Ghosts of Hawaii

Ghosts, or obake, are everywhere in Hawaii. You can’t go a mile without seeing a haunted house or place. The H3 highway was said to be cursed; several people died while building it. My friend drove me through Kaimuki, a modern neighborhood near downtown, and pointed out several haunted houses on the street where she grew up. Bishop Museum? Haunted. Pali Highway and overlook? Haunted. Several streetcorners downtown? Haunted. Boulder at Punahou School? Haunted.

You just don’t see this kind of haunting per capita on the mainland. There are haunted tours and many books written on the subject of hauntings, mostly by the late Glen Grant, whose Chicken Skin radio show used to be very popular.

So I was thinking it would be only a matter of time before I saw my first ghost.

The other day I was exiting my complex’s parking lot when I caught sight of something that made me brake in shock. What I saw were two children sitting on the banks of the park. They looked like a combination of this:


and this:


Except, luckily, their eyes weren’t glowing.

They were tiny and had the palest, gray-white skin, matching white hair, and wore light brown Chairman Mao linen suits. The white-gray skin was what threw me. Each was holding three purple balloons, clutched like a bouquet. They stared solemnly at me, their knees up, one seated above the other on the hill instead of side by side, looking out of place, like spectres out of a movie.

I almost crashed.

Then I saw that they were in fact two elderly ladies waiting for the bus. Under the tree, instead of at the bus stop, which had no shade. I recognized one as the grandmother of one of the kids who live around here.

I desperately wanted to take a picture, but I supposed the CIA-level maneuver it would have taken for me to get my minivan swung around, across the street, and close enough would scare them off.

So I still haven’t seen a ghost. Not that I want to see one. I just wouldn’t be overly surprised, with all the tales.

Over the weekend, we passed a house surrounded by a fence. A big handlettered sign warns on the gate: ALBINO KEIKI AT PLAY. I wondered some person got a start from seeing the albino keiki– thinking he or she is a ghost?– and almost crashed. Someone like me.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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