Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 7, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #85

In the Filipino camp on Hawaii island, the single men occupied a barracks where they were berthed for the time being of their labor contracts. Although they came from different provinces in the Philippines, they generally got along. There were normal disagreements regarding personal space and the habits and quirks of one man who raised the ire of another. Those issues were always resolved without one man resorting to fisticuffs or worse. Otherwise, everyone was affable and congenial in their behavior. Therefore, one can understand the confusion of the plantation bosses when they found out that these otherwise good mannered men resorted to bickering, name-calling, and fist fighting, which often devolved to the use of knives and other makeshift weaponry. No one really knew the root cause of the sudden disunity within the group. It almost seemed to have happened overnight. 

The news of the dissension within the Filipino camp reached the ears of an old Paniolo in the area who lived less than a few miles away. There was a familiarity regarding the sudden uproar of violence in that area. While passing one another on horseback one afternoon, the Paniolo recognized the plantation boss and hailed him with a hearty aloha. Taking a moment to talk, the Paniolo told the plantation boss that he had heard about the trouble with the Filipino camp. Although not practiced openly, the Paniolo recommended the help of a Kahuna of whom he could provide if the plantation boss deemed it necessary. 

"If it will cease the madness among those men, I will allow it," the plantation boss confirmed. "You will accompany the Kahuna, of course?"

"Of course," the Paniolo replied.

Two days later, the Paniolo rode into the Filipino camp on a Sunday when all the men would be there. Behind him, walked the old Kahuna. Dressed in worn dungarees and wearing work boots, he looked as if he had stepped out of a page in time and donned the first piece of clothing he could find. The plantation boss gathered all the men in the barracks. Once everyone was inside, the Paniolo and the plantation boss positioned their horses in front of the only door that leads in and out of the barracks. 

"Gather in a circle around the old man," the plantation boss commanded. "Do what he says, and be quiet about it."

Every man stood shoulder to shoulder in the large circle, some giggling nervously, while others fidgeted, not knowing what was about to happen. The Kahuna removed a dark wooden bowl from his bag; from his pocket, he withdrew and hand full of dried sea salt and sprinkled it into the bowl. From another pocket, he removed ʻōlena and sprinkled that into the bowl. From a bottle sized gourd, he removed the top and poured water over the two spices until it filled the bottom part of the bowl. He then swirled it around and waited until all in the bowl was still and clear. To each man, he placed the bowl of water under their chins and whispered, "Hā."

Strangely, each man understood the word in their own dialect, which meant, exhale.

Every man released his breath upon the surface of the water, and a ripple spread out and moved in the direction of the inner wall of the bowl. The plantation boss and the Paniolo noticed the uneasy body language among the Filipino men. After a painstaking eternity, moving from one to the other, the Kahuna reached the last few in the circle. Their backs faced the plantation boss and the Paniolo. One man hesitated suddenly, his eyes darted back and forth, and his face twitched around his mouth. Rather than contribute his breath on to the surface of the water in the bowl, he turned and made a dead run for the only exit out of the barracks. The Kahuna, expressionless in his demeanor, slapped the water in the bowl, and the errant man burst into a colored smoke, which made a dull popping sound. 

He was gone.

Simultaneously, the last three men in the circle also burst into a colored smoke and popped into nothing. There was a loud shrieking clamor among the men, and they all ran to the safety of the plantation boss and crowded together on the other side of his horse. The reason for the dissension was discovered. There were evil spirits in the group who appeared and lived among the men. No one could tell who they were because they looked and acted like everyone else. You could talk to them, touch them, and interact with them and have not a clue that they were evil spirits. Getting them to breathe into a wooden bowl made of kauila, with purified water from a rainstorm, and a mixture of paʻakai and ʻōlena inside was the only way to find them out. Evil spirits cannot cast breath upon anything. Humans can.

"No, hā, you slap the water in the bowl, the ʻuhane nalowale," the Kahuna said. Pointing to the plantation boss, the Kahuna continued. "You uluhua somebody, one Hawaiian wahine. She love one Filipino inside dis place. You paʻi her den you chase her away, so she send one ʻuhane ʻino to destroy dis camp. Maikaʻi I came today, pretty soon da ʻuhane ʻino tell dese Filipino kill you."

Visibly shaken at the news, the plantation boss dismounted from his horse and went to pay the Kahuna. The Paniolo, who dismounted at the same time stopped the boss, "He cannot accept the payment, I will take it for him."

"Are you his accountant?" The plantation boss chuckled.

"Iʻm his great-great-great-grandson," the Paniolo smirked and shook his head.

"By God, how old is he?" The boss was shocked.

"For as long as I knew, he has always been old. No one remembers when he wasnʻt old." The Paniolo regarded the Kahuna with awe and pity. Returning all of his items in his bag, the Kahuna stood up and motioned to the Paniolo that it was time to leave. A handshake was given between the boss and the Paniolo as both mounted their houses. One to oversee the men in the barracks and calm them down. The other, the Paniolo who rode ahead of his ancient grandfather, who walked behind him and chanted in Hawaiian as he went along. 

The curse was returned to its sender who consequently dropped dead to the floor in the middle of preparing dinner.

photo credit: the lineup

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