Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

May 2, 2020

Ka Lae ʻO Kaena

“Nani ka’ala hemolele i ka malie
He kuahiwi nui ia no Wai’anae
He wehe ana I ka makani kaiaulu
Mai Kuaiwa no a Poka’i e, i laila
Mai loko ‘ino ‘oe, e ka makamaka ia’u
E ‘ike mai ka pono kahea mai
‘Oe anei e...”

 There was only a slight breeze that moved the little specs of rubble and dirt along a path that was beset with dried leaves and withered branches. It was the same breeze that skimmed in over the surface of the blue ocean and lent a bit of comfort to this early morning trek out to the point. Earlier, I had made my peace with the ‘aumakua at Kāneʻīlio, they allowed me entrance into their realm, where I greeted them by asking for forgiveness. I could feel the water change as the two sharks of a massive size emerged from their cave beneath the great Ku’ilioloa heiau.  Their forms passed before me with such majesty that I’d forgotten I was afloat beneath the waves. Gently, they touched the tips of their noses to my forehead and returned to their rest. Returning to the surface with just enough air left in my lungs, I quietly let out a breath and inhaled again. A large swell appeared and lifted me to the reef where I was able to rest briefly before moving on. My next stop was at the mouth of the great Kaneana cave, the home of Nanaue, the shark god.

The sun had not yet reached its zenith, and so the dirt parking lot across the street from the cave was empty and not littered with rent-a-cars and curiosity seekers. The air was filled with the sound of crashing waves from the beach below, it’s thunderous roar filled the interior of the cave even before I stood at the entrance. My breathing was labored, and the short five-minute walk from my car to my present position robbed me of nearly all my facilities. I required a moment of clarity before I could make my next askance of forgiveness. My voice void of the rich tone which it once carried, I could only manage a fraction of what was once my chanting voice. Even in this circumstance, it sounded more like begging than austerity.

“Ku makou e hele me ku’u mau poki’i aloha
 Ka ‘aina a makou e ike ‘ole ai ma lalo aku nei
A’e makou me ku’u poki’i, kau i ka wa’a;
No’iau ka hoe a Kamohoali’i;
A’ea’e kau i ka nalu, he nalu haki kakala”

My legs weakened, and my knees buckled, and I fell to the unforgiving cave floor, where I cried out in agony. The smaller rocks and pebbles under my feeble body may as well have been spikes and needles; this time, I was forced to exhale as I raised myself from the dust. Standing required an almost superhuman effort before I could right myself and remain steady. He appeared right then, Nanaue. He’d taken the form of an old, wrinkled, limping ‘elemakule. I wasn’t fooled for a second; the two of us had locked eyes on too many occasions to count. This old trick of his was nothing new; had he planned to kill me? He certainly had the right to, and I would not have offered any resistance. However, draped around my arm was a lei of hala. A sign that I wanted to be forgiven for my past transgressions, it’s dual purpose was that it was also an offering to Mo’o goddess who occupied the lower realm of his cave.
He nodded and acknowledged my offering and bid me leave it on the large boulder in front of me. Even in my weakened state, I began to wonder if the shark god would take advantage of my condition and kill me right after the lei was put down. Why watch him closely to see if he would attempt such a thing? I was helpless, I couldn’t run, and I certainly couldn’t call out for help. I simply had to trust that I was doing the right thing.

The lei of hala was placed from left to right across the boulder, and the horrific shark god of legend faded into the darkness of his cave. The sigh of relief that left my body brought about a moment of dizziness, which I could not afford at this moment. I turned and carefully made my way back to my car and found that although the gravel-filled floor was uneven, I could still negotiate the path without much trouble.


Sitting behind the wheel of my car, I was filled with fearful remorse as it seemed that frailty was slowly seeping its way into my body. From this point on, it was going to take a great deal of mental fortitude to deliver me to my last two destinations. I fought with all that was left in my corporeal frame to not let myself fall asleep while I drove along the peaceful, quiet road toward Keawa’ula. Thankfully, there was not a soul present at the first facility. Unfortunately, the walk across the open field was much more exacting as each step was like a breath where I exhaled the second my feet touched the ground. In my hand was a wooden bowl fashioned from Koa, the contents there within were locks of my own hair. The tall grass in front of me moved back and forth and caused the haole koa branches to rub together, thus emitting a sound that would scare the uninitiated. I knew this area quite well, and those who marched in the deep of night had countless opportunities to spy my presence long before they trekked through the very area where I now stood. This was their path to the ocean; it was theirs to walk on those nights, which were only sacred to them. I pulled away bothersome branches and stickers, which affixed themselves to my socks, thus leaving their mark. When I was a considerable length away from the open field, I placed the koa wood bowl between three branches that were like three large fingers, all crooked in the same position. Upon my hair in the middle of the bowl, I placed a fist-sized smooth stone and offered a chant, asking for forgiveness.

“He aha la ka’u makana i ku’u hilahila
 O ka’u wale ihola no ia la, o ka leo e
 A he leo wale no...”

The wind whipped up the tall grass as it snapped in one direction, and then the other in a matter of seconds. However, the sound was absent, and the warmth in the air was so prevalent that I became short of breath again. They were here in the early light of day, the huaka’i. They were the wind and warmth and the din. I watched as the smooth stone was tossed from the bowl by an invisible force, then the wind lifted the hair and scattered it out toward the ocean. Suddenly, everything came to a visual crescendo and stopped without warning, they were gone no sooner than they had appeared in their elemental form.



My clothing is soaked with perspiration, and the breeze that now seems to be more robust with each step I take is comforting; it cools the sweat on my skin and brings me relief. I need not even a mirror to gaze at my own reflection to know that my complexion is pale and that my mouth is dry. I was filled with such determination to accomplish today’s task that I was not mindful enough to carry a flask of water with me. No matter, I would have been too weak at this point to have brought it all this way.

My chant has been offered as you have previously seen, and there they wait for me, my only task is to gather the strength to walk the rest of the way. There they are, just as it was promised to me in our family genealogy, that those of our family tree who have come to the end of their road will be greeted by Kalae’oka’ena, Pohakuokaua’i, and Hi’iakaikapoliopele at Kaena. Along the way, the traveler must ask for forgiveness at those places where he or she has transgressed and erred in life.

Between the three godly ancestors is a canoe of the most beautiful kind of a Koa; it is lashed with shimmering ‘olona, and the sail is platted of the finest makaloa.

“Aloha wale e ku’u kama,” Hi’iaka chants. “Eia ka wa’a, aloha ‘oe e ku’u pua, e ka ‘ili ‘ino ‘ino i ka wa i hala. Nou ke aloha e li’a nei i ke aumoe...”

They all step forward with their hands held out, beckoning me to join them. I turn back for some reason to look at the place from where I was just standing, and I see myself lying prone on the dirt, pale and lifeless.

The looks on the faces of my hosts confirm what I have just seen, It’s time to go.


The body of an unidentified Hawaiian man was found at the tip of Kaena Point three days ago with no identification. No one has come forward to claim it.

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