Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 19, 2014


The soothing ocean breeze floats above the tops of the cresting waves just outside of Waikiki and filters past its sacred sands to make its way through the narrow alley that sits between the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and The Moana.  Visitors and locals alike find comfort from the heat of the unmerciful sun as the cooling wind embraces their perspiring forms, thus causing them to evoke a sigh of exasperated relief.  Skimming above the heated pavement of Kalākaua Avenue, the natural movement of the air dances through an open hotel lobby where a young Hawaiian girl sits at a grand piano and invokes the spirit of Debussy through her rendering of “Arabesque.”

Her fingers move effortlessly across the ivory keys while each note entreats her body to slowly inhale every cascading rise and fall of the sweet movement.  The pitch seems to appear from some unheard decibel and falls slowly like a fine mist of rain or an old yellowing leaf that has seen its last days.

With almost a life of its own, the wind raises itself to become a gently turning dust devil attempting to embrace the formless sound of that beautiful, lilting music.  It seemed to ascend to a height of unbreakable joy and then sadly descended again as if it were a waterfall, emptying itself of its last few teardrops.  The effort was fruitless and heartbreaking in the same instant; all the wind could do was float the sound through the hotel halls in the hope that someone would know her pain.  Indeed, someone did.

A lone security guard sitting at her station on the opposite end of the hotel contemplated the value of a life she was slowly rebuilding after losing everything.  Drug use gifted her with many incredible spiritual visions and gave her the strength to perform amazing athletic feats. It also gifted her with the stamina to experience the undying throes of ecstasy, as she was able to make love for a period of days.  However, drug use also cost her the loss of her job, her marriage, and her children.  The court deemed that she was an unfit mother, and after a yearlong stay in a women’s facility, she was released and was now making a concerted effort to piece her life together.  Her parole officer was merciful and paired her with a true friend, a security company supervisor.  The pay was minimal, but she needed it to live an honest life.  She remained humble and stayed punctual.  During times like these, when working the graveyard shift, she found that there was too much time to think, which is largely why she kept herself busy.  However, tonight, her tasks were completed early, and she hadn’t anything more to do except remain at her station.

The hotel was decorated with many period photographs from the 1800ʻs, specifically between the years 1874 and 1899.  The nostalgia of the property only served to rekindle old memories that the security guard would rather have put away like an old forgotten song.  However, each second that she’d spent alone with nothing to do was a second that her old heartaches seeped in through the pores of her skin.  Those heartaches made her feel flush and would cause her temples to throb; all she could do to remedy such an unforgiving emotion was to fight back her tears and will herself back to reality.  Once this task was achieved, everything would go back to normal.

Glancing up toward the lobby, the security guard noticed a light breeze billowing the curtains, which aligned the walkway.  The gentle wind was coming toward her.  That current of air lifted from the tiled floor and slowly wrapped its calming coolness around her.  She found it to be unnerving at first, but a second later, she felt as if she were a child again, sitting beneath the comfort of the old monkey pod trees at Puʻiwa Park where the Kiowao rain would marry with the Kukalahale wind and bring a soothing caress of air that lulled her into a deep slumber.  It was that same feeling again as she sat at her station, only now the wind carried a companion with it that exuded the most haunting music she had ever heard.  The pure sweetness of its lilting strain beckoned her from her seat and seemed to fade out ever so slightly but left enough of itself that, by pure curiosity, the hotel guard had no choice but to follow.

The sound led her across the lobby, where the intoxicating aroma of the evening buffet was wasted on her sense of smell; the small chatter of guests milling about the pool also failed to capture her attention.  All she could manage was an irritable glance at anyone who seemed to be in her way. She had to find the source of the music.  This was not at all like the addiction she’d previously suffered; she did not want to get away and forget matters that troubled her mind.  She wanted to be aware, to be cognizant, to be present.  Present for whatever it was that she was going to find.  There was an answer at the end of this music. Somehow, she instinctively knew this, and at the same time, she did not want the music to end.

At the end of the walkway is a vast open space with a single grand piano that sits on a floral red carpet.  A beautiful, young Hawaiian girl, tall and slender, sits there playing the music as if she and the piano were sharing some intimate secret that was only known between the two of them.  At that moment, the security guard was overwhelmed by a peacefulness she had never known.  There was no fear as she approached the piano, where the Hawaiian girl played, and took a seat beside her.  The Hawaiian girl smiles as if there is not a care in the world that either of them should be concerned about.  Her eyes smile, too, while her hair cascades about her shoulders.  Her dress is white and fits her figure perfectly; it gathers at her slender waist and flares out just above the ankles.

“That music is beautiful,” the security guard says, “I feel safe for some reason.”

The Hawaiian girl smiles again, and as she begins to speak, the hotel guard notices her refined British accent, “Do you know about the components of a piano?”

“No,” the security guard answers.

“There is the back check,” the Hawaiian girl began, “it is a suede, leather, or felt-covered catcher which is fastened to the end of the piano key by a wire post. The back check catches and holds the piano hammer just after it has rebounded from striking the string and while the action below the hammer is preparing for another repetition of the note.”

“Alright,” the hotel guard replied. She understood nothing about pianos, but the tone of the Hawaiian girl's voice was mesmerizing, and she could not help but listen.

“The belly,” the Hawaiian girl continued, “is where the pianoʻs soundboard is located.  Included are the bridges, belly rail, dampers, plate tuning pins, and pin block.”

The Hawaiian girl went on to explain in detail every single element of the piano until she finally ended with the wire piano treble.  A normal layman would have been exasperated even midway through the details of a piano’s workings, but the security guard hung on every single word.

“Therefore, what we see before us is an exquisite grand piano, and what we hear around us are all the many efforts of different components that form a singular sound which could cause someone to be melancholy or can lift someone to the heights of ecstatic happiness.” Leaning closer to the security guard, the Hawaiian girl whispered, “Do you know how I know that your components are functioning perfectly?”

“No,” the security guard answered, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“You’re still alive; that’s how I know!” the Hawaiian girl smiled.

The security guard could not help herself; she let out a hearty laugh that seemed to absolve her of all her sins, self-imposed and otherwise.  Her tears fell without effort now.

“I forgot to ask your name,” the security guard said.


“Thank you for your music.”

“Don’t thank me,” the girl said whimsically, “Thank Debussy, it’s his composition!  And also, thank your ʻaumakua!”

“My ʻaumakua?”

“The wind, it was he who brought me to you.”

“I see,” the security guard replied, not fully understanding the statement, “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“No,” the Hawaiian girl answered, “but I will be here.”

With that, the security guard felt herself slowly fading out of consciousness, while at the same time, the Hawaiian girl slowly faded into nothing as she continued to play the piano until the very last note.

It was the hotel front desk staff that found the security guard and helped to revive her.  Upon rising, she appeared to be someone different; the darkness that followed her was gone.  She seemed to be completely alive and vibrant.  She inquired as to the whereabouts of the Hawaiian girl who played the grand piano in the lobby; however, she was informed that there was never a grand piano in the lobby, much less a Hawaiian girl playing it.

When her shift was over, she left the hotel to catch her bus to Palolo Valley on Kuhio Avenue.  Only then did she notice the statue of a young Princess just near the bus shack.

Her name's inscription caught the hotel guard’s attention, “Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu I Lunalilo Cleghorn.”

Oct 9, 2014

A Musical Interlude

Is it possible to marry music to the paranormal?  I’m not referring to the usual bombastic sounds of a church pipe organ from those old Hammer films or the screaming chorus of Exorcist II.  I’m talking about regular everyday music that we hear on the radio or on VH1 or MTV.  Could music coalesce with a story about the murder of a 17-year-old girl?

Let’s consider the story itself, the girl in question sneaks out of her Pearl City home late one night and meets a friend of hers just up the street.

They drive out to Makua on the Leeward coast where they join a party just outside of Kaneana Cave that’s already in progress.  It turns out that they are the only two females at this impromptu drinking session.  As the night progresses, the girl’s friend and one of the other boys make themselves scarce, leaving only the girl with six of the remaining boys.  The more the boys drink, the bolder they become until they are finally forcing themselves on the young girl.   She makes a run for it and disappears into the black depths of the cave across the street, the boys go after her and when they find her, they rape and murder her.

Oct 2, 2014

Na Mea Ho'okipa

It's an interesting field of work that we are in, one that concerns the paranormal and other worldly activities. Myself, being a teller of ghost stories for these many years, it was only a matter of course that I would fall in to the field of paranormal investigations but with a twist, everyone I worked with had to have some kind of proven psychic ability. Thus, came the formation of The Grant Society. As it is with my evening excursions, so to is it with this group that safety is our number one precaution, care and measure. The safety of the people in my group, whether paranormal is my number one priority.

The ghosts and spirits are already present, that's a given, but if something negative happens on my excursions, be it the misdeed of someone in the group, the result of that action falls on me because I am ultimately responsible. The Kuleana of what I do, is mine and so I am the one who pays for any kind of faux pas. This is why I make sure that prayers of permission and supplication are done before we enter into any great and important undertaking.

I say this because I worry about some tour companies and their tour guides who are fool hardly and careless when it comes to the people on their tour, the people that they are ultimately responsible for. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have heard tour guides mispronounce Hawaiian names and place names to the point where it makes me shake my head. Therefore, you can only imagine my concern when I see tour guides taking their groups into places that have posted obvious warning or kapu signs stating that said state park or trail is closed, or is dangerous, but they ignore the warning and take their group in anyway. Not only are those actions stupid but they are also disrespectful and arrogant. Case and point, the tour company on Hawai'i island who were accessing the Kaohe Homestead neighborhood in order to get a closer look at the lava flow. The tour company who will remain nameless, did so without permits,  yes, there are tons of other tour companies who are illegally doing tours like this as well but one has to take all measures to make sure that,

1) Safety first. Your people on your excursion and their overall safety are #1

2) You are allowed to go that location by permit or by agreement with the owners of said place.

3)That you respect the location you are going to without leaving any rubbish behind and adhering to all ground rules that your guide has shared.
For those of us who have grown up here in Hawai'i, especially on Hawai'i island, we know that for as much as Vulcanologists and others have always put forth their best effort to predict the flow of lava, Pele herself has always had her own mind and the lava flow has always changed course time and time again, thereby surprising everyone and establishing the fact that nature is unpredictable. Because of this, we owe Pele and other Akua like her who still exist, respect. There is no amount of money, or a tip or a favorable Yelp review that will do anyone's tour company any good if someone gets hurt really badly, or worse.
You are the mea ho'okipa, and you are ultimately responsible.

4) Safety first. NEVER, NEVER put your people in a dangerous situation, if it's driving or walking.

Oct 1, 2014

Rain Woman

Rain Woman

The parents of Meagan Ragsdale had just laid their infant daughter to rest in her upstairs bedroom on Henry Street in their Nu’uanu Valley home.  The night was long as their little one cried almost endlessly as her new teeth were coming in.  Applying Ora-Jel to Meagan’s gums finally settled her down.  Now she lay sleeping in her crib, and her parents were able to find comfort on their couch in the expansive living room to watch their favorite television show.  Herman Ragsdale kept Meagan’s baby monitor on his lap as a habit so he could be ready to attend to her needs in case she awoke late at night crying.  Carolyn Ragsdale took a deep breath, settled her head on her husband's shoulder, and was not really paying attention to anything; she was just relieved that she could finally sit somewhere, anywhere. 

At that moment, the side room door next to the kitchen opened, and Carolyn’s grandmother walked into the living room where Herman and Carolyn were sitting.

“I heard the baby crying. Is she okay?” the grandmother asked.

“She’s fine Ba-chan; she was teething, but we put Ora-Jel; she’s sleeping now,” Carolyn replied.

“I don’t know why you put her in the upstairs room; better you put her in the room with me so I can watch her, easier like that, you know.  Plus, I’m too old to walk up those steps; what if something happens?” the grandmother replied.

“Ba-chan,” Herman began, “Our room is right across the hallway from Meagan’s room.  If anything happens, Carolyn and I are close by.’

“Pfffhhhttt!” Grandmother scoffed, “Young people nowadays have all the answers but don’t know how to dig a hole in the ground.  They just look at the shovel trying to figure out which end goes in the dirt.  That’s what happens when you think you know everything!”

The grandmother returned to her bedroom and locked the door behind her.

“That woman can be insufferable sometimes,” Herman sighed.

“That insufferable woman helped us by this house,” Carolyn replied.

“With the condition that she lives with us so that she can be close to her great-granddaughter.  Don’t forget that part!” Herman reminded his wife.

“A small price to pay.  Most people in Hawai’i could never afford a place like we have.  We have to count our blessings,” Carolyn said as she let out a small yawn.

Herman and Carolyn fell asleep while the random infomercial on Channel 2 droned on into late hours.  At some point, Meagan’s cries crackled over the baby monitor and startled her parents awake.  It was not the normal cry that her parents were used to.  In the next second the infant let out a horrific scream, and then there was a sudden, uneasy silence. Herman was awake in no time and bounded the stairs while Carolyn tried her best to keep up with him; she watched the light in Meagan’s room come on as her husband dashed in through the open door. A second later she heard Herman scream, “Nooooo….!!!”
The scream was followed by a sudden loud thud. Running into the room now, Carolyn found Herman on the floor trying to regain his breathing; the only window in the space was wide open, and Meagan’s crib was empty, but the baby’s blanket and mattress were soaked with water, so too was the carpet around the crib.

“Where’s Meagan?” Carolyn shrieked at her husband.

“The woman,” Herman babbled, “the woman took her.”

After hearing all the commotion the grandmother now stood at the bottom of the stairs and screamed out to her granddaughter,

“Carolyn!  Carolyn, what happened?  Carolyn!  Answer me, Carolyn!”

The woman’s granddaughter was helping her husband down the stairs very carefully, holding on to the back of his head; Herman seemed dizzy and off balance.

“What happened?  Why is Herman all wet?  Where’s the baby?  Is Meagan alright?” the grandmother demanded.

Struggling to lay Herman on the couch, Carolyn said, “Megan is gone Ba-chan, we heard her screaming over the baby monitor, and then it stopped suddenly.  Call the police!  Some old Japanese woman had Meagan in her arms, and she was climbing out of the window with her.  Herman went to stop the old woman, and he claims that she knocked him across the room.  I have to call the police; the woman could be crazy and try to harm the baby!”

Carolyn was near hysterics herself, but her grandmother calmed her down, “But how did Herman get so soaking wet?”

“He was babbling something about the rain falling only on the woman and nowhere else, it must have been raining outside, and that crazy woman let the rain in when she snuck through the window,” Carolyn said, “You go wait in the room Ba-chan, I have to call the police.” 

“Herman, you’re going to have to sit up straight and stay awake okay?  The police are on their way; when they get here tell them everything that happened,” Carolyn instructed. She turned her head a minute earlier, just in time to see the front door wide open. Glancing quickly into her grandmother's room, she saw that it was empty.

Seeing his wife grab her purse and put on her sweater, he asked her, “Where are you going?”

“Bah-chan just walked out of the house; I have to go find her...and Meagan!”

Before Herman could protest, Carolyn was out the door.


On a clear and calm night when the moon was nearly a sliver as it sat in the dark heavens overlooking the plantation town of Waialua, Kumi Hirohito and her sister Mami slept in their bedrooms with the window open while a soft wind rolled in from the ocean and gently filled their space with a comforting coolness.  As one walked in, one would see that Kumi’s bed was fixed in the corner of the room, which was just on the right side of the door.  Mami’s bed was next to the window. She awoke one morning to find a note from her husband on her pillow; they had only been married for one year.


    This is not for me.  It’s not what I imagined.     



At the time when Mami discovered her husband’s note, she was already four months pregnant with their child.  Tetsuo’s departure alone broke Mami’s heart, but one day, when Mami, Kumi, and their parents took a long drive to Chinatown in search of a particular kind of herb, they saw Tetsuo crossing the road at Hotel and River Street with another woman in his arms. Mami ran after her husband screaming out his name; when she finally caught up to Tetsuo she latched on to him and was completely hysterical, “Tetsuo!  How can you do this?  How can you leave our unborn child and me?  Did you leave us for this whore?  Did you?!  Did you, Tetsuo!?”

Claiming ignorance to his new girlfriend, Tetsuo threw Mami to the pavement and walked off, “Ku-so!  You wrinkled my shirt, crazy bitch!”

It was too much for Mami’s father, Masa, to take.  He grabbed Tetsuo and spun him around, and, with one punch, he broke Tetsuo’s nose.  On the drive back to Waialua, Mami was in a lot of pain, so much so that by the time the family had finally made it back home and called the local doctor, Mami Hirothito miscarried her unborn child.  She was never the same thereafter. Mami spent most evenings sitting in her bedroom staring at the wall.  Kumi’s heart ached as she watched her sister lay in her bed in a fetal position with her back facing toward her, but no one's heart could be aching more than that of Mami herself.  

Kumi cried for her sister and prayed every evening that somehow Mami would snap out of her slump and come back from wherever her broken heart had taken her. Kumi’s eyes slowly began to close and sleep finally came to claim another one of its children. Her last conscious memory was that of the strange sound of heavy rain just outside their bedroom window coupled with the simultaneous creaking that Mami’s bed would make whenever she was restless and began to toss and turn. Kumi’s instinct was to rise from her near slumber in order to see what caused the heavy downpour that was out of its season; she was curious that way. However, the events of the long day proved to be taxing on her body and slumber would win over her waking thoughts. It was a decision that Kumi would regret for the rest of her life. 

The next morning when Kumi awoke, she found that Mami had already left.  Her bed was unmade and, as Kumi made her way into the kitchen, her parents were at the breakfast table having their meal.  Stating to her father and mother that her sister left early, Kumi discovered that her folks had been awake since four thirty in the morning and never saw Mami come out of the bedroom.  Kumi said she was going to happen by the cemetery on her way to work and see if her sister was there, but her normal spot at her child's grave was empty.  She was nowhere to be found.

During the day, neighbors would see Mami walking to the old Waialua Cemetery where she would sit at her child’s grave singing softly to herself as she slowly rocked back and forth. Later in the day, a local search party was organized and, by the end of the afternoon, the entire town of Waialua came out to look for Mami Hirohito.  Not a stone was left unturned in the small plantation town on the north shore.  When everything was called off, Mami’s father continued in vain for several more months to look for his daughter but to no avail.  The details of the days before Mami’s disappearance were given to the police, which did not seem to help. 

“Maybe your daughter needed a break?  I mean this town only reminded her of everything she’s lost.  Maybe she moved somewhere else to get away from it all,” the police officer said, “If that’s the case, she’ll probably turn up in a few months.  Keep your head up, Mr. Hirohito.”

No one dared broach the subject of what they really thought might have happened.

Maybe she took her own life so that she could be with her child in the other world? However, shortly after Mami disappeared, there were incidents of infant children who also disappeared as if they were plucked right from their homes.


The night was clear and calm in Nu’uanu, and the moon itself was a mere sliver hovering above the canopy of trees on Old Pali Road.  The late evening clouds above were not in their normal oblong shape but appeared to be taking a circular configuration as if they were forming a whirlpool.  The grandmother watched the circular cloud formation intently as it moved across the heavens; it was no longer above Old Pali Road.  Instead, it veered to the right above a long canopy of trees, which covered the length of the Nu’uanu Pali drive.  The grandmother followed and soon found herself rounding the hairpin turn fronting ‘Ilanawai.  Just as she neared Judd's trail, she stopped dead in her tracks when she heard a sound that sent chills down her spine. Meagan.  Screaming.

The grandmother’s sheer will carried her seventy-six-year-old frame as fast as it could go.  The more she heard the terrified cries of her great-granddaughter, the faster she seemed to move, but it was more than that.  There was an urgency as if time was of the essence.  Finally, she rounded the corner at the water reservoir, which made her heart sink when she saw it. It was true; her worst fear was a terrible reality.
A column of rain fell upon an old, ugly, haggard, Japanese woman wearing a worn and tattered kimono.  Torrential and unforgiving, the deluge fell upon her and nowhere else.  In her gnarled, wretched hands the horrible woman held Meagan out in front of her as if she were making a sacrificial offering to an unseen deity before partaking of the meal herself.  The meal in question is the baby.

“Mami!” the Grandmother shrieked, "Hirohito, Mami!"

“That’s not your baby, Mami!  Give her to me now!” the grandmother demanded with her outstretched hands. She stepped closer at the sight of her sister, she was much older than the last time she had seen her, but her eyes and features were still the same. The macabre figure slowly turned its head first as the rest of her twisted form followed; the eyes were fixed upon the grandmother and blinked only once.  The blue upper lip curled back to reveal blackened teeth as the graveled voice growled out the name of the old woman in front of her,


“Yes,” the now elderly sister replied, “Give me the baby Mami; she’s my great-granddaughter.  She’s not like the others you took all those years ago, she belongs to me, and you can’t have her.”

The malevolent countenance returned to the rain-soaked ghost and an evil grin replaced familial recognition, “That, I cannot do.  I must have her; I must.” 

“I know who you are,” Kumi pleaded, "I know why you became Ame-onna.  Give the baby to me and let me bring her home and I promise to take your place so that you can find peace.” 

Stepping toward her sister’s ghost, Kumi reached out and retrieved the infant from the arms of the otherworldly being before her.

“All those years ago when I heard the sudden heavy rain, I should have woken up to help save you, but I didn’t.  I was too tired, too exhausted from watching you suffer.  I needed to sleep, and I’m sorry, Mami, I’m so sorry.  Your overwhelming grief because of the loss of your unborn child made you what you are, but I’m here now.  I’m your sister; let me take your place.”


Carolyn Ragsdale searched the entirety of the dark Nu'uanu neighborhood but never found her grandmother.  It was as if she had suddenly vanished.  When she returned home, she found three police cars parked in her driveway and, upon entering her house, saw Herman surrounded by six police officers.  He had Meagan in his arms.  It turned out that Ba-chan returned with Meagan, handed her great-granddaughter to her father, and gave him a big hug and kiss before telling him that she was leaving immediately to visit her sister. 

The world was perfectly safe again but, in another day or two, Carolyn would find herself being interviewed by police.  Not just for her missing grandmother but also for her neighbor's missing child.