Hawaii House

The Honolulu House

The Hawaii House is a solitary and secretive house in New Zebedee, Michigan. It is north of town about half a mile off the highway but five minutes from the Barnavelt residence [The House where Nobody Lived; 13, 21].

The exterior was described as being long with a three story-tall veranda running around it, the overhanging roof so wide that it cast everything under it in deep shade. In the center of the structure was a square-shaped tower (similar in appearance to a pagoda) yet another story tall with a curving, sharply peaked roof over an open platform at least forty feet off the ground. Its walls had been painted in shades of pale lime-green and pink and white [13].

The house was built by Bostonian Abediah Chadwick, captain of the ship that took representatives of the United States government from San Francisco to the Sandwich Islands in 1869. Chadwick spent three years on the Hawaiian Islands where he met and married the young Hawaiian princess Makalani who was less than half his age. The two later settled down in Michigan after the Civil War [22-3].

Chadwick’s house was built on the outskirts of town and “looked like the mansion of a rich Hawaiian landowner”; as such, he hired a staff of servants to run the place. Local history notes that on the night of January 19, 1876 (supposedly one year to the day that the construction of the house was completed) all the servants and Makalani died during the night inside the house.

Chadwick died that night, too, but apparently by exposure: “[he] had fled to the platform over the veranda and had barricaded himself outside. The temperature was about ten below that night, and they found him in his nightclothes, frozen solid, kneeling and leaning against the stuff he had piled against the door, as if he was trying to keep someone from bursting through” [95].

Chadwick’s relatives out east bought the house and modernized its utilities but were never successful in selling the property. Lewis Barnavelt and Rose Rita Pottinger come across the run-down house while out walking. During their initial visit Rose Rita finds arrowhead on the property [15] but encounter strange things: hearing eerie drumming coming from inside [18] and seeing a ghostly line of people marching. These events prompt the two to leave as quickly as possible and forget the encounter as best as possible.

The House where Nobody Lived

The Keller family - Ernest and Evelyn and son, David – have moved to New Zebedee and purchased the Hawaii House. Inside are wooden ship models, tarnished brass nautical instruments, and other bric-a-brac that came with the house – remnants of what Chadwick’s family left to be sold along with the house. Kellers are unaware of the history of the house but are soon kept awake by the rhythmic drumming at night and visions of the night marchers.

It is discovered that Makalani’s running off with Chadwick was resented by some, who in turn petitioned to the Hawaiian goddess, Pele. Pele sent the marchers, or Huaka’i Po, to bring the princess – or her spirit – back to the Island. While the marchers are successful releasing her spirit, most are stopped when Chadwick attacks them with an enchanted paddle embedded shark’s teeth. Out-numbered by the marchers, Chadwick retreats to the outside verandah where, after his death, his spirit is condemned to wait. When Makalani’s spirit was released, it refuses to leave with the Huaka’i Po as long as her husband’s spirit continues his watch on the house. Only after a contest of wits between Mrs. Zimmermann and Pele, and the uniting of Chadwick and Makalani’s spirits, is the house cleansed of the Huaka’i Po and the eerie drumming.


Chronologically, Lewis is first introduced to the house shortly after the destruction of the Doomsday Clock and his befriending of Rose Rita (as seen in The House with a Clock in its Walls) [HouseNL; 10].

Its roof is jokingly mentioned as a possible location for Jonathan’s telescope, where it is said it was built by a representative of the United States government to the Sandwich Islands, “which was what the Hawaiian Islands were called back then.” It is also said that locals thought the “original builder of the Hawaii House died on January night when he decided to sleep [on the roof’s verandah] and froze solid” [The Beast under the Wizard’s Bridge; 86-7]. Its unique architecture is later mentioned as being the creation of a “New Zebedee native” [The Tower at the End of the World; 47-8].

If one takes the publication order of books to equate to the chronological order of events in the overall storyline, one could ask why Lewis’ first encounter of the house (retroactively seen in The House where Nobody Lived [17-25]) didn’t jog his memory in these aforementioned stories.


'Iolani Palace (built 1844)

At the northwest corner of Michigan and Kalamazoo Avenues (and across the traffic circle from the fountain) stands one of the most unusual pieces of architecture to be seen anywhere in the United States. The Honolulu House was built in 1860 as a private residence for Judge Abner Pratt (1801-63) upon his return from the Sandwich Islands where he served as United States Minister (or ambassador) to Hawaii (1857-1859). The house is said to resemble the 'Iolani Palace, built in 1844 as the official residence of the monarch during the reigns of Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V, Lunalilo, and the first part of Kalākaua's reign.

Abner Pratt

A native of New York, Abner Pratt was chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court (1853-57) before assuming his duties in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Pratt constructed his Marshall house upon his return as an architectural blend of Italianate, Gothic, and Polynesian styles. During what would become his brief assocation with the house, Pratt went as far as serving tropical foods and wearing tropical clothing whenever possible to recall his overseas visits. He succumbed to pneumonia on March 27, 1863, after a visit to the state capital in Lansing in inclement weather. Popular legend says his death was the result of his preference to tropical-styled clothing during cold Midwestern winters. His wife had died two years prior.

The Honolulu House, as it became known, was occupied by several residents until 1951 when Harold Brooks acquired the property to protect it from being replaced by a gas station. In 1962, the Marshall Historical Society successfully raised funds needed to purchase the structure, restoring the interior walls and ceiling paintings to the splendor of the 1880s. The building is listed on the Historical American Buildings Survey and the National Register of Historic Places.

A brochure published by the Marshall Historical Society provides a colorful description of Honolulu House:

"The house displays a combination of tropical fantasy and Victorian architecture: fifteen-foot ceilings, ten-foot doors, long, open galleries with the dining room and kitchen on the ground level. A circular freestanding staircase rises from the lower level to an observation platform more than thirty feet above. The walls in the interior of the house were painted to depict scenes from the islands...Its colorful green, red, and ivory painted facade features a wide Hawaiian-style lanai (verandah) and decorative railings."

Richard Carver's Marshall notes that while back on the islands, the observation platform "would have afforded him a view of the sea...in Marshall it afforded him a view of his daughter's house directly across the street" [40].

Stemming from Marshall’s connection to Hawaii, pineapples - long known as symbols of hospitality - can be spotted around town.


  • In Hawaiian, Makalani means "one who sees the world with heavenly eyes" or "has heavenly vision". It is also the name of a variety of palm tree native to areas of Africa.
  • Abediah may be considered a derivative of Jedediah, a Hebrew word meaning “friend of God”.

  • Marshall; Richard Carver [1993]