• Fa'asamoa

    National Park of American Samoa

    American Samoa

The To'aga Aitu

Legends persist that spirit ghosts, or aitu,haunt the To'aga at high noon and at night.
Legends persist that spirit ghosts, or aitu, haunt the To'aga at high noon and at night.
NPS / Bryan Harry.
 

Many Samoans relate eerie and often terrifying experiences with spirit beings or aitu. Beliefs in different aitu are prevalent and seriously respected in Samoan culture.

During the NPS studies to establish the park local folk on Ofu warned national park planners not to wander down To'aga beach after sundown or at high noon. For To'aga was dangerously inhabited by aitu. Interestingly, park researchers recently encountered the following excerpt from an official Public Health Department report* describing aitu troubles encountered many years ago by U.S. Navy pharmacist's mates stationed at Ofu:

"The dispensary in the Island of Ofu is the only building belonging to the Public Health Department which has been the recipient of ghostly visitations. The site of the building erected in 1923 was Toaga, Ofu, selected because it was convenient for Ofu islanders and also for those of the neighboring island of Olosega. The two are separated by only about 100 yards of water, and it is possible to wade across at low tide.

At once the people of both islands protested, saying Toaga was well known to be the meeting place of the aitu (evil spirits) of the whole of the Manu'a Group. After the dispensary was built they refused to visit it.

One night, about 1924 (according to the story) the pharmacist's mate on duty was called to the door by someone knocking. When he opened up, nobody was to be seen. The knocking was repeated nightly for a while. One night on opening the door, he beheld the apparition of a headless man. Next day, when he was gone on a call, his wife was harassed by unseen persons who, in broad daylight, tramped noisily through the house and moved the furniture about.

Soon after, the pharmacist's mate and his wife, with two nurses, went to Ofu. They were offered a return ride that night in the longboat of a High Chief. The party set out on the four-mile journey to Toaga, leaving the nurses, who were to follow on foot next day. When the boat approached the haunted spot, a horrid sight met their eyes. On the moonlit beach a siva was in progress, and obscene, headless figures danced, led by the nurses they had just left at Ofu.

While the veracity of this story has been denied, the fact remains that before long the dispensary was torn down and moved to Ofu village. The Medical Practitioner whose duties take him past Toaga says that even today, the old women caution him not to pass by at high noon or at night."

Today, three-quarters of a century later, remnant foundations of the old To'aga dispensary are visable evidence of this old aitu story

*Government of American Samoa. Public Health Department. 1950. History of naval medical activities in Samoa. Pago Pago: pages 1-4.

Did You Know?

Underwater close up of a green sea turtle swimming

In Samoan folklore, sea turtles were believed to have the power to save fishermen lost at sea by bringing them safely to shore. The Samoan word for sea turtle, “I'a sa,” translates literally to “sacred fish,” presumably because of this ability. Sadly, sea turtles here are now endangered.