When Lopaka Kapanui started collecting ghost stories, he didn’t even realize it. As a child, Kapanui would listen to his mother and aunt tell stories. “I was never allowed to take notes, and I just had to absorb it,” he candidly shares.
A few years later, he worked at a Waikiki hotel and other employees would talk about “the ghost guy” hosting night-time tours in Honolulu. Kapanui knew he had to meet him, and that’s how he met the late Glen Grant, the original Ghost
Tours of Hawaii owner and an esteemed storyteller and paranormal expert in the Islands. As Kapanui listened, he realized many stories Grant told were the same ones he heard from his mother. Kapanui became his protégé.
From Grant, he learned to research thoroughly to corroborate stories. “A lot of stories that come to me are researched through old historical maps, through Hawaiian legends, books like [Ancient] Sites of O‘ahu,” Kapanui says. “A lot of times we have to go to the [state] archives and the [State of Hawaii] Department of Health to verify that these stories are true and that there’s documented proof that something did happen.”
When Grant died in 2003, Kapanui continued the tours until he started Mysteries of Hawaii.
Kapanui is a master storyteller in his own right and recalls anecdotes easily regarding many places in Hawai‘i, especially on O‘ahu. People contact him to tell their stories—or when they need help getting out of a paranormal situation.
He hears many stories at the place of the hauntings, and he’s heard plenty at a certain residential development in West O‘ahu. “They just built it in the wrong place,” he says. The houses are built on a trail of the nightmarchers (ghosts of old Hawaiian warriors) , and a large portion of it is built over an old fishing village where people used to feed the menehune (dwarf people in Hawaiian folklore). “You can see footprints on the side of the wall,” Kapanui says.
In addition to the stories, he has collected and been given artifacts. One includes a Japanese curse doll called a wara ningyo. In ancient Japan, the straw doll would be taken to a Japanese temple’s sacred tree during the hour of the ox (from 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.). The holder, wearing a crown of candles, would bring the doll up to the tree. With a board and a spike, the holder would nail the spike and chant the incantation curse for his enemy. If the holder was interrupted by someone on the grounds, he would have to kill them, hence why the ceremony takes place at night.
“I’ve heard through my contacts that local Japanese people who came during the plantation days still do this today,” Kapanui says.
He has received a stone candle with a human tooth in it, which has a dual purpose. It has three levels to represent the three levels of learning, and a depression to place a candle. The other is to put curses on others.
“I have not used it at all. I was very appreciative of the person who gave it to me but I decided not to mess with it,” Kapanui says.
To help verify haunted houses, he built an energy wheel, which is like a Geiger counter for paranormal activity. A folded piece of paper sits atop a needle stuck on a green floral block, all housed in an airtight case.
“It’s mainly used to detect poltergeists, or telepathic or telekinetic energy,” Kapanui says, and when it does, the paper will start to spin. It is in a case so no outside air will affect it.
It has only moved twice, he says. “It’s one of the ways to detect a legitimate haunting, or if there’s a misunderstanding on what the haunting really is,” Kapanui says. Sometimes people will develop allergies or get sick and blame a haunted home, but it could be a dirty air conditioning vent. Other times, there could be unresolved personal family problems, and they’d rather say it’s a ghost.
On tours, though, some freaky things have happened. He recalls a tour when an attendee became momentarily possessed. After the tour was over, she asked Kapanui why he never finished his story. Her husband explained that Kapanui told the story for 15 minutes, but she couldn’t recall a thing. At Hawaii Plantation Village, he told a group about the aswang, a vampire-like creature in Filipino folklore. “If some of you are not convinced about the aswang, come out in the dark around this hour and look up in the mango tree and you’ll see it,” Kapanui says. “And as soon as I says that, this branch from the tree broke 10 feet up and everyone freaked out.” The chaperone told him that was great how he planned it, but Kapanui says he didn’t do anything.
If you want to experience the stories (and possibly a ghost or two), you can sign up for a tour at Mysteries-of-Hawaii. com. Kapanui also maintains a blog at GhostsNextDoor.blogspot.com, where he annually writes 100 stories counting down to Halloween.
Hawaii ParaCon, Hawai‘i’s paranormal convention, was held last July, and a 2019 event is in the works. Find out more at hawaiiparacon.com.