore it all for himself. Even after being haunted by the sounds of ghostly drums and chanting warriors while encamped in a lava bubble during a forbidden overnight stay on the tiny island of Moki Nui, he continued to disrespect the culture by going wherever he damn well pleased and doing whatever he wanted to do. And while he was told many times about the volcano goddess Pele and the reality of her vengeance, he still disregarded verbal and posted warnings and scooped up a big bottle of black sand to take back to Florida with him. He also collected volcanic rocks as souvenirs, in direct violation of the legend of the ancient goddess, who, it is said, sees the rocks and sand as her children, spilled from her volcanic womb.
Then, before he even reached his home, Pele struck.
“The last day I was on the island, our dog Ruby mysteriously died back in Florida,” he says. “She had cost us $1,500, plus the plane flight from the breeder’s headquarters in Texas, and she wasn’t even a year old. So I ordered an autopsy, hoping that it was something genetic and the breeder would give us a replacement puppy. Instead, the veterinarian told me he could find no reason for her passing.
“`In 20 years of doing this kind of work,’ he told me, `I’ve never seen anything like it. Her death is one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen in my career.’”
By the time Murray got that news, he had plenty more to upset him. His first night back, after a tearful and passionate reunion with his fiancée, the inexplicable chanting he’d heard during his long night on Moko Nui returned. This time, there were faces and bodies connected to the sounds – fearsome, torch-bearing warriors hovering over him, letting him know they were watching his every move.
He awakened bolt-upright that night, his fiancée at his side, assuring him everything was all right, that it was just a bad dream.
She was wrong on both counts. Everything was not all right, and that bad dream would return to him again and again, driving his fiancée out of his bed and providing the soundtrack for his living, waking, nightmare.