Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 10, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #19 I'e Kuku

 We lived at the end of Meaulu Road in the early 70s'.

The two-storied house was empty for a while before a humble family moved in. They were a Hawaiian family, Kamana. The father drove a large Chevy stationed wagon, which the family piled into. No matter where they went, they always went together. They lived poorly or seemed like it, except they never appeared to wear the same clothes. The Kamana family had been living next to us for a month when one late night, I was awoken by the sharp, hollow sound of wood hitting wood. It was coming from the direction of the Kamana home, and even in my pajamas at eight years old, I braved the balmy evening and left through the kitchen door, maneuvering the dirt road and coarse grass to make my way around my neighbor's house without being seen. Their house was dark and silent, like a gothic structure from those old Hammer films. The sound was coming from a thick kiawe forest just beyond their backyard. I had to be careful not to step on one of those thick kiawe thorns, which could un-mercifully pierce through my foot. It seemed like an eternity until I came upon the yellowish-red glow of a fire in a clearing.

The Kamana family all sat on a fallen Kiawe tree while the father stood off to the side. They were all looking at something or someone who I couldn't see. That meant carefully and silently positioning myself so I could see who they were looking at. Soon, I would know the source of the noise: a Hawaiian woman about the same age as my mother, with a stern look on her face as if she were being forced to do what I saw her doing. In front of her was a dark-colored Kua la'au (Anvil) with an endless swath of kapa, which she pounded with an I'e Kuku, a four-sided beater with designs on each side. She was crying, intermittently wiping the tears from her eyes. The Kamanas appeared to have no sympathy for the woman. They were there more to keep an eye on her than appreciate her craft. Mr. Kamana left suddenly, and his wife and children dutifully followed behind him. I stayed hidden for a while before I finally decided it was time to go. The woman continued with her tapa-making, and the fire in front of her never once abated, and it seemed that she would continue into the night. It wasn't a voice I heard; it was more like an instinctual urge. It stopped me, making me walk back where the woman pounded her kapa. Her eyes pierced my soul, and with the wave of her hand, she commanded that I go forward. Drawing closer, she simultaneously stood up and handed me her I'e Kuku. I had a vision. In it, the woman told me her name, Lepa. In ancient times, she was a simple woman of no rank or consequence. Hers was the task of pounding kapa with the other women to provide clothing for her family and others in her kauhale and the larger kaiaulu.

One day, a powerful Kahuna of the ali'i court passed through Lepa's village to counsel the konohiki of the 'ili. On his way through, he caught a glimpse of Lepa and was instantly filled with a strong desire to make her his own. He made his intentions known, but she flatly refused. The kahuna was so incensed by this low-born woman's refusal that he killed her on the spot and bound her spirit to serve him for all eternity, pounding kapa to provide for his family for as long as he wished. Yet, during the great battle of Pu'ukawiwi, the kahuna was slain and summarily sacrificed at Kaneaki. Unfortunately, the spell to unbind Lepa's spirit from the kahuna was never broken. Therefore, the rest of eternity she spent, still pounding kapa for the descendants of the kahuna, Kamana.

I was never convicted or confined because I was only eight years old when I slaughtered the entire Kamana family while they slept. This I did with an I'e Kuku, a tapa beater, leaving bloodied imprints of the designs on four sides of the instrument. "I freed Lepa's spirit" is how I always conclude what transpired that evening. No one has believed it thus far after these seventy years, but that is precisely what happened. 

Credit: Gloria Furer

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