The Scent of Pikake

Informant: Male/age 63 years/ Caucasian-Hawaiian ancestry
Location: Oahu, Diamond Head/ Los Angeles, Silverlake District, California

In my family, there is an old family tale that if you ever smell pikake when there are no flowers to be seen, it means someone who has "passed" is in your presence. After my Dad passed, my Mom claimed she used to get the pikake scent all the time in our house at Diamond Head, particularly in the kitchen for some reason. At the same time that she'd smell pikake, our dog Ele'ele, who simply worshiped my dad, would go bonkers, barking like crazy.

Curiously, on my last visit to Hawaii I drove by the old house and the new owners were out front so I stopped and introduced myself. When I asked what they thought of the house, the wife just blurted out: "We used to think the place was haunted." When I asked why she thought that, the woman said: "We've lived here about 20 years and when we first moved in, from time to time, I swear I could heard someone strumming an ukulele out on the lanai. No one in our family plays an ukulele and we don't even own one. This ukulele things eventually stopped about 15 years ago. Then, there was this dog. Once in awhile I'd be looking out the kitchen window and see this black dog lying in the grass in the back yard. The yard is completely fenced and when we'd go into the backyard to check, the dog was never there. None of the neighbors had a dog like that. We stopped seeing the dog about the time the ukulele music stopped."

I then wished the couple well and, with chicken skin in full eruption, I left without telling them that my dad, who passed away in the house, was an expert ukulele player nor did I mention our black dog, Ele'ele. I later realized that their ukulele and dog experiences probably ceased about the same time that my Mom passed away. I'm hoping they all found one another in the hereafter.

In 1993 I moved from Oregon to Los Angeles to accept a new job and immediately began looking to buy a home. One day, a friend of mine, my realtor and I went to see a house in the Silverlake district. My realtor told us that no one was home and we could spend as much time at the house as we wished. 

After one initial tour of the house, I was very impressed and definitely interested in it. I then decided to go back upstairs to take another look at the bedrooms while my friend and realtor chatted out by the pool. As I got to the top of the stairs, an elderly Asian woman walked past me down the hall. As she passed, she glanced at me, expressionless, and said nothing. Startled, I immediately apologized for intruding, explained that I had thought no one was home, turned around, and began quickly going back down the stairs. 

When I got outside, I told my realtor that someone was home because an old lady had just scared the crap out of me upstairs. The realtor swore no one was home and called the listing agent who confirmed that a young couple lived in the house and they were both at work. As she was talking on the phone, we all noticed a strong sent of jasmine (pikake). I looked around and saw no indication of blooming jasmine. It was then that I remembered our old family tale. 

At that, I said, "Let's get the hell out of here. This place gives me the creeps." Just as I said this, we heard a loud bang like a door slamming upstairs and we immediately raced one another for the front door. As we darted through the living room I took a closer look at a large portrait of an elderly Asian woman that was hanging on the wall above the fireplace. It was the lady I had seen upstairs! 

When we got back to our cars, I told the realtor about the picture of the lady and I insisted that my realtor find out who she was. The listing agent reported that the picture was that of the owner's Mother who had passed away several years ago. Needless to say, I did not make an offer on the house!


Whistling After Dark

Informant: Female/36/Filipino ancestry
Location: Wahiawa, Hawaii

When I was a little girl, I never went to summer camp like my son. I stayed home and played with the neighborhood kids. There were only a few of us in the neighborhood but we all had nice yards with swing sets. We would keep playing until it got dark and our parents would yell from the front door to get inside and eat dinner. But late one afternoon I decided to stay out a little longer to play.

I played on the swing and I tried to swing higher and higher. I did chin-ups using the t-shaped post that held the clothes line and I practiced my whistling because I was the only one that couldn't whistle. It was so frustrating because everyone else could whistle and I couldn't. I wanted to be like the big kids so I kept trying and trying. When I finally got it, I was dizzy and it was dark.

I remember my mom telling me to come inside and to stop whistling because it would attract ghosts. I didn't believe her until I saw the bruises on my arm.

There were two bruises. Mom demonstrated how I was pinched by placing her fingers directly on top of each bruise.

After that incident, I never played outside after dark.


The Raincoat

Informant: Female/20/Mixed ancestry
Location: Mililani, Oahu

This happened again recently. I thought it was just a trick of the eye, but it can't be if I've seen it twice.

I was driving home one evening and it was raining. Not super hard, but enough to make me slightly more cautious on the road. I turn the corner to go home when out of the corner of my eye I see an older woman walking in the rain at a distance. She was pale, like a washed out black and white photograph, but her raincoat was a light lavender. I didn't get to see her face because her small black umbrella was covering it, but I knew she was older because of her long white hair. She was walking toward a tree and I didn't see her appear on the other side. I brushed it off and continued driving down the road when I see her a little closer again, out of no where. But just a glimpse this time and then she is gone. I looked in my rear view mirror and didn't see anyone. I chucked it up to me being really tired and a trick of the headlights on the rain.

It rained again today in the late afternoon. The sky was dark and I was driving home on the same road. Then I see her again. Just a flash of lavender and it's gone. I checked in my rear view mirror and, again, did not see anyone. I don't know if this is a ghost or someone who is really good at vanishing tricks, but it gave me the heebie-jeebies.


Maybe a Bit More Than Dreaming...

Informant: Male/19 years old/Mixed Ancestry
Location:University of Hawaii at Hilo dorms, Big Island

I have had some pretty strange dreams. Not too long ago, I had one that I thought was pretty bizarre and featured it in this blog. However, this dream takes the cake. This is not only the single most strangest dream of my life, but it also maybe one of the most inexplicable occurrence of my life.

In my dream, I get out of my bed, and walk down the hall to the community bathroom for my dorm. In the bathroom, I turn on all the faucets and showers. The water is scalding hot and steam is beginning to fill the bathroom. After the temperature has risen a considerable amount, I undress myself, walk into the showers, and sit under the water.

The water is extremely hot and I'm literally cooking myself to death. I feel the burning sensation and I'm screaming in pain. I look at my arms and I see that blisters and burns are beginning to form. However, I continue to sit under the water.

At this moment in my dream, I lose consciousness and I wake up from my sleep. I'm soaked with sweat and I'm having a bit of trouble of breathing. I look down at my at my arms and there are no marks or blisters of any kind. At this moment I have to use the restroom.

As I'm walking down the hall, I can hear water running. I just figure it's one of the students taking an early morning shower. However, I get into the bathroom, and it is filled with steam. All of the faucets and showers are on, the water extremely hot. I go to turn off the showers, but the water is so hot that the pipes are hot too. I had to take off my shirt and wrap it around my hand so that I wouldn't burn myself turning off the faucets and showers.

The next morning, I talked to each of the students living in my wing and asked them about turning on the water in the bathrooms. All of them told me that they were completely asleep at the time of the incident.

I may have been sleepwalking, however, my door is locked at all times, I do not know how I would've been able to get back into my dorm after I turned on all the faucets and showers. This is an incident I'm afraid will never have a logical explanation.


Comfort in Dreams

Informant: Female/23/Korean ancestry
Location: Kapaa, Kauai

Not too long after my grandmother died, I had a dream about her. We were all sitting in my Aunty's living room. My grandma was sitting in a chair near the window, wearing the green long sleeve shirt she always wore, and she was laughing her head off, like she just heard the funniest thing in the world.

And that was the end of my dream.

I told my mom about it the next morning, and of course it brought a tear to her eye since the grief was still fresh. My dad didn't mention it to me, but mentioned to my mom later:

"I had the exact same dream last night."



Informant: Female/18 years old/Caucasian Ancestry
Location: Hilo, by the side of the Wailuku River, Big Island

When I was about fourteen, I woke up in the middle of the night suddenly. There was no noise, I was just suddenly awake. However, I couldn't move a muscle. My legs, hands, arms, toes, eyelids, everything, felt like it was paralyzed. I started to freak out, thinking something was wrong. I strained and strained but I couldn't move anything.

Suddenly, out of the dark, I heard someone whisper my name. "Julia!" it whispered. The voice was that of an older male, and I heard it right next to my ear. Now I was really freaked out, I honestly felt someone was there.

A few seconds later (that seemed like hours) I snapped out of it and could move normally. I checked everywhere in my room and there was no one there. My brother was sleeping soundly across the hall and I couldn't figure it out.

I laid awake for the rest of the night, wondering if the voice would come back. It never has.

Wrong Number

Informant: Male/ 15 years old/ Filipino Ancestry
Location: University of Hawaii at Hilo dorms, Big Island

This story actually comes from my uncle.

He was attending the university during the 70's and had just moved into the dorms. As a gift, his parents bought him a phone that he could plug into the phone jacks so he could keep in touch with family.

Within minutes of plugging his telephone into the jack, he got his first phone call.

"Hello? Is Jim there?" sobbed the woman on the other end of the line.

"No, sorry, you got the wrong number," my uncle replied. The woman cried for a bit, then hung up the phone.

Later on that night, my uncle got a phone call from that same woman. A woman crying and asking for Jim. The phone calls continued for at least once a day for the rest of the semester. My uncle pitied the woman, so he didn't really do anything about it. He would just pick up the phone and listen to her ask for Jim and then weep. He would then say "wrong number" and wait for her to hang up. A couple of times, he tried to talk to the woman and see if he could help her find the right number, but it was as if she didn't care for what he had to say. She only wanted to know if Jim was there.

Finally at the end of the semester, my uncle started to move out of the dorms. As he was emptying out the drawers from his desk, he noticed something was carved into the bottom of one them.

It was a big heart with words in the middle saying: "R.I.P Jim."


Superstitions I Grew Up With

A long time ago I was at a pool party at my friend's house. After hours of playing in the sun without any proper protection, majority of us were sunburned. After we had all showered and eaten, we went in search of pain relief. There were some aloe plants in the yard, so me and 2 other friends went to cut some. When we returned, some of our friends scolded us saying that we shouldn't cut plants at night because it attracts the spirits. I had never heard of this before, and this was just the beginning of many superstitions that I have accumulated over the years.

At the new year, I've heard that you shouldn't sweep your house because you sweep all the good luck away. I think this is a Japanese superstition, but I am not entirely sure as I am not Japanese.

I try to refrain from whistling at night, because this is also said to attract spirits. I don't know the origin of this superstition.

Pointing at graveyards and gravestones is taboo. If you point, the spirit of the dead will grab onto your finger and not let go. I actually recall something like this in the movie "League of Their Own," but they crossed their fingers and held it over their heads.

I know that there are more, but I can't seem to think of them all at the moment. I invite you to add your own superstitions that you've grown up with or heard of!