Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jun 27, 2017

" The Hair of The Dog...."

“With eyes shining burnin’ red, dreams of you all through my head...”

 The subject of this article first surfaces in the late 1930’s on the island of Kaua’i, and later resurfaces again before World War II. There was a prevalent illness on the garden isle at that time known as the ‘Inu-gami sawarimono’ or the use of a dog spirit to possess and bring harm to others.

Jun 26, 2017

"A Word By Any Other Name..."

Since we are fast approaching the official season of Obon or Bon as it may be, I thought it would be fun to broach the subject of one of our most famous ghosts in Hawai’i, the Nopperabo, or the name for which it is commonly known, the Mujina.
The literal translation of the name Mujina, is that of a Badger which possesses shape-shifting qualities. In its natural form, the creature is said to live in mountainous areas which are far removed from human society. When taking the form of the Nopperabo, it is only for the purpose of scaring hapless human beings away from their territory, although they have taken the shape of the faceless specter, they are not Nopperabo themselves. The true Nopperabo have a talent for blending into human society but are known to ply their trade in lonely places, traditionally appearing first as a person in distress. Our island version of the Nopperabo first made its advent on a Saturday evening on May 17, 1958. The story of what was about to transpire would make the papers a year later in 1959, the reporter was a young Bob Krauss. There was a double feature playing at the old Wai’alae Drive-Inn that evening, ‘Monolith Monsters’ and ‘Love Slaves of The Amazon’ somewhere within that time frame, a young woman went to use the bathroom and noticed another female dressed in a white kimono, brushing her long black hair. The second the woman got close enough, the female in white pulled her hair back only to reveal that she had no face, only a blank orb of flesh. The scream that followed and the stories that came thereafter would propel this faceless encounter into local legend. Now, she is said to haunt a well-known shopping mall since her home was finally demolished in 1994.
Years later, I would be pleasantly surprised when Bob Krauss himself stopped by my job to bring me a copy of that very same article that he’d written all those years ago, it was quite an honor. Since we’re in the mood now, let’s also talk about a few other terms that have been thrown into our local stew of terminologies where one word has become a supernatural blanket word to represent all things ghostly. No doubt, the word we are about to discuss is more than likely derived from a ‘Chanko Nabe’ of words which originated during the plantation era here in our Archipelago.
The word is, ‘Yokai’ but we’ve come to know the word in its more watered down incarnation as, ‘Obake.’
Within the pantheon of Japanese ghosts, monsters, and demons, the Yokai is known as one that has various functions under one name, and various names which take different forms. If we are only speaking in terms of shape-shifting then this particular Yokai function would come under the category of ‘Bakemono,’ or ‘Obake.’
A Bakemono’s true form can be found within its animal incarnation such as a Kitsune, Mujina or Tanuki. Obake is commonly known to take on the forms of household objects. It was funny to come across that bit of information a few years ago, as I recalled living in a house in Waimalu as a child. The house itself although modern for its time in the 70’s, had an interior that was intrinsically Japanese. It would turn out that in less than a year, many of the household objects began to take on a life of their own. The standing lamp would spin on its bottom pedestal, the screen on the shoji doors would poke holes in themselves, and more often than not, the flute of which I was learning to play in school would play on its own, but the sound that came from it was like a Shakuhachi.

Over the decades, the word Obake has become the encompassing word in our island society to mean ghost or apparition as far Japanese supernatural terms go. However, if we are thinking of Obake in specific reference to ghosts of the Japanese culture, then the term Yurei would be more fitting. Though some of you may not be familiar with the word Yurei as you see it written now, you have certainly seen its incarnation in films and on YouTube. They are often the spectral shadows of women dressed in a white burial robe with their long black hair let down around their shoulders and face. They are bound to haunt one particular location and are resigned to said location because of unfinished business. Only when the matter in life that bound them to this earthly plane is resolved, can they pass on, at least one would hope.
This brings us back to the matter of our faceless friend who still haunts the Wai’alae, Kahala area dressed in a white kimono with long black hair. Was her appearance at the old drive-in way back in 1958 a publicity stunt that was meant to attract more clientele to the outdoor theater in order to boost revenue? Or was her appearance just a story started by a few employees who did not expect the tall tale to spread like wildfire for years to come? Think about it, we’ve just now discovered that the Yurei’s costume consists of a white burial kimono and the person wearing the outfit sports long, black, disheveled hair. The Nopperabo in its element is known to blend in with human society but only makes its presence known on dark lonely roads. Could the two beliefs have been mixed up, or did the Nopperabo simply adapt to its surroundings and suddenly decide to make its home in the women’s bathroom of an outdoor drive-in theater?
No true answer to that questions exists, neither does the old Wai’ale Drive-Inn Theater, but a nearby shopping mall does.

Jun 22, 2017

Po Kane

My cousin Keone hosted a small group of Maori's who he invited on the ghost tour out to Wai'anae. It escapes me at this moment as to what part of Aotearoa they were from, by that I mean what territory. They were a lively group and armed with a guitar, they shared their mele and haka with the guests during the dinner break. When the sun finally set that evening just at the tip of Kaena point, we piled our guests into our car and drove them out to Keawaula while Glen gathered everyone on the bus. Upon arriving, we pulled our car over just across from the parking lot of the first bathroom. The sun was setting early and I recall as we shared conversations regarding the similarities and the differences of our Hawaiian culture and that of the Maori culture. We happened to notice that a flashlight was on in the back seat of the car because it was shining directly on the window. I opened the front door and put the key in the ignition and turned the car on so that I could roll the back window down. It turns out that there wasn't a flashlight in the back seat, at that moment one of the women in the group exclaimed, "What do you suppose that is?"

We turned around to see that she pointed out toward the ocean; there skimming just above the surface of the water was a perfect round ball of light that moved ever so slowly with a tail at the end. What we had seen was its reflection on the rear window of our car, not at all a flashlight beam from the back seat. We all stood there silently as it became the only light in the pitch black of the westernmost point of 'O'ahu when suddenly it separated into small white sparks and shot directly toward the satellite tracking station up on the ridge. It dissipated the higher it got until it was completely gone. There was no noise and no wind, everything was deathly still until the reverent silence was broken by the sound of the yellow school bus, squeaking and creaking as it appeared around the corner with its blinding headlights. Glen was off the bus first and Keone followed directly behind him, they both stood to one side as the rest of the people emptied themselves out of the giant vehicle. Keone led the group to the big grassy area where he began to talk about night marchers. The Maori's took the opportunity to grab Glen and explained what we had all just witnessed. I was still standing at the car with my hula brother so I did not hear what the exchange was, but by Glen's wide-eyed facial expression, it was obvious that he was astounded. 

With the stories done at Keawaula, the next and final stop was the cave, arriving there in our vehicle we again waited for the bus to empty out. Walking across the street to cave, Keone asked me, "What happened now?'

"Akualele," I said.

"Who was it for ?" He asked.

"Not any of us," I replied. "It was just checking us out."

"Tonight is Po Kane," he said."We better finish early."

I couldn't have agreed more, we were done in less than twenty minutes and on our way. Our guests were taken back to their hotel room in Waikiki and along the way, we had merry conversations and lots of laughter. When we parted company, the eldest male in our group shook my hand and said, "If you ever get to Aotearoa, look us up. What we saw tonight was nothing compared to what I can show you in our home territory. Things will walk right up to you and give you an introduction!"

That was fifteen years ago and I never got the chance to take that gentleman up on his offer, but on those rare nights when we are taking a ghost tour out to the Wai'anae Coast, I remember that man and I remember the night that we saw a living orb as it observed us from the ocean and took off in a burst of sparkling light. Do I hope to see it again anytime soon? I'm in no rush, really I'm not.

Jun 13, 2017

The Urban Legend and Fact of Morgan's Corner

During the month of early June in 1999, Glen Grant drove me along the route of the old Ghost Hunters Bus Tour in his red Nissan Pathfinder. The route concluded just at the front of a tall gate that sectioned off an abandoned road called, “Kiona’ole”
Glen intimated to me that it was a location of which teenagers hung out and that they decided to call it, ‘Morgan’s Corner’
That raised my eye brow quickly because he and I knew very well where the real Morgan’s Corner was located. He agreed and said that the actual location isn’t a very safe place to let people off the bus to walk around. The hairpin turn on the Nu’uanu Pali Drive was also a blind turn and that there was a higher chance of liability with cars racing by all the time. And so, Kiona’ole road was the stop for the duration of the time that I did the old Ghost Hunters Bus Tour. The stories associated with the Kiona’ole road location were very compelling, it was the perfect haunted place even in broad daylight. The trees were so tall and overgrown that their branches formed a natural canopy over the road and practically muted out the sunlight.

I stopped going there once I realized that a new ghost tour began to utilize the locations in my second book, ‘The Legend of Morgan’s Corner’ and began taking people to that location and others that I had written about. In fact, one of the tour guides from the other ghost tour company mentioned that very fact to me, absentmindedly believing that I’d be happy about it.
But I digress, first let’s talk about the infamous urban legend that’s been associated with Morgan’s Corner for so long. It’s the story of the boy and girl who are parked in a car very late one night at the aforementioned spot. It’s late, and the girlfriend wants to leave, the boyfriend begrudgingly agrees and puts the key in the ignition and turns the engine over but the car won’t start. After several attempts and a peak under the hood, the young man grabs a flashlight and utters that all too familiar phrase, “You stay here, I’m going to get help. I’ll be back.”

The girl rolls up the windows and makes herself comfortable, she dozes off she is periodically awakened throughout the night by an alternate scraping and tapping sound that petrifies her. Eventually, she falls asleep but when she finally wakes up it’s because of a police officer knocking on her window motioning for her to open the door. The officer escorts her away from the car, but the girl continues to ask, “Where is my boyfriend?”
As she is about the be placed in the squad car, she catches a glimpse of a body hanging upside down from a branch of the tree under which they were parked. The body is slowly swinging back and forth and blood is dripping from its throat.

She realizes that the scrapping sound were the fingernails of the body, scraping up against the roof of the car as it slowly swung back and forth. Scrape, scrape, scrape.
The dripping sound? It was the blood coming from the slit throat of the body, cut from ear to ear. Drip, drip, drip.
It’s the boyfriend, he ventured off into the night going to look for help but never found it. Whoever killed him, brutalized his body and hung him from his feet right above the car where the girlfriend waited.

This urban legend somehow found its way to our archipelago and into the psyche of our teenage population, it's had a long shelf life since then and will be around for a while. You’ll find almost the same story in nearly every state of the union, some may vary here and there but the context of the story is always the same. Girlfriend waits, boyfriend dies. The man who used to do the ghost walk in San Francisco’s Mission district was on my tour once and told me the boyfriend and girlfriend urban legend was started in the lower bible belt area of the United States in the late 40’s and early 50’s in order to prevent young people from going out late at night and parking in dark places and as a result, having unwanted teen pregnancies. “But it could have been around longer than that,” he said.

The infamous Morgan’s Corner murder actually happened at 3939 Nu’uanu Pali Road, the former home of Mrs. Therese Wilder. The old home no longer exists and has since been replaced by a private gated community called, “Ilana Wai”
Dr. James Morgan’s house was/is located in a cul de sac on Poli Hiwa Place, just a stone's throw away from the old Wilder residence on the opposite corner. My wife and I were fortunate to have run into a woman at the ‘Iolani Palace three years ago who claimed to be the great-granddaughter of Dr. Morgan, she said that more often than not, he would grab his doctors bag and walk over to check up on Mrs. Wilder from time to time.
Unfortunately, the fate of Mrs. Therese Wilder is not a pleasant one. In 1948 the sixty-eight-year-old widow was bound and gagged in her own home by two escaped prisoners named, James Majors and John Palakiko. She died as a result of suffocation from a broken jaw and from being gagged too tightly around the neck.

Thus, throughout the decades' fact and urban legend commingled and gave way to one of the most infamously haunted locations that aren't really haunted. Well, maybe by rank amateur paranormal investigators and spur of the moment ghost hunters, but not by anything that we can truly discern as an apparition. Sure people have shared pictures that they have taken in that area and some are interesting while most are very explainable. Others have shared the disembodied voices that they have captured on their digital recorders, most are murmurings that could be anything while other alleged spirit voices turn out to be the owner of the digital recorder.

What really haunts Morgan’s Corner is people, people who are out on a thrill seeking dare with their friends, people who are searching for answers outside of themselves, people who hope that a picture or a recording or a ghost radar app will give them the proof they need for validation. I know this because the ghosts have told me.

Jun 11, 2017

The Leader of The Band

All my father knew was the struggle and hard life, so did his parents. On the plantation, everyone worked, everyone; men, women, and children. Even female Japanese migrant workers tied their children to their backs while toiling in the fields day in and day out. Dad only managed to get to the tenth grade, and that was it; after that, it was working in the cane field, driving a truck, and hoping for a good, simple life and nothing beyond that. He kept an article from a Hilo newspaper in his wallet; it was old and yellow when I was old enough to see it. It was about how my father sunk a forty-foot shot from half-court in a local league basketball game. It was a glorious moment that he would relive again and again whenever a shot of Seagram 7 would loosen him up. In his youth, he was also a Golden Gloves boxer and did quite well as part of the plantation league. But, for everything that life had given him, there was only one tool that he'd never possessed, and that was love. Of course, he loved all kinds of sports and bowling, he loved to eat Pimentos with his Portuguese bean soup, and he also loved Betty Grable. However, there seemed to be a disconnect when it came to showing love and affection to my brothers or me. There was never praise, a hug, a pat on the head, or even congratulations.
Even in those moments when we did something notable in our sports events or in Karate like myself, he would always note something negative instead. This was something that kept my older brothers at a distance, but my middle brother, it made him go out of his way to gain our father's approval.

I was never sure if he ever got that nod and kind gesture he was looking for. My father and I were complete opposites, fire and ice, sun and rain, oil and water. I recall when he first coached minor league and how it became more important to him than anything else; at least, that's the way I saw it at my young age. Rather than concern myself with baseball, I was more concerned about my friends and being part of a high school theater group.

Our only interaction came when I got a job during my senior year in high school, It wasn't the most excellent job, but I got enough out of it to go and have pizza after school or to go see a movie. All of that was short-lived, of course, when he told me that I would have to hand over my paycheck to him every two weeks. According to him, we were struggling, so out of the three hundred, some odd dollars I made, only sixty of it ended up being mine. 

Three hundred dollars was a big deal back in 1980.

 There was a natural resentment that was festering for a while, and the reason for that is because I was adopted, and he made it a point to remind me about it every chance he had. Stuff like that does a helluva lot for your self-esteem and your self-confidence.


 The nurse walks in at this point and checks his IV and his heart monitor. She's young, lively, and bubbly and talks a bit too much for my taste. She asks innocuous questions, and I only reply with yes or no answers. I'm too busy living inside of my head now, and I don't have any desire to engage, so I excuse myself to the hallway, which is not too distant from the cafeteria. Unfortunately, I become sidetracked by a snack machine that offers Sugar Daddys and Milky Ways, my two favorite candies. I grab a 10-ounce bottle of Coke from the adjacent machine so that I can wash down sugar with sugar. 

Not the healthiest snack; it will probably ruin my complexion or kick my ass when I crash from this triple rush. I pick up a magazine left on a smaller table near the elevator and bring it back with me to my father's room. 
I stand there at the entrance and look at him; all the tubes that are simultaneously plugged into him and plugged into a monitor show that the old man has a few worthy vital signs that are keeping him on this side for now. But, unfortunately, he's burned bridges with my older brothers, they won't come to see him, but they text every hour to check up on how he's doing.

"Barely," I tell them.

"Keep us posted," they reply.

I finally dozed off at 1:13 in the morning, and I immediately had a weird dream that I was eight years old and that I was dressed in a favorite blue aloha shirt of mine with khaki shorts and black shoes gray socks. We were at the cemetery just outside of Hilo, and we were standing at the foot of my grandparent's grave. My father stood beside me crying; I remember looking around for my mother, but she wasn't there; it was just he and I. I remember telling him that it was alright and that he shouldn't be sad as my younger self. At that point, he immediately knelt down next to me and took me in his arms.

"I can't remember any time that I spent with you; I wasn't a good father, I wasn't..." he was sobbing, and it was awkward for me. I didn't know what to do except try to get out of his embrace and step away.

"Stop," I remember telling him.

"It's what I deserve; it's okay," he cried.

He turned and walked toward a VW station wagon that was parked just a few feet away, he got in, and he drove off. I was suddenly jolted out of my dream by the young nurse, her voice was down to a whisper, but her tone was urgent.

"Mr. Santos, your father, just passed in his sleep," she said.

My mind was still groggy, and the information hadn't quite taken yet. 

"Passed away, like died? Is that what you're saying? So you're saying he just died? When? What time?"

"He stopped breathing at 1:13 am,"


It was hard for my brothers to reconcile anything at the services, they knew they had the right to sit upfront, but they chose not to. They felt that it would be hypocritical. Many well-wishers and many of his old bowling buddies and friends from his old job. Family flew in from Maui and the mainland. My father chose to be cremated, and his request was that his ashes be spread in the backyard of his old home. 

Our uncle Wallace gave the eulogy, and our aunt Lucille hosted the reception at her home; she had prepared more food than we were ready to eat, but it was good, and it brought back a lot of old memories. My oldest brother Howard came over and asked me if I would sing a song for everyone, and I asked him which one? "Whatever you feel like singing," he said.

I was a bit rusty on the guitar, and I'd spent a considerable amount of time tuning it until my uncles became impatient and yelled at me to hurry it up. Some things never change. I took a deep breath and did my best.

"Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes, are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountainside
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling
It's you, it's you, must go, and I must bide
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so."

My brothers came up, gave me a hug, and held on to me as we all began to tear up. It was a beautiful moment where we were all able to give one another what we so desperately wanted from our father. Maybe he was there too, perhaps he watched, perhaps he took in a long sigh of relief that we weren't so much like him after all. At least, that's the way I see it.

Jun 10, 2017


Let’s talk about curses and let’s be forthright and upfront about it.

Jun 6, 2017

The Mythical Truth of The Kasha of Kaimuki

In ancient Japan, the literal translation of the name, “Kasha” is “Fire cart.” It is a creature that frequented populated areas where its dietary sustenance consisted of fresh human corpses.