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Haunted Hawai‘i: My Personal Experience With the Supernatural and the Unexplained

Many say that Hawai‘i is full of ghosts and otherwordly beings–not just from one culture, but all of the cultures that live together in the islands. This is one writer’s experience with the supernatural.


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To spiritually sensitive visitors, Mauna ‘Ala, the Royal Mausoleum, is heavy with  the presence of the generations of Hawaiian ali‘i buried there.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino 


The ghost sightings and paranormal activity in Hawai‘i, experts say, are almost always linked to our sharing of cultures, dating back to the plantation era. And there’s a lesson in these stories.


“I believe this is all meant to remind us to be respectful and cautious,” Kapanui says, now in the Mō‘ili‘ili Japanese Cemetery in front of the odd stone monument marking the grave of Myles Fukunaga, who, in 1928, kidnapped 10-year-old George Gill Jamieson, the son of the Hawaiian Trust Co. executive who was going to evict the Fukunaga family from the house they were renting. Fukunaga demanded and received a $10,000 ransom, but he bludgeoned the boy to death anyway. Fukunaga was hanged at O‘ahu Prison the following year and buried here.


Someone—Kapanui isn’t sure who—still leaves offerings at Fukunaga’s grave.


But he didn’t bring me here to talk about Fukunaga. He wanted to show me another grave nearby.


It had a small headstone engraved with kanji. In front of it was an aluminum can of POG, its label faded by the sun, and a pack of bubblegum.


This Mō‘ili‘ili Japanese Cemetery headsone is said to be haunted by a 7-year-old boy. 

The story goes, that in the summer of 2008, Kapanui had taken a tour through this cemetery to see the gravesite of Fukunaga. As with the ghost tours led by his mentor, the late Glen Grant, Kapanui has always focused on sharing the culture and history of Hawai‘i through these spooky tales.


On this particular tour, he saw a young Japanese boy, about 7 years old, sitting at this grave, telling Kapanui that he was waiting for his mom who promised him guava juice and Bazooka bubble gum. Before Kapanui returned to his tour, the little boy asked him, “Why don’t you ever stop here and say hi?” And that’s when he realized this wasn’t a real boy. Ever since then, Kapanui pays his respects by stopping at this grave and saying hello—and people who have heard this story leave the boy guava juice and bubble gum.


It’s not just Japanese people who leave these token offerings.


Stories like these cross cultural and religious boundaries. Many ethnic groups have some kind of belief in the afterlife and their own supernatural lore. The Japanese have their obake and bakemono, preternatural creatures in Japanese folklore, and ghosts of faceless women said to haunt places like Kāhala Mall and Kapi‘olani Community College. The “choking ghost,” or kanashibari, is also a Japanese import, and one I’ve experienced firsthand dozens of times, most recently in a rental in Hawai‘i Kai. I would feel a heavy pressure on my chest as I slept, so oppressive I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t even open my eyes. I would claw and kick and gasp for air until, all at once, the pressure would disappear and I would wake up sweating and panting. Many say this is just sleep paralysis, a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep often accompanied by terrifying hallucinations. I suppose that would explain the long-haired Japanese obachan who I would often seen lying next to me after an episode of paralysis.


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Honolulu Magazine September 2020