Review by Wanda Adams The Honolulu Advertiser October 26 2003
Longtime Hawaii reporter travel writer and story collector Rick Carroll who lives now in North Carolina has pulled together a couple of dozen of those shiver-up-the-spine stories about the goddess who can appear in so many guises. This one would be a nice Halloween-season read-aloud option for older children.
Review by John McDermott Pacific Business News January 9 2004
Rick Carroll a sometime Hawaii resident has come out with a new book Madame Pele True Encounters With Hawaii's Fire Goddess.
The book is a light quick read an ideal gift for less than $12.
Carroll has been majoring in the ghostly and the ghastly for the last several years and has written a series of books entitled the Best Spooky Tales. He also has been a successful lecturer dwelling on the local occult. Marriott Outrigger Waikoloa hired him as a guest speaker on Hawaii spookdom and in October he gave a paid-for talk to an audience of 300 at the Maui Community Center.
It must be said that Carroll walks to the beat of a different drum. He was a newspaperman with the San Francisco Chronicle before moving to Hawaii where he lived on the beach at Lanikai with his wife Marcie. He is a fellow member of the Society of American Travel Writers and with Marcie wrote three guidebooks about Hawaii.
His spooky tales series created audiences that he milked for their personal experiences with Pele. Out of their myriad responses he condensed the material into this new Pele book.
The local acceptance of the existence of Madame Pele varies widely. Many will scoff at the legend - but wouldnt think of taking a hunk of lava home. According to legend misfortunes often befall those who remove rocks from the lava fields. Others will swear that while they have not seen Pele personally their cousins have. Others in Carrolls book have had up-close-and-personal encounters. I dont believe in Pele but I know from experience that if you are going down a mist-shrouded road on the rim of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island your nerves tend to stand on end and you sit on the edge of the seat holding your breath.
And even though I dont believe in Madame Pele I would never bring lava rocks home with me. Shells yes. Driftwood yes. Lava rock no.
Carrolls final tale is a personal experience talking to guests at the Marriott Outrigger Waikoloa about the pile of rocks that have been returned from unfortunate souvenir hunters who had disastrous experiences. The guests wouldnt touch the rocks - wouldnt go near them. Just proves how fast one tends to believe.
One of his most incredible stories concerns the true experience of Gordon Morse a former photographer with a Honolulu daily newspaper and also a former neighbor of mine in Kailua. Morse is a sober straight-arrow individual which makes his Pele tale all the more believable.
In 1955 Kilauea split open on the south flank and the lava poured down into the community of Pahoa destroying sugar cane fields houses and roads.
The Puna Sugar Co. manager wanted to inspect the damage to his fields and hired a small Cessna. The two empty seats were taken by a volcano scientist and Morse. The pilot was just able to put the plane down between two lava flows. There was no housing in the immediate vicinity and all surrounding homes had been evacuated.
Yet when the group stepped out of the plane there was a young lady sitting at the edge of a sugar cane field. She wore a red muumuu with black markings.
She was not ready to go out with them in the plane because she said she still had work to do. The group walked away to continue their inspection and they thought the same thing - Pele! They turned around and the young woman was gone. They thoroughly inspected the surrounding area. No one. On returning from the trip they could find no one who had any familiarity with such woman.
The vignettes by Carroll cover the Big Island as well as other islands Pele is everywhere. There is a chapter on hitchhiking Peles favorite means of transportation and another on Peles rocks.
A few years ago Carroll left Lanikai and moved to one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state. But then frightened by a brush with cancer he and his wife moved to the East Coast to be near their daughter. He and Marcie bought a small bookshop in the antique fishing village of Beaufort on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
But Rick Carroll has a professional attachment to the ghosts of Hawaii and hell be back digging up more supernatural tales.
Review from Honolulu Star-Bulletin January 18 2004
In 1983 writer Rick Carroll took early retirement from the San Francisco Chronicle sold his Stinson Beach shack bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii and his destiny was set.
On Jan. 3 that year the longest continuous rift eruption in the Hawaiian Islands in more than 200 years began and Carroll had to be there.
I wanted to experience the fury of a live volcano he writes in the introduction to his latest book Madame Pele: True Encounters With Hawaii's Fire Goddess published by Bess Press.
He remembers it was a voggy Good Friday when he and wife Marcie and daughter Shannon stood on the edge of burbling Halemaumau crater.
In 1870 Mark Twain visited the volcano and thought the fire and smoke reminded him of hell but standing there surrounded by black lava covering red hot magma it all seemed to me somehow sacred not like in a church full of statues but sacred in a primal supernatural way he writes of that day. I felt the presence of an invisible power. More than once I glanced over my shoulder to see if someone Madame Pele perhaps? was there. Nobody ever was.
You might say Carrolls been searching for Pele ever since and in his quest has spoken to many who shared stories of their own about the fire goddess.
Just as hes documented the spooky stories of Hawaii in Chicken Skin True Spooky Tales of Hawaii -- since reprinted as Hawaii's Best Spooky Tales the Original -- which led to five volumes of Hawaii's Best Spooky Tales hes compiled a book of 23 short first-person accounts that all have one thing in common: an unforgettable Pele encounter.
The true stories include contributions from scientists journalists a university professor a retired judge Hawaiians kamaaina and visitors.
Carroll believes its important to preserve these stories. The spooky books are collections of oral histories of islanders. Their talk-stories long told in back yards at night are not forgotten in the morning but preserved now in print.
In the spooky books and the Pele book you find stories of old and new Hawaii -- first-person eye-witness stories -- told by many people in many voices from many points of view. Their stories amount to a growing body of evidence which points to one conclusion: Something really is going on out there.
With all due respect to Madame Pele I always wanted to do a Pele book he said if only to debunk the myth of Peles curse and to show how it really doesnt matter that people will believe what they want to believe: That something awful will happen if they take Peles rocks. Its the joy of dialectics.
Carroll was forced to contemplate another kind of curse 2 1/2 years ago after a diagnosis of terminal cancer which led to a nine-hour surgery four rounds of chemotherapy and 45 blasts of radiation.
I am still here and writing finishing a new book Huahine Island of the Lost Canoe a true-life mystery about Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto and the only relic Polynesian voyaging canoe unearthed in the South Seas.
He divides his time between Nuuanu and the Victorian seaport of Beaufort N.C. where he lives near his daughter son-in-law and two grandsons. We put him through the old Q & A:
Question: Where do you think your fascination with ghosts/supernatural/inexplicable come from?
Answer: I suppose it all began in church the cathedrals of the Archdiocese of San Francisco where as a 10-year-old Catholic altar boy I watched as priests turned wine into the blood of Christ before my eyes every Sunday on the altar. The great mysteries of the church the Immaculate Conception the Transubstantiation the Resurrection -- all that mystified and still baffles me. As I grew older I came to question my own beliefs and faith and the beliefs and faith of others and decided that whatever you believe no matter how supernatural or inexplicable or off the wall its OK.
Q: Is this fascination with the mysterious related to your calling as a journalist and wanting to understand the truth of things does the unexplained torment you?
A: The search for truth too often is a fools errand. Nobody really wants to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It would be too dispiriting. As a journalist I sought the truth according to whoever I happened to quote. Thats not always the truth.
Truth I think is something that on its face is apparent to all. Its what people already know in their heart and believe is true. In a way that brings us back to faith what gets you through the night.
I mean doesnt everyone want to believe that when you die your spirit lives on and there is life after death? And even though all hope is in favor all evidence is to the contrary. Thats a paraphrase of Robertson Davies the Canadian man of letters one of my favorite authors. He died in 1995 so by now he knows the truth of that. Funny we havent heard from him lately. I like what Kiana Douglas wrote in Shark Dialogues: Who always need da truth? Sometime we just need stay sane ...
Q: So there certain unknowable things that should stay that way?
A: When we solve a puzzle its broken. While secrets are meant to be shared certain unknowable things should stay unknown if only to remain wonderful.
Have you ever considered pursuing ghosts and spirits ghost-buster style with infrared sensors that sort of gadgetry?
A: No way. I see no need. The spirits surround us at all times and if they truly are the dearly departed of our loved ones our family and friends then what is there to fear or pursue? Except golden memories. Better to embrace the spirits since in the end we all become spirits if you believe that.
Q: Are you afraid of such things at all?
A: Spirits? No. Not night marchers nor Madame Pele nor even my own death. I am afraid of one thing: that when I die there will be only total darkness. Nothing more. Nada mas. Just dark silence forever.
Review by Bill Taylor Hawaii Island Journal January 1 2004
I dont need to say a lot about this book other than buy it - its great and really fun to read. Ah well one other thing maybe. Dont read it on one of Snoopys dark and stormy nights because some of the stories are really chicken skin kine. Carroll has collected 23 fantastic stories about Pele involved in all kinds of situations. Just a sample: a visitor in the Volcano House Hotel goes to the restroom while her husband waits in the hallway just outside. She hears somebody come in and sees a tall woman with long black hair in a white dress standing at the sink. Upon leaving the restroom the visitor sees a picture of Pele on the wall and asks her husband if she is the owner of the hotel because she was in the restroom. Her husband says nobody went into the restroom except for you. Hmm?so after you have read the other 22 stories and you still dont believe in Madame Pele den you lolo crazy brah!
Review by Joseph W. Bean Maui Weekly May 20 2004
The author of this delightful book of Pele stories calls himself a collector of True Encounters with Hawaii's Fire Goddess rather than an author. OK. We get it. He didnt make up the stories. But his storytelling style and the wink-wink do you believe that? attitude make the book a joy to read. Like a chocoholic with a Whitman sampler I had to gulp it all down in one sitting.
The people who tell their stories of seeing and interacting with the goddess of the volcano are given individual credit for their tales. This just heightens the documentary feeling because it means that each story can be told in absolute seriousness complete with all the tingling and awe experienced by the original storyteller. But there is enough of Carrolls voice here-or more precisely his wile-to leave the reader squinting and squirming.
Its hard to give you an example of Carrolls spooky-story styling because the examples just dont work out of context. Trust me. If you like spooky stories at all youll love the way Carroll does them here and in his other books.
Madame Pele ends with one of six stories admittedly by Carroll. One Night in Peles Garden of Woe is a possibly true reminiscence of time spent in a rock garden created of rocks that have been taken away from Hawaii then sent back to stop the bad luck that pursues the taker. On the night in question a Halloween Carroll is on the volcano at Kilauea to tell spooky stories. In the classic Carroll way he turns the rocks and the curses on them into the main characters of his tale twisting his assurance that there is no curse just enough that no one will touch the rocks. In the end hes urging his listeners to take rocks even to take them just for one night. There are no takers.
That story will leave you shaking your head and maybe wondering whether it is even completely safe to look at any rock anywhere in Hawaii. And there in the heightened awareness of everything around us is the real value of all stories of ghosts and gods. This book is an excellent example of how that works.
Pele is here on every page-as a beautiful woman as a very chilling ghost as a force of nature and as the fiery lava itself-and the reading is good.
Review by Betsy Hogan Reviewers Bookwatch January 1 2005
Madame Pele: True Encounters with Hawaii's Fire Goddess is an anthology of personal testimonies from twenty-three authors concerning Hawaii's legendary fire goddess. Peles form changes in response to the perspectives of those who claim to have seen her and it is left to the reader to sort through myth exaggeration legend and reality in this marvelous and exciting anthology. Truly fun to read for the thrill of recounting modern-day testimony of meeting a goddess Madame Pele is an excellent addition to folklore and fable shelves.