Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 21, 2022

Scene 2022

Uncle Kai, the former caretaker at the oldest church in downtown Honolulu, told me about many of his late at night encounters.

On Punchbowl and South King Street; one can hear the sharp sound of hooves on the pavement approaching from the dark distance. Then, a horse and carriage with a driver and a coachman manifests in the church driveway and arrives at the steps. There, the driver and the coachman dismount, and both men, on their own, remove a casket from the carriage, a small one. Both men hold two handles on either side of the coffin while gently bringing it up the steps. Uncle Kai said that the entire tableau fades into nothing once the phantoms of the two men walk through the church's closed doors, bearing the tiny casket between them. "I've seen it so many times," uncle Kai admitted. "But, I don't know who they are."

"Wow," I sat back in my car, astounded by what I had heard. "Is that the only thing that happens?"

"Some nights, you can see a few horses and carriages coming from the palace to the church," he said. "Other nights, you can hear people talking in the church or hear people singing; even in the graveyard, you see ten or twenty people standing around one headstone late at night."

"That has to be freaky?" I asked.

"That's because some of these graves actually have ten to twenty people buried in them; some Hawaiian families couldn't afford a plot for their household back then." uncle Kai appeared to be genuinely sad about that fact.

"What's the one thing that scares you on the church grounds?" Just then, a breeze manifested, and it lifted a few dry leaves off the ground and carried along the now-empty lane leading to the Punchbowl exit. 

"The king's ghost," he nodded. "That's the one."

"Why is he scary since he is our ali'i?" Indeed, why would anyone be afraid of the king who loves his people and chose to be laid to rest among them?

"Sunset time, he's sitting on the steps of his tomb smoking his rope cigar, and he's dressed all in black. You can feel his kapu, his mana; you can just tell he has a pure ali'i bloodline. A couple of times, he caught me by surprise when I came to close the gates to his tomb. Normally, I walk around the grounds; first, you know? Clean up the rubbish, chase out the homeless and the tourists. The first time I saw the king, was when I was closing up, it was only me just making the rounds. I was coming from the back of the tomb, walking past the steps, and there he was, sitting smoking his rope cigar. He looked me right in the eye and nodded to me, and I dropped to my knees, bowed my head, and apologized for disturbing his rest. Man, I was crying; I was so scared! But then I felt this hand, so gentle, rubbing my head. I looked up, and the King was walking back to his tomb, right through the doors."

I had no words this time; my tears said everything. So did the tears that uncle Kai shed while recounting his story. "What about you, boy?" He asked. "You go to this church?"

"I used to work at the school here, but I was never a church member," I told him. "I'm a Buddhist."

"One Hawaiian Buddhist? Now, I have seen it all," he laughed. "Eh, as long as you respect, that's all that matters."

That's all that matters.

Credit: Wikiwand



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