Mystery at Moana Hotel

An aerial shot of the Moana Surfrider from the rear
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It was a case of the whodunit at the Moana Hotel, where a famous American murder mystery took place more than a century ago. Although the mystery of who killed Jane Stanford remains unsolved, it’s still a fascinating part of the hotel’s history that continues to be shared with guests today.

​Jane co-founded Stanford University, and as the wife of former California Governor Leland Stanford, became accustomed to living a lavish life. So lavish that they frequently vacationed in the Hawaiian Islands, more specifically at the Moana Hotel.

As the first hotel in Waikiki, the Moana’s simple elegance helped the couple feel right at home among the rich and famous. It boasted 75 guest rooms, a billiard room, saloon, main parlor and library. The “First Lady of Waikiki” was the happening spot in the islands and opened the gate to island tourism.

But one evening in 1905, all that lavishness seemed to dim, as the hotel became the scene of a crime. Jane had asked her personal secretary to fetch a bicarbonate of soda to help settle her stomach. Bertha Berner did as she was told, preparing the solution for Jane to drink.

In just a few hours, Jane experienced her body becoming more and more rigid. An author retells the account, “Her jaws clamped shut, her thighs opened widely, her feet twisted inwards, her fingers and thumbs clenched into tight fists…Finally, her respiration ceased.”

Stanford died from strychnine poisoning. The room where she was murdered has since been removed and is now part of an expanded hotel lobby area. But memories of that horrible event have never quite left the hotel. It continues to loom over the Moana, as it gets buried deeper into the hotel’s history with each passing year.

Source: The Mysterious Death of Jane Stanfordby Robert W.P. Cutler

Photo Courtesy: Moana Surfrider Twitter

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