Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 9, 2022

Ki'i 2022

 After my tūtū wahine passed away, the arduous task of clearing her bedroom fell solely upon me, for it was stated in her will that I was the only one allowed to do so.

I kept her bedroom door open for the entire term. The task was emotional and heartbreaking because it felt like we were clearing my tūtū wahine out of our lives. We should have left her room the way it was, unbothered and undisturbed. I was not really paying attention to what items I grabbed and where I placed them until I came across the wooden puppets the size of a toddler. The heads were oblong with sunken eyes, an open mouth, and two slits for nose holes. The clothes were muslin covering two extended wooden arms. Simple looking as they were, they gave me a frightful feeling and creeped me out. My mother walked in and immediately ordered me to burn the dolls and throw them away. "Ugh, those things always gave me a creepy feeling,"

"These belonged to tūtū?" I asked, still feeling very bothered by the dolls.

"Those were her hula kiʻi, her hula dolls," my mom nodded toward them. "At night, you could hear her chanting, and I swear I heard other voices harmonize with hers, knowing very well that there was no one else in the room but her. She'd be sitting in the living room with those things on her lap, animatedly talking to them in Hawaiian like they were having a real conversation; just ugh, so creepy!"

Rather than throw the dolls away, I gave them to the nearest hula shop I could find, which happened to be the one in Waikiki. A very touristy location, in fact. The owners, who were self-proclaimed historians, were more than happy to receive the hula ki'i. They said the dolls would give them some legitimacy since they were constantly being ragged on for being two non-Hawaiians who owned a hula shop that was not authentically Hawaiian. In less than a month, the store burned down one night when the owner's wife set everything ablaze, muttering something about the audacity of selling the spirit of hula out for money. When her husband tried to stop her, she knocked him backward, head over heels, as if she'd suddenly gained some kind of superhuman strength. Later, the police could not handcuff her because of how much of a death grip she had on the three hula dolls. When the authorities finally managed to tear the hula ki'i away from her, they asked the husband if he wanted the items. 

"No," he scoffed. "Toss those fuckin' things; they only brought us bad luck,"

The police did as the store owner requested; they tossed the dolls back into the fire. The next day, after everything burnt to the ground, leaving nothing left but cinders and ash, the only thing that wasn't burnt were the hula ki'i. After that, no one wanted to touch those items, not even the museum or other Kumu hula. Eventually, the dolls were taken to a police lock-up, where they still sit today. The word is that as long as you don't touch the hula dolls, you'll be fine. But the second you make contact, your world will fall apart. 

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