Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

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. According to the lore, these creatures are a type of Bake-Neko living among human beings under the guise of a common house cat or stray. They are bipedal and larger than most people, and they are accompanied by flames from hell where they make their advent in the evening during rainy or stormy weather. It is only during funerals that their true forms are revealed and as a result, they are known to snatch corpses and spirit them to hell for punishment. Most times a Kasha will animate a corpse as a puppet or simply eat it as a meal. More often than not, a Kasha is known to indulge in the latter.

On August 13, 1942, an article appeared in our Honolulu Star-Bulletin regarding a Hawaiian mother who told police that her 10-year-old son detected the odor of a ghost in their Kaimuki home. Subsequently, the ghost retaliated and attacked the boy and then his two sisters, ages 18 and 20 after being found out. The mother then blamed the incident on her husband who left her; after a struggle that lasted for a good hour and a half, the police yielded the troubled home to a Kahuna and took the woman to her sisters home for safety. The Hawaiian woman’s earlier use of Ti leaf, water, and salt to ward off the harmful spirit proved to be fruitless as she now pointed out to the one police officer's arm, “Look, you’re covered with goose pimples!”

Fast forward to an October 31, 1972 Halloween editorial about local ghost stories that talks about a call to HPD regarding a haunted house. Whether it’s the same house from the previous story from 1942 is unknown, because no address was given for either location. What is known is that the urgent call comes from three girls who are sharing a house in a neighborhood that has a reputation for being haunted. The girls heard strange noises in the house and felt unusual physical sensations, consequently, their call to HPD involved a request for the officers to follow the girls to Papakolea where one of them lived. The HPD officers obliged until the girls pulled their car into the parking lot of the old Oasis Inn on Waialae. 

According to the report that the police officer would later file, the girl sitting in the middle of the front seat began fighting off something that was strangling her, however, there was nothing there. The officer left his car and reached into the girls’ car to assist, but said that he was grabbed by a big calloused hand that was not there. It was completely invisible but it twisted his arm; that’s when he ran back to his squad car and radioed for assistance. The officer then put the hysterical girl in his car and urged her friends to follow him but the squad car wouldn’t start. The second he placed the girl back in her own car, she was attacked again. The officer was able to dispel the spirit by spraying everyone with water and Hawaiian salt.

Although this editorial was meant for Halloween, the contributors, Charles Kenn and Rubellite Johnson, are highly respected Hawaiian historians who also shared personal accounts in the same article so the fantastic-sounding story may be based on some fact.

Fast forward again to 1994 when a book about obake and ghost stories in Hawaii is written and published by a professor of American history at Tokai International College in Honolulu.

The book is a story about a fictional character named, “McDougal” who is a hardened private eye with the Honolulu International Detective Agency. The tale is written in the old pulp novel style with a no-nonsense edge to it; through his partner Kats Oyama, the unwitting detective becomes involved in a world of sex, betrayal, and the supernatural. Without going through the entire account, (because you should read it yourself) I will tell you that McDougal becomes an eyewitness to the horrific deeds of the Kasha. 

In this tale at least, the Kasha tears people limb from limb until there are literally only pieces left. At one point in the story, McDougal himself is nearly killed twice by the Kasha. There seem to be two different versions here of what the function of the Kasha is supposed to be. Is it a collector and consumer of dead corpses or is it a super poltergeist-like being that is conjured by a Japanese curse-like sutra to tear its victim's limb from limb? 

In the newspaper case, it is a 10-year-old boy who smells the presence of a ghost that ends up harassing his sisters in the first case. Later, three teenage girls are assaulted by a ghost in a Kaimuki house. In the first instance, it sounds like it is indeed a clear-cut case of a Poltergeist who uses the 10-year-old boy as a human agent with which to interact physically with whoever is present. Remember also, that at the time of the 1942 article, the Hawaiian woman is under adverse circumstances because she states that her husband has abandoned her and the children. In the editorial episode, it would seem that one of the teenage girls in the second story is an agent of a poltergeist because it also assaults the very police officer who is trying to help them. But in either case, it is not a formless fog of black smoke that tore people apart. 

As per the location of the actual Kaimuki home? If you take careful note of the Kasha story in Glen Grant's book, the exact location of the house is never mentioned. Neither is it mentioned in the two newspaper articles which were printed thirty years apart from one another. Where then, is the real Harding Avenue house that has become a real estate nightmare? A consensus will tell you that it was the house on 8th and Harding. There was indeed a documented case of a murder that took place in that house, and it could very well be haunted, but does that make it the actual Kasha house in Kaimuki? There are many other homes in the Kaimuki tract where even more horrendous murders have taken place, but do those cases make one of those homes the Kasha house?

Personally, I can tell you that on a Saturday back in 1999 when Glen Grant drove me along the route of the old Ghosthunters Bus Tour, he pointed to the second to the last house on the left of 2nd Avenue and Harding. He briefly mentioned that there might have been a headstone in the back of that house where the ghost of the mother-in-law in the infamous Kasha story was buried. That house according to Glen  Grant was THE Kasha house of Kaimuki.

It was said that from either one of the haunted houses in question, one had a direct view of Puu ‘O Kaimuki and Diamond Head. If you think about it, it’s a very general description because years ago you could have witnessed the same view from most places in Kaimuki. My conclusion by that description is that in the years past when houses in Kaimuki were condemned to make room for what is now the freeway, the Kasha house may have been one of those condemned homes that fell victim to progress. Therefore, the house may no longer exist except in online blogs that will reincarnate this story time and time again, thanks to the account of a fictional detective from a bygone era. Today, the homes on 2nd Avenue as well as the house on 8th Avenue are like old memories that are fished out of boxes filled with archaic photographs depicting times, places, and people who are no longer with us. Those houses are gone, replaced by duplex-style monster houses. Even the stories that made them famous are like shadows that dissipate as the light appears in the east. 

To conclude, I must emphasize that the story regarding the Kasha of Kaimuki is a fictional account as is McDougal himself. Glen Grant so much as says so in his preface in ‘Obake Ghost Stories In Hawaii’ and in all of his following books. Yes, it is said that in every story of fiction there is a morsel of truth. The truth is that the Kasha sometimes took on the form of a “Bake-Neko” which is a common house cat or a stray. Did anyone happen to notice several stray cats that populate the Kaimuki area?


  1. What part of Harding. My name is dennis I grew up in apollo valley. I AM 71 LIVING IN WA state I don't know that story. Thanks is that house still there. I must have passed going up Harding ave. I just discovered your site. Also that cave by Yokohama bay our scout troop went into that cave when we went on a hike. Spent the nite on the beach. Anyway I like your show and when I go back take your tour

  2. I just love the "what if" kind of stories.

  3. My name is Scotty and I grew up off of 12th ave - running around Kaimuki and Kapahulu. Waikiki was our play ground and nothing like out is today. Kaimuki is said to be the oldest neighborhood in that part of the area and i absolutely loved growing up there. Being one of the oldest communities on Oahu, and the beliefs of the culture at that time, has no doubt transferred into current times and will be with us forever. That includes not only the stories, but it's ghost, too. Having said that, keep up the awesome work keeping that part of Hawaii's history alive for us and future generations. Mahalo