GHOSTLY TALES BY NICOLE KATO, JAIMIE KIM, JAMES NAKAMURA AND CHRISTINA O’CONNOR
By Nicole Kato
I am easily frightened.
I am not a fan of scary movies, nor am I keen on putting myself in scary situations. That horror escape room Metro covered a couple months ago was a fluke (also, I hid behind my husband the entire time and was of no help to the group). Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I admit this: I think my house is haunted.
When something unexpected or strange happens, I am the first to try and explain away the situation. The voices we hear next to our faces while drifting off to sleep — that’s just the sound of random children telling jokes outside of our windows at 11:30 p.m. The door handles jiggling for no apparent reason; there must be an insane gust of wind that’s circulating only in one area of the room. Our cat staring into blackness; that must be her falling asleep while sitting upright and not realizing she’s being rude to the humans in the house.
However, there are things that my husband and I can’t seem to wrap our heads around. We try to laugh it off. I pretend I find it funny and joke about the ghost that lives in our house, but inside I am terrified. Here are a few things that have gone unexplained:
• When we first got married, my husband would work on the weekends, which left me at home to watch Netflix, day drink and sometimes clean. During one Netflix binge, I heard the doors in the master bedroom slam. The noise alone was startling, but the fact that the air conditioning was on and no windows were open to let in rolling gusts of air concerned me. I slowly made my way the bedroom, expecting to find the doors closed since the slam had been so loud. Instead, I found all the doors open and safely secured in the doorstop. I think I drank a whole bottle of wine that day.
• One night, as we were drifting off to sleep, the living room light suddenly turned on. Our first reaction was to find the cat — which we blame for most upheavals in our house. Instead of a guilty feline, we found her more than 10 feet away atop the kitchen counter, her favorite spot. (I say “we,” but in reality it was my husband checking on the cat because I was under the covers singing children’s Christian hymns.) We already know it would be impossible for her to reach the light switch, but we tried to think of all the ways she could have made it there (jumped? hovered?), somehow turned it on with her non-polydactyl hands, and then run back to the kitchen to jump on the counter. I had very restless sleep that night.
• A few weeks ago, I got locked in the bathroom. I like to close the door when I shower. It’s a double-edged sword because I like the sauna-type environment, but the steam also fogs up the mirror and anyone who knows anything about horror movies knows that when the main character is finished taking a shower and wipes that condensation off the mirror, who’s standing right behind them? The murderer. On the night in question, my desire for a spa-like shower trumped my fear of serial killers, rapists and red-faced demons (think Insidious).
When I tried to exit the bathroom, the door was locked. I never lock the door. Panic set in, and I immediately started screaming for my husband. Panic turned to anger when my brain convinced me that he had locked me in the bathroom as a joke. I demanded he let me out immediately, and he sheepishly replied that there was no lock from the outside. I looked down. Yup, the door locks from the inside. There was no way I could have accidentally locked the door. The lock itself is difficult to turn, and you need a very good grip. Fear still coursed through my body, and I started to sweat, which meant showering again.
I kept the door ajar the second time.
By Jaimie Kim
I hate camping. So much. So it was just my luck in fifth grade, when teachers announced the grade-level trip that year would be a weekend to Camp Timberline.
It was the worst. By the afternoon of our first day there, I already had narrowly escaped death after someone tripped and fell into me during the world’s longest hike. (If you’re wondering, I saved myself by grabbing hold of a tree trunk right near the edge of the trail.)
Things started improving around dinner, if only because food was involved. After that, the mood lightened and the entire grade hung out for a bit before boys and girls retreated to their respective cabins.
What ensued was a night of talking about boys and ghost stories and whatever else fifth-graders talked about at the time. (There probably was some heated discussion about whether NSYNC was better than Backstreet Boys.)
One by one, girls began to drop out of the conversation, giving in to sleep. Eventually, someone turned out the light, and the only noise in our cabin was the occasional toss and turn, and snore.
Everyone, it seemed, was asleep — everyone but me. My thoughts unwillingly returned to a story someone gleefully told earlier in the evening about a boy who was trampled to death in his sleep while camping. It was because the boy didn’t believe in night marchers, she said, and didn’t listen when his cabin-mates warned him to move his bed out of their path.
How the hell do you know the path of night marchers? I wondered. Was I in it? Would I die?
Before I knew it, a couple of hours passed and I was in desperate need of the bathroom, which was stupidly located outside of our cabin and down a steep pathway.
Terrified to go alone, I called out quietly to see if anyone else was awake. A voice answered back, and we jumped out of our beds to embark on the journey. We stood in the dark for a little while, whispering to each other.
And then, for some very dumb reason I can’t even begin to justify, we decided to see if there were others who had to go to the bathroom, too. We walked around the cabin, peeking into beds and murmuring names as we went before giving up.
When we returned, I was able to drift off to sleep with relative ease. Everything was right in the world again — that is, until breakfast the next morning. As I moved through the cafeteria, I heard one of the girls in my cabin eagerly telling people about how she saw a ghost the night before. It was a girl, she told everyone, and the girl had peered into her face, whispered her name and walked away.
She was talking about me. Mortified, I went to the bathroom. For a little while, I had a good, silent laugh about it. You have to understand, I am such an awkward person and prone to stupid things like this that I just have to stop and laugh at myself.
By the time I returned to breakfast, though, pretty much every fifth-grader had heard about the ghost that visited our cabin. Some even stopped to ask if I had also seen the ghost.
It was a “ghost” story that was told and then retold quite a few times. I don’t think the truth ever came out. No one ever asked or confronted me about it… yet.
Either Way, You’ve Never Heard Him Speak
By James Nakamura
What color is a ghost in a day-lit living room? You could say it’s the color of that strip of sky closest to the horizon. Is it solid? Only around its contours, around the edges that delineate it, like an empty glass.
Is there a lot of detail? Enough to look angry, or stern, as if it caught you looking through the drawer of a desk that wasn’t yours.
How does it move? It jumps, like the illustration on an old lenticular sticker, or a snippet of stop-motion footage from an old movie, a few frames missing in between.
It makes eye contact and disappears quickly.
It forces you to try to replicate your steps along the worn carpeting to reproduce the confluence of light, shadow, reflections, refractions. You examine the jalousie windows, at how tree branches mangle up the light and throw them against the wall. You look under and behind the desk for hidden cracks of light. You note the smell of burnt sandalwood, camphor, anise and clove.
You look out of the corner of your eyes, cropping the periphery out of your field of vision incrementally, a millimeter at a time, letting an old, outdated calendar slowly slide out of view, looking for any hint of visual distortion that could have been misread.
You step around the coffee table just so. You do it over and over. You speed up. Slow down.
You look directly at the urn, a modest, unadorned block. You walk up to it. Where is the head? Where’s the head that sailed out from its dull, brushed-copper surface, his brow line-bespectacled eyes following you as you walked by?
Having seen his face bloom out of his own cremains, you now have two recollections of him. 1) Sitting on a pea-green sofa that faced the writing desk, watching an old black and white television. 2) As an apparition emerging from the urn on the writing desk facing the sofa.
Either way, he never said a word.
By Christina O’Connor
Hanna leaned forward from the backseat of my car, grabbing my keys to try the ignition herself.
“This isn’t funny,” she said. “Start the car.”
“I’m not doing anything,” I responded. “It won’t start.”
The trembling of my voice must have convinced her that I was for real, because she slid back into the seat, whispering, “Just get us out of here.”
I tried again. Nothing.
There we were, stuck in a stalled car at the Pali Lookout at night, just like the legends about what happens when you bring pork over the Pali. Next to me was my friend Ben, whose calm presence was the only thing keeping us from truly panicking, and next to Hanna was the pork — bacon atop a half-eaten box of pizza.
This was, though, in a way, exactly what we’d wanted.
I was 17 and ever since I’d gotten my driver’s license the summer before, Hanna and I had used our newfound freedom to drive to haunted spots around the island. We’d been to Seven Bridges, to Morgan’s Corner, tracing the steps of all the urban legends that we had grown up hearing. We had been to the Pali Lookout at night many times, but this is the first time that we had ever done it with pork in the car.
According to the legend, volcano goddess Pele and pig god Kamapua‘a had a tumultuous relationship, and when they broke up, they agreed to never see each other again; bringing pork from one side of the island to another symbolizes that Kamapua‘a has crossed the boundary. If you do bring pork over the Pali, your car is said to stall and you won’t be allowed to proceed until you throw it out. And according to the variations we’d been told over the years by friends’ older siblings and parents, things could get a lot more gruesome — in one particularly violent version we’d heard, if you’d recently eaten pork, a pair of dogs will chase you down and tear it right out of your stomach.
Our months-long ghost-hunting hadn’t really yielded anything notable, certainly nothing that supported these legends we’d heard. We’d never saw the ghost of someone hanging from a tree at Morgan’s Corner; we never witnessed apparitions while wandering through Waikiki hotels; and the scariest thing we saw at Seven Bridges was a pack of hunters and their dogs heading off into the woods.
But we still unequivocally believed in everything. And we didn’t want to stick around for what was about to happen next.
I don’t really remember the details of the following moments. I just remember feeling increasingly anxious, unable to think clearly about what we should do to get out of there.
But it turns out I didn’t have to. Ben, who had been telling us to calm down the whole time, that things were fine, suddenly started laughing. And then he put his hand on the gear shifter — and slid it into “park.”
I had forgotten, it seems, to put the car in park before I turned it off. That’s why it wouldn’t start. We weren’t stalled at all.
Now laughing, we got out of the car and walked to the end of the lookout, staring out peacefully for a few minutes before we went back to the lot, started the car and headed toward home.
We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but that was the last time that Hanna and I would ever go up there at night again, the last time that we ever went searching for ghosts again at all. All those months ghost-hunting,I think, we were looking for proof of things we weren’t sure were there, things we weren’t sure existed.
Later that night, Hanna and I stopped by the movie theater where her boyfriend was working the late shift to give him the leftover pizza, and we sat in the parking lot with him while he ate.
“So,” he said as he finished a slice and lit a cigarette, “what did you two do tonight?”
I didn’t say anything, instead watching as the smoke from his cigarette floated away, mixing with the night’s fog. It all blended together in a haze.
It became impossible to tell what was what.
Paige Takeya explains why she excused herself from this feature.
I have no scary stories to share because I am 100 percent certifiable ghost repellent. Doors never lock themselves; strange voices are never heard; knife-wielding intruders are just shadows. Maybe it’s just a gift. Maybe it’s because I never go anywhere without at least three omamori charms in my purse. Either way, I am spirit-proof.