Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

May 22, 2022

Phillip 2022

Twenty-five cents seems like something trivial to be bullied for, but this was nineteen seventy-six.

I was in the eighth grade, and several things were going on in my life that was all happening simultaneously. I discovered girls. I was popular (so I thought ). Third, I got my purple belt in Karate. My grades and studies? Meh. Then there are the last two things on the item that gave me a lot of stress. One was a boy's spirit who died during a different era. I could tell because of the way he was dressed. His neck was crooked, and it hung low on the left side of his chest. I saw him one night after karate class. I usually caught a ride with my sister because her kids, my cousins, and I went to the same dojo. My cousins went to the store across the street for some Icee after without telling me. I thought they'd left, so I walked home. Somewhere between the Ken Shu Kan dojo and my house at Kaniau place, Phillip Paragon's spirit saw me passing by and thought I was interesting enough to follow home. Except I wasn't just interesting enough to follow home, he also followed me to school and everywhere else.

Couple this with John Cummings, who hassled me every chance he had for a quarter, and guess what? Things get pretty desperate. Phillip's spirit hovered one morning during class when John poked me with his pen and demanded a quarter; our English teacher saw that and sent John to the principal's office. Later that day, John punched me in the ribs while I stood in the lunch line and grabbed the quarter out of my hand. Phillip's spirit, without a pause, stepped into John's body and took hold of it. To everyone's shock and then horror. John began running full steam into the wall next to the wooden jealousy windows. Even after becoming swollen, bruised, and bloody, he kept doing it until he stumbled around a bit and crumbled to the floor. Poor John Cummings wasn't quite right after that, and he was a bit clueless. He surfaced during my first year in high school, just randomly when Lawrence and Edward, and I were standing at the soda machine during recess. Phillip's spirit was still following me around, and he wasn't going to leave until after high school, when I began practicing Buddhism. But for right now, he again stepped into John's body for the last time. John's eyes glazed over, and he teetered for a second before finally dropping his pants around his ankles and taking a whizz right there on the sidewalk.

Campus security and the vice principal showed up and paused for a second because they couldn't believe what they saw. They hiked his pants up and carried him off to the office. That was his last day at our high school. I heard that he transferred to Campbell in 'Ewa beach after that. Years later, we locked eyes at the Pearlridge Phase II food court. He abandoned his meal when he realized it was me and ran off. I mean, literally, ran off. Phillip's spirit left when I began to seriously practice Buddhism after high school, but not without saying goodbye first. I'd gone through several workdays and several evenings of Buddhist meetings and practices before I noticed that Phillip wasn't around. Not on the bus, not at the community center, and certainly not at the Ala Moana seed shop. One late evening, I was sitting in my room enjoying my seedless plum and coca-cola when Phillip appeared next to me as I sat in front of my butsudan. 

"I'm going," he told me.

"Where?" I asked him.

"You've been chanting for me to find peace and be reincarnated into better circumstances," he said.

"I have been, yes," I confirmed.

"So, now I'm going," he smiled. "I'm going to come back as a human being again. I'm so lucky!"

"Before you go, can I ask you how you became a spirit?"

"I was killed by a cane haul truck crossing the road," Phillip shared. "The driver didn't even see me. No one knew I was gone, and my parents eventually thought I was missing or worse. My body was never found."

"Do you know where your body is?" I was surprised and scared for Phillip.

"It's at Manager's Drive," he said. "But it doesn't matter now; what matters is you helped me with your prayers, now I can move on, and hopefully, I can meet my parents in the next life."

He reached out and hugged me, and I hugged him back. The faint smell of coconut oil in his hair gave me chicken skin. He really was from the time of the plantation era, when life was simple, and everyone worked hard. Blinking sparkles of gold light appeared like dust balls until they finally faded away, and Phillip went with it. I don't know why I thought of that this morning, I had intended to write something else, but this is what took over. Maybe it was Phillip.

Credit: Eliot Elisofon


17A Productions Presents

Lopaka Kapanui at Hawaii Theatre

A storytelling concert at the historic Hawaii Theatre. This master storyteller is one of Hawaii’s most popular teller of tales and has been in the business of scaring people for more than 20 years. Lopaka is terrifically skilled at provoking that sudden chill going down one’s back or causing the small hairs on your arms to stand up. Chicken skin is what we call it in Hawai‘i. Others might refer to it as chills or goosebumps. Sharing real accounts of Hawaii’s supernatural culture, Lopaka often leaves audience members questioning the darkness on their drive home and anxiously leaving the light on at bedtime.


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