Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 6, 2018

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2018 #25


Waikiki is a moving cluster of people jostling for position and direction in a once-exalted location now mired down with high-end boutiques and five-star hotels. Nothing of its sacred history is visible anywhere unless you accidentally wander into the lobby of a few hotels whose selling point has to do with the history of Waikiki.
Otherwise, you will find yourself treading upon the Hawaiian version of Sunset Strip and Rodeo Drive. On this evening, buskers line the sidewalks with their various talents, which are exciting or banal. The religious exercise their constitutional right to extoll eternal damnation unless you repent. If they only knew that the location of which they do this was once a massive cemetery.

My pride and heartache on my Waikiki ghost walk is the Princess Ka'iulani hotel. Or the 'PK' as the desk agents and tour people call it. My pride comes in sharing her story from infancy until the moment of her untimely passing. At one time, there was a small mini-museum just near the escalators where one could go to view personal items that belonged to the princess. Before the adjacent lobby was festooned with an open food bar, it was empty save for a single grand piano in the middle. It was a delight for persons on tour to take a photograph of the beautifully ornate carpet as well. After, the journey from the 'Ewa end of the property to the Diamond end, the walls were lined with pictures of Princess Ka'iulani from the time of her childhood to a photo of her uncle His Royal Majesty King David Kalakaua and his newly made friend Robert Louis Stevenson. One would also have the pleasure of seeing the princess in the various kinds of clothing she wore while attending school in England. Included is the photograph of the one gown she wore to see President Grover Cleveland in Washington DC. The only photo that is not included is the procession of the carriage, which bore her body to Mauna'ala, the present-day royal mausoleum. The Waikiki ghost walk is a sweeping history of her grand story, and yes, it includes accounts of her ghostly appearances on the property. After all, it is said that the hotel is built on the grounds of her former home, 'Ainahau.

My heartache comes from the very same ghost walk that I do today as my guests and I walk through the property. The little alley, which leads to the back door of the hotel where one could visit the mini-museum, is now shut off and locked by a massive security gate. The mini-museum is gone, and as you have previously read, there is no empty lobby that once hosted a beautiful grand piano. The old photographs are bunched up together behind the open salad bar. Other pictures that once exhibited the succession of her personal history are now scattered about more for decoration than purpose. Behind the front desk is a smorgasbord of every photograph ever taken of her plastered one on top of the other, much in the same way that ancient remains were found in the old days and re-buried in a pile of bones mixed together. No dignity there, just a means of getting something out of the way. No pride for the princess either, just a smattering of pictures as if they mean nothing. Mind you, these are my own personal feelings as a Hawaiian and a cultural practitioner. None of you are beholden to feel the same as I do.

A few nights ago, while I stood at the end of the lobby near the roundabout driveway facing the Hyatt, I found myself much too vexed and overwhelmed at the circumstances of our Ali'i and their demise, as well as that of our people and their situations today. I had already shared the ghost stories of the princess and how she never appears to scare anyone, but to help them. The tour was near its conclusion, and I had no more words left to impart and finish the hour. I felt a hand touch my shoulder from behind and thought that it was perhaps one of the hotel employees or security come to tell me to hurry along. Or that it might be one of the guests on tour, I turned to see only the picture of the princess on the wall in her white dress, wearing her smiling eyes. A bolt of electricity went through my body when I heard a voice fill my head completely. It said, 'Ahia.'

Without a second thought, I began to clap my hands in rhythmic time and offered a chant. I had no care for who heard it or who might have thought it was foolish; all I knew is that there was a need to do it. So I did.

"A luna au a'o Ahia ha'a ana ka lehua i ka wai
E inu i ka mapunapuna e mapu mai ana i ke ala"

"I was in the upland of Ahia where I saw a lehua sway
over the waters drinking from the full spring while fragrance filled the air."

So the chant went on with many more poetic lines to occupy the evening. At the conclusion, hotel guests and employees alike had already gathered around and offered their appreciation once the chant reached its end. A woman from Australia who was part of the tour asked me after, "Do you feel better now? Because you seemed like you were bothered by something before?"

"I'm a lot better, thank you," I answered.

"She does that, doesn't she? This princess? " The Aussie woman asked. "She brings light,"

"Yes," I had to agree. "There wasn't a lot of light going around during that tumultuous time in our history. Maybe that's why she's still here like you said, to bring light."

"I like her," she nodded. "The way you talk about her makes a lot more sense, and it makes her real. She's plucky, but she knows how to keep it regal. All the other tour guides make her out to be this tragic figure, but I think with everything that was piled on her, even at that young age, she kept her dignity together."

The evening was done, and everyone offered their thanks and journeyed back to their hotels and homes. I looked at the Princess's picture once more and could not help but say, "Mahalo."

Mahalo for the inspiration, mahalo for lifting my spirits, and mahalo for the pure magic in being able to offer that particular chant. Because before that moment, I never knew it.

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