Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 28, 2019

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2019 #35


In the days of old, whenever our people traveled, be it from one village to another, they were sure to bring those necessary items with them that would provide for their basic needs for sustenance and comfort.  Whether it was a water gourd or a sleeping mat or even a pillow made of lauhala, these items were a personal, everyday part of the ordinary Hawaiian person's life.
Some of these items were given names and were treated as if they were actually traveling companions.  For sleeping mats that were given names, no one but the owner was allowed to use them.  When he or she had passed, the sleeping mat was burned so that no one else would be able to use it.  This is the same practice in hula.  The pahu drums that we make ourselves are given names just as are other handmade hula implements, and no one was allowed to use them unless you gave them specific permission.

Such was the case as I was growing up.  I say this because I cannot speak for the experience of other Hawaiians because everyone has had their own unique experience.  However, during my youth, one of the things that were stressed continuously to us as children were that, if something did not belong to you, you had no right to touch it unless you had permission from the person to whom it belonged.

Otherwise, "Waiho."

The following story is true.  It happened during a time when life was simpler, and our parents worked hard so that we could have better lives.  Mom and pop stores had not yet been wiped out by more giant corporate superstores that gave us an overabundance of what they thought we needed.  Marriages lasted for a lifetime, and holidays were family oriented in a way that they maintained their pure sanctity and reverence.


Kekaha is a sleepy, idyllic town on the west end of Kaua'i that seems to have been suspended in time.  Many of the old houses from its heyday as a bustling plantation community still remain.  Its residents came from Ni'ihau in order to make a better life for themselves and their families.  These observations would have escaped even the most astute academic from any educational institution had the calendar on the wall of the Kekaha Vacation Rental not read the year 1974 over its first month of that year.

This was Marissa Tilton's first time on the island of Kaua'i. Looking at the Kekaha neighborhood along the highway from the back seat of her cousin’s Chevy Van, she couldn’t help but think that, whatever it was that affected the rest of the world at this very moment, it had left Kekaha out of the loop.  Her parents recommended that she go to Kaua’i to spend some time with her mother’s side of the family and get to know them a bit better.  She had only met her cousins, the Balasans, at weddings and funerals.

Marissa's mother began to see how over-worked her daughter had become and thought that a short vacation on Kaua‘i would prove to be an excellent time to relax and re-energize. For someone who went to an all-girl Catholic school, her mother was quite the modern aged free spirit.

The Balasan’s were very accommodating and made sure that Marissa was well taken care of.  Each day became an opportunity to visit a new site on the island of Kaua‘i or to visit other extended families.  Finally, in the middle of the second week of her stay, Marissa decided that she was comfortable enough with the area that she could take a quiet morning stroll on the beach by herself.  The time read 9:03am as she strolled along a pretty stretch of sand with a few wisps of long grass here and there.  The wind that came in off of the water was soothing, and it helped to relieve the bit of heat that came from the sun.

Suddenly, everything went silent.  The wind stopped.  There was no heat.  Marissa looked around and could see fronds of the coconut trees across the street blowing in the wind.  She turned to face the ocean and could see the waves breaking just before the shore.  She watched the wind carry the salt spray above the water, but she could hear and feel none of it.  It was as if she were suddenly encapsulated.  For a moment, the only sound she could hear was that of her breathing becoming more rapid.  Then, somewhere behind her, she listened to the voice of a woman humming a tune to herself, which she did not recognize.  She turned to her left and saw, not more than fifteen feet away from where she stood, a Hawaiian woman sitting on a large rock that was hidden just beneath the water.

Her back was facing Marissa, and her hair was long and black.  Her skin was tanned to an almost coconut brown color.  She was topless from what Marissa could see, and she was combing her hair back with a short hand-held hair comb.  Marissa watched as the woman now put her hair over the left side of her shoulder and began to pull it forward.  That’s when the woman noticed her.  Marissa smiled and gave a short wave.  The woman looked startled and angry at the same time.  In a quick second, the Hawaiian woman leaped from the rock and disappeared into the water with one smooth motion, having never made an effort to stand up to do so.

Just as suddenly as the feeling of being encapsulated happened, it quickly dissipated. Then suddenly, the heat and wind-blasted against her, leaving her in complete disbelief. Although the entire short event seemed unbelievable, what startled Marissa the most was the fact that, as the Hawaiian woman dove into the water, she had no legs; only a long tail that began at her waist.  Marissa got closer to the rock where the woman was sitting and saw that she had left her hair comb behind.  It was made of a turtle shell.  She decided that she would hold on to it until she saw the Hawaiian woman again.

Marissa returned every morning of her vacation after that but to no avail.  The strange woman with the long tail never returned.  Since the day she saw the woman on the beach and found the beautiful turtle shell hair comb, Marissa became more and sicker.  She had little to no appetite to eat during the day, and at night she couldn’t sleep because of the horrible nightmares.  Dark, frightening images of being pulled down into an underwater sea cave and being eaten alive by a terrible, black-colored creature covered in slime.  It would call her name in the dream.  Whenever Marissa would answer, the creature would only repeat one word.


The Balasans were concerned and became distressed when Marissa didn’t answer her phone calls or when she wouldn’t come to the door of her vacation rental cottage.  The eldest cousin,  whom the family called Elode, finally expressed his concern about his ‘O’ahu cousin and convinced the manager of the facility to let him into Marissa’s room.  Elode almost threw up because the room reeked of rotten fish.  He glanced around and saw his cousin lying on her bed, hardly breathing.  Her skin was pale white and peeling.  Her hair was wet and matted about her face.  In her hand, she clutched the turtle shell hair comb.

Instead of taking her to a doctor, Elode drove his cousin back to Kekaha and took her to the home of the Kanahele family. In the house was a deacon in his church, but everyone knew that he was also a powerful Kahuna.  Elode frantically knocked at the door of the house, waiting for an answer.  The deacon emerged to find the frightened Filipino man on his porch.

“Kanaka!  My cousin, she sick!  Not hospital kine, dis one!  I saw em happen before when I was small!  Anything you can do, help her, please!  She stay in my car, sick!” Elode pleaded.

Nodding, the man said softly, “Bring your cousin inside.”

After laying her on a couch in a back room of the Kanahele house, the deacon noticed the turtle shell hair comb that Marissa held in her hand.  The look on the man’s face was deadly serious.  He tried several times to take the comb from her but she literally had a death grip on it.  As huge a man as Kanahele was, he could not pry the object from her.

He looked at Elode and said, “You hapai your hoahanau to the van and we go to the beach.”

Without question, Elode carried his cousin into his van and the three sped off toward the beach at Kekaha.  They finally arrived at the very spot where Marissa had first seen the Hawaiian woman sitting on the rock.

“Now,” Kanahele commanded, “Hapai your cousin over here and put her hand on the rock.”

Following the kahuna’s orders, Elode held his cousin in one hand and placed her hand holding the hair comb on the rock.  The second Mariesse’s hand was laid on the huge Pohaku, it relaxed its grip and the turtle shell hair comb gently fell and rested on the rock.

“Maika‘i,” Kanahele said, “Ha‘alele now, we go.”

However, even before they could leave, a woman’s hand came from the other side of the rock just below the spot where the turtle shell hair comb lay.  The hand quickly snatched the hair comb up and disappeared.  The two men heard a loud splash and, not more than a few feet from where they stood, the two men saw the Hawaiian woman looking at them from the water.  Elode dropped to the sand with his cousin in his arms and prayed for their lives.  The deacon fell to both knees and bowed his head in deference to the Akua of his ancestors.  This was not a mermaid or rather a Kananaka. It was a Mo‘o wahine.


When Marissa recovered from her sickness a short time later, she would have no recollection of the events that transpired beforehand.  The family feared that telling her what little they knew would frighten her badly too badly. She was simply told that she had fallen into a deep sleep because of food poisoning from some spoiled pork Gisantes.

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