Hot Rocks

Every year, thousands of tourists pass through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and many collect sand or rocks as souvenirs. And every year, thousands of people mail them back, reporting mysterious misfortunes:

  • “Please return to soil. I have been having bad luck.”
  • “Ever since we have taken items, we have had nothing but back luck and medical problems. We apologize for taking items, so we are returning same to Hawaii.”
  • “We placed the rock last fall on a cast iron chair in our garden, this spring the chair’s leg had fallen off. This is the least of the problems we have had since we have taken the rock.”
  • “I must be cursed! Please, whatever the legend, curse or folklore is, please put these rocks back on a beach for me. I do not want one more stroke of fate to push me over the edge.”

According to legend, the volcano goddess Pele punishes those who steal from her. Timothy Murray took home some sand in 1997, and his pet died, his fiancee left him, he started to drink, and the FBI arrested him in a copyright infringement case. “One minute you’re working and you’re law-abiding and you’ve got money in the bank,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The next minute you are sitting in a federal penitentiary in Miami.”

“People need something to blame their troubles on,” says local postmaster Dave Kell, who notes that much of what is sent back is not even from Hawaii. “They bring this stuff on themselves.”

What does he know? If the fire goddess is oppressing you, mail your guilty rock to this return service and they’ll wrap it in a ti leaf and return it to Pele with a propitiating orchid. Better safe than sorry.

2 thoughts on “Hot Rocks

  1. Ha! Love it!

    Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of just accepting the particular curse according to received wisdom, the afflicted felt they needed to repatriate everything? Like having them call their far-off relatives: “Look, I know it was the first you’d heard from me in a decade, but I simply must have that postcard with a closeup rear-shot of three models in bikini bottoms that reads ‘Beach Bums’!” Or having increasingly-frenzied conversations about whether all the bars of motel-sized bath soap were used in Hawai’i, or whether some were mooched to take home. Or, you know … hepatitis cultures? (“Dear Pele: If I could return all the hepatitis virions, trust me, I would.”)

  2. I thought that all you had to do was leave an offering in exchange. I seem to remember something like a splash of vodka. So these people were cheapskates.

    I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it much since the Brady Bunch episode where Greg faceplants into a reef because Bobby bought a tiki statuette.

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