Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 23, 2019

Palapala 'Aina

Years ago, before my daughter was dragged all the way across the US to the shore of another ocean, before I met my current wife, before all of this really took off, I was just another guy struggling with the stresses of life to make ends meet when I got a call that would change everything.

The day was a worrisome one because it had to do with money and paying the bills and the rent on time. I was still in the infancy of making my passion my life's work, therefore I hadn't yet learned the true value of my craft.

One example is that I had agreed to do a historical walking tour in collaboration with a Waikiki hotel. Because times were difficult, I allowed myself to be talked down to $150 a month. That meant that I could do a whole month of walking tours twice a week for this hotel and I would only be paid $150. I had my normal ghost tours as well as speaking gigs and storytelling gigs but the lack of consistency of those tours and events became a problem. Thus, financial and personal struggles that seemed insurmountable on this particular day suddenly seemed less important because of a phone call I received. That call would turn out to be a beacon of light, piercing through a dark cloud of hopeless gloom.

The caller was someone I'd known as an acquaintance whom I would see every now and again. Our interactions were always congenial and we never failed to regard one another with gentlemanly respect. You can imagine my surprise when, upon answering the phone, I found that there were no formalities.

"What are you doing right now?" The urgency in his voice told me that a second question was soon to follow no matter what my answer would be.

"I'm at home trying to figure out how to do twenty things all at once," I chuckled at the ridiculousness of my own situation.

"Can you come to my office right now?" There was a crack in his voice that made it sound as if he were on the verge of screaming.

"Sure, I'm on the way."

"We ordered lunch so should it be here by the time you arrive," he knew my weakness. Money was for the necessity of surviving, food sealed the deal.


His office like the building it was located in was unremarkable. It was one of those buildings you don't really notice unless you've got an address for it, otherwise, it just seems to lose itself in the scenery. His office was done in what I like to call a khaki, vanilla cream pie color. Which means that it was there but it didn't do anything, it didn't evoke any emotion as a result of the scheme nor did it enhance or desensitize a mood. No life, no spice, just bland.

The Hawaiian lunch plates sat on a separate table which he gestured for me to walk over to after we exchanged our handshakes and half hugs. Just then, a kupuna wahine entered the room with her own plate of Hawaiian food and sat down to join us. The three of us made small talk with the main focus on our families and our jobs. Once we were done, he motioned for me to follow him to his desk where I sat and waited for the true purpose of this meeting to be revealed.

"Tutu," he called over to the older Hawaiian woman, "Do you want to show him and explain?"

"No," she replied in a sweet voice, "You may show him."

The man reached into the lower cabinet drawer of his desk and removed a large brown cylinder and placed it on the desk in front of him. He pried the cap off one end and turned it upside down and a large rolled up piece of paper slid out. Leaning forward, he carefully spread the paper open with both hands and then placed four large paperweights on each of the four corners of the large parchment.

At first glance, I thought I was looking at some abstract drawing of a large octopus-like creature with more than eight arms. As I examined it closer, I realized I was looking at something that overlaid a large map of 'O'ahu.

"What's this supposed to be?"

He had a half smile that seemed closer to a smirk on his face, "It's a map of every night marcher trail on 'O'ahu."

The man pointed to each line without saying anything and his gesture brought every marked line back to one common source on the map.

"They all begin from here."

I was dumbfounded. I was covered with chicken skin and I was shocked and I was speechless. Oh yes, and I was crying. He pointed to the kupuna wahine who was still sitting at the table where we had just had our lunch. She looked at us with tears in her eyes. After a few minutes, the man rolled up the map and placed it back in the brown colored cylinder.

"This is her map," he nodded toward her, "This is countless generations of oral history regarding the night marchers on one large map." He held it out for me to take and I took a step back instead. "She wants you to have it. There's no one in her family that she can pass it down to because they're all born again. They told her to burn this map and be rid of it...she knows that this will survive in your hands."

So many thoughts ran through my head at once. THIS! This is the validation I've needed to continue doing what I love. These are not just stories my mom and my boss and countless others made up. These are our oral traditions. This is our history!

"No disrespect," I replied with my hands out to him, my heart was pounding and I could hardly believe what I was about to say. "I don't want it."

There was a pause before I continued, "I mean that I don't want to take it and have it accidentally disappear or have someone steal it. Who knows what the wrong person might do if they ever came across something like this? As a people, we're already losing so much. Something like this... The eye of men should never behold it."

"Are you crazy?" He hissed at me with disappointment, "She's handing down her life's work to YOU!"

"He's right," the kupuna wahine inserted herself into the conversation without ever having moved from her spot. "He understands the burden of caring for... for this map of our ancestors who travel in the night."

She smiled and nodded at me while the water fell from her eyes. I walked to her and knelt at her feet where she held me for a long while until her tears subsided. "We'll keep the map here for now until the time comes for you to care for it."

I nodded and thanked her. Getting to my feet I walked over to my friend and shook his hand. I thanked him for lunch and then I left. That particular burden of knowledge was still safe and would not be mine to bear.



My friend called earlier this morning to say that the building where his office is located isn't going to be around for too much longer.

"Speaking of paths," he continued "Our building is in the way of rail development. I just thought that before I forgot, I should call you and tell you to come and get the map. It's not a question."

"I have to think about it," I replied, "I have to seriously think about it."


  1. .....the eye of man should never behold it

  2. A friend of mine saw them and he said it followed him home. while driving home that night he saw the night marcher. He saw the shadow of a man on top his car from the street light. Recently he felt someone holding him down while he sleeps. What can he do I feel bad because he is having a child I wouldn't nothing to attach it self to his family or kid

    1. what is your e-mail address? I can reply to you there.