Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 25, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #67

 In the dream, Iʻm walking through a dense forest at night. I know itʻs in Hawaii, I just donʻt know where.

In one hand Iʻm holding a torch, in my other hand Iʻm holding a large gnarled piece of a root that curls back on itself at the end. For some reason, I know that I have shaped it into a weapon, but itʻs more than that. Itʻs a traveling companion in battle; I call it Hapuʻu. The cobweb-like hairs on the plant served as a dressing to embalm corpses—a fitting name. I come into a large clearing where four massive lama kukui (torches) stand in each corner of the open space.

In the middle, is a finely carved kiʻi (tiki) image of the classical Kū style, except that itʻs sitting cross-legged with its arms folded and it's head down. From the middle of itʻs head is a raging angry red flame. Without warning, the flame parts and a warrior steps out. He is hairless from head to foot; he wears a malo with both front and back flaps tied up. His weapon of choice is a Kapa beater, but itʻs larger and longer than the ordinary kind. The designs on all four sides are different and more pronounced, overly embossed. We are to do battle; there are no words or battle cries, or a proclamation of genealogies. Weʻre warriors, we understand, and so we get to it.

In the dream, I have knowledge that my weapon has drunk the blood of many men. Therefore, there are no fancy movements that serve no purpose other than for show. My style is direct, and to the point, there is no wasted motion. The warrior stands there, stoic and unwavering. For a moment, I thought heʻd fallen asleep. His strike his blinding, he hits me hard enough on my left chest to make an impression, but not hard enough to break anything. It continues this way for the next few minutes. No matter what I do, no matter what old tricks I employ to get in a fatal stroke, he parries each one and returns a blow that I cannot seem to deflect. Finally, he stops and raises the bloody Kapa beater to his forehead in a salute. He returns to the angry red flames raging from the head of the Kū image. He has gone, and I am left wounded with a bloody design on my chest. I wake from the dream, covered in sweat. The left side of my chest is throbbing, but there are no wounds.

Quickly, I turn my lamp on, and I get a piece of paper and a pen from my desk. To the best of my memory, I draw it down and then put it away. The next morning, I go to my motherʻs house and show her the design. I describe my dream to her. Immediately she says its a tattoo design that needs to go on my left chest just like the dream. She says that the warrior in the dream who put the design there is the man in real life who will do it. She tells me that I have to find whoever he is and that he must be Hawaiian, and he must be a relative of ours. Thatʻs the only way it can be done. I attended Leeward Community College at this time. I recall asking Aunty Vicky, who taught Hawaiian culture and hula classes there if she knew of anyone who might be doing Hawaiian tattoos? Without hesitation, she gave me a name and a number to call, which I did. The man on the other side of the phone answered, and we arranged to meet at the Pearl Kai market place two days later. The meeting was very informal. I explained everything to him about the dream, and then I showed him the design from the dream, which I drew out. He regarded it for a second and placed the drawing on my left chest and said, 'It goes here.'


Excited, I went to a nearby payphone and called my mother. "I found a guy to do the tattoo. Heʻs Hawaiian, but I donʻt think heʻs related to us." I told her.

"Who was that?" My mother asked.

"Keone Nunes," I replied.

My mother laughed uproariously on the other side of the phone. "Heʻs related to us on the Niʻihau side, heʻs your cousin."

All the pieces came together. I got a tattoo, THE tattoo.



Iʻm in the E.R. at Pali Momi. The warrior is beating on my chest; he always returns to beat me when I am at a crossroads that could determine the path my life will take. Often, if itʻs the wrong path, he becomes ruthless with his Kapa beater. He never lets up, and I suffer accordingly. My mother has passed, but during these times I see her there on the edge of the ethers, watching. Not a look of worry or sympathy on her face, but rather a look that says, "Better the warrior beat you than me having to beat you."

In other words, thatʻs what you get for being a hard head.

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