Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 3, 2018


An interesting thing happens when factual accounts become Urban Legends. Such as the case of 'Janette Lum.' In 1951 at 15 years of age Janette and her friend, Anna Kalilikane were classmates at No Ka 'Oi school in Aiea. Every day after school Janette and Anna studied in the library at the intermediate school next to theirs.
Anna said that one day she and a group of her friends wanted to go and meet some boys after school rather than go to the library. Every the vigilant student, Janette decided to go the library next door and study. That was the last time that Anna and her friends would ever see Janette Lum alive. A week later on a late afternoon, a group of teenagers hiking and exploring on the Kailua side of the Old Pali Road came upon the remains of a body which had been dumped in the bushes along a desolate part of that famous or infamous path. The police were called and the autopsy revealed that the already decomposing corpse was that of young Janette Lum. She'd been sexually assaulted and strangled to death with her own jump rope. It would later be revealed that her killer was a family friend who hung around the Lum household  He was a friend of Janette's cousin who always wore his McKinley High School football jersey to show off to the girls. On the afternoon when Janette was done studying at the intermediate school library, she was walking home when suddenly her cousin's friend pulled up in his hot rod and offered her a ride. Instead, they went to Kane'ohe beach to frolick a bit before returning home but along the way, the McKinley boy pulled over to the side of the road along the Pali path and tried to make out with Janette. She refused and began to scream, that's when the boy panicked and strangled her to death with her own jump rope and sexually assaulted her. Realizing what he had done, he dumped her on the side of the road and took off. He was later caught and confessed to the crime.

On March 15, 1992, my late boss and mentor Glen Grant submitted an entry into his 'Obake Files casebook numbered #1467. In it, Glen describes an evening trek with a small group of psychics from New Zealand. He takes them to the grounds of No Ka 'Oi Elementary school where forty-one years later it had gained a reputation for being haunted by the shadows of a famous battle. However, what would possess one of the psychics that night was not a spectral Hawaiian warrior but the ghost of a 15-year-old girl was strangled to death and sexually assaulted. They would later find out at Zippy's restaurant that same evening that the ghost was indeed that of Janette Lum. During this time many stories circulated throughout the local community about a ghost of a young girl skipping rope along the desolate Pali Road with the bottom half of her face decomposed and rotting away. This story can be found in "The Secret Obake File Casebook: Tales from the Darkside of the Cabinet," on page 38. It's interesting that the image of the girl dressed in white with the rotting face who skips rope along a desolate road had been passed around as factual, except that now the desolate location has been switched to the long winding road along Tantalus. Some other ghost groups claim out of their own convenience that the location is at Judd Trail. Truth be told, Janette Lum never existed and neither did her friend Anna Kalilikane. Also, if you were to do a thorough search of the directory of schools on 'O'ahu you will find that No Ka 'Oi school is non-existent as well. Of course, if we're talking about a school that was haunted by the shadows of a famous battle in our Hawaiian history you can pretty much figure out where the actual school is located. Hint; it's not in Aiea.

Knowing the particulars of a story that involved the murder of someone so young, innocent, and undeserving of such a horrific death, Glen Grant knew that he had a Kuleana to respect and protect the names of the actual people involved in such crimes, especially the surviving family. Therefore, names, dates, and locations had to be changed. However, the drawback to such an honorable deed is that people will rush past the fine print and take what they read from such tomes as the literal truth. Thus, was the urban legend of Janette Lum born from a fictionalized account in order to protect the innocent, but the character of Janette Lum was a combination of Dawn Bustamante, Lisa Au, and Diane Suzuki. These three girls were real people who had real families who were devastated as we all were when we learned of their unfortunate circumstances. It scared us and saddened us all at once because they were one of our own. They were just like us.

It's fascinating to see Glen's stories gain traction as urban legends when he so much as writes himself that most of them are fictionalized for a purpose. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

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