As a Marine, I was stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, for the last two years of my enlistment, running a dive locker. I used to frequent this great little sushi place on the Big Island which served some of the best uni I've ever had in my entire life.
Being the social girl that I am, I became friends with one of the locals, Ayumi. She was my waitress at the restaurant and when I became a regular, we became fast friends. There weren't many girls on the base at the time and I was hankering for some company that wasn't a large Marine trying to see if he could borrow a harpoon gun to go play in the ocean. Ayumi and I hung around outside of her work and off my base and became pretty close.
She and her brother were moving out of their parents' house and into an old house on the Big Island. I offered to help her move during a weekend of leave. We loaded her brother's truck and began the moving process. As we moved, we tried to clean, joking around and spraying each other with Windex. We got down to the ground-floor level of the house, and found a back room leading into a tiny storage room with a small entrance. Figuring this was a good spot for a pantry, Ayumi stepped into the room.
"Ah, hell." She laughed, as I heard a tinkling noise, like a beaded curtain being drawn.
"There's something hung up in the doorway. I keep hitting my head on it."
Ayumi reached up above the doorway and pulled a long necklace with brown beads off from a nail posted above the short door frame. The string holding the necklace together was browned with age, and the beads were smooth and brown. She toyed with it, letting the beads clink together. The middle bead at the bottom had a bone hook design, which she explained was traditionally Maori in design.
"It's kind of ugly," I remarked, crinkling my nose.
"Yeah. I think the string kind of smells, too. I'm gonna store it." She balled up the necklace and threw it into a drawer, shutting it. We didn't give the necklace a second thought.
After a long day of cleaning and moving, we had some rum and watched TV before I crashed out on her couch to spend the night. She turned off the lights and headed to her new bedroom, and the house soon settled down. The night air was cool and quiet.
I know that every house makes noise. They creak and groan and settle down for the night like giant slumbering beasts. But this house didn't make typical night-time house sounds.
I was beginning to doze when I heard the sound of laughter. Definitely the laughter of a child, coming from outside the home. It should have been a pleasant sound, a kid laughing away at something late at night, but it gave me goosebumps. I sat up on the couch and listened for a few more minutes, as the eerie mirth died away. I did two tours in Iraq, and I have no problem telling you that this child's laughter made me cower on the couch like a little girl. There was just something so perverse and so wrong in the air. I knew that the laughter wouldn't end well.
Then, the pantry floors began to creak slowly, as if responding to someone walking through the tiny room very slowly. And then, from inside the pantry, came the sound of a child crying. A slow weeping sound, a soft sound, as opposed to a temper tantrum.
Then came a gurgling sound, and all was quiet in the house.
I put on headphones, told myself that I was being an idiot, and pulled the sheet over my head. I managed to sleep.
The next morning, Ayumi was oddly quiet. Finally, halfway through some toast and sardines, she looked up at me.
"Did you hear, like, a little kid laughing last night?"
I nodded slowly, the toast turning to cement in my mouth. We began to rehash the night before and realized that we had both heard the same noises and felt the same dread.
She tried to laugh it off like it was new house jitters or might have been a neighbor's child, but it was clear that my friend was uneasy. We both continued to work on the house.
In the early evening, we decided to celebrate by going to a local bar for some karaoke and more rum. We met with Ayumi's brother/roommate and had a pretty great time, before the bar closed and the three of us decided to return to the house. We walked home in the night air, laughing and jostling one another, but as the house came into view, we all froze. There was a little path lit with tiny garden lights, leading around to the side door of the house, where the pantry opened out through a little hinged door to the side yard.
Ayumi's brother hadn't heard any of the creepy things from the night before, and he cackled before turning to Ayumi.
"You girls seriously lit the path to the side yard, but didn't bother to light the way to the front door?"
"We didn't put those out," she said quietly. Her hand reached out and began to clutch at mine.
We all started to approach the side entrance slowly, and we heard it. The soft sound of a child crying from inside the pantry. But it wasn't the sobbing from last night. These cries had a different tone and a different pace, like they were coming from a different child.
Ayumi's brother was clearly bothered but felt like he had to prove that the two of us girls were being silly. He opened the pantry door, and the crying ceased, but the air inside the pantry was cold. Cold like opening the freezer door, seeping out into the Hawaiian night.
I went back to base once the weekend was over, but Ayumi began to look more and more tired every time that I saw her. We didn't talk about the noises inside or outside her house or the lights, but she looked tired and drawn. I assumed she wasn't sleeping well.
About three weeks after they bought the house, Ayumi called me, crying on the phone. She and her brother couldn't sleep there anymore. There was children's laughter outside, children's crying inside, and heavy footsteps. Doors were shutting and opening, and things were going missing from the pantry, and strangest of all, the pantry began to smell like smoke all the time. Ayumi and her brother were terrified and couldn't sleep without awful feelings of dread and went back to their parents' house.
Their parents hated to see an investment like this going down the tubes and went old-school. They decided to call a Hawaiian priest they knew - a Kahuna who worked with restless spirits - to come and check out the house. Never missing the chance to see something like this in action (a Kahuna checking a house for hauntings, really!?), I took the afternoon to go and see her work.
We assembled in the front yard, and the Kahuna was instantly drawn to the side pantry. She looked befuddled and let herself in, before immediately going to the small entrance leading to the rest of the house.
"Something used to be here," she said bluntly, pointing at the tiny nail hanging over the doorway where the Maori necklace had been. "Something hung here. Where is it?"
Ayumi went to the drawer and pulled out the brown necklace. The Kahuna snatched it from her and hung it back up on the tiny nail. She then turned to us, and explained the problem.
"You see this necklace, yeah?" We nodded as she gesticulated.
"Back in the forties, this land belonged to an evil man. A man who took children from the island by befriending them, and then he raped and killed them. He was caught and hanged, but not before he had taken seven young lives. Seven little ones. He had buried them all here. And when the bodies were identified and the parents found out what he had done and that he was dead and buried, they dug him up. They burned the corpse, but even this was not enough to keep his evil from reaching into the world. They wanted to make sure that he never hurt another child."
She reached up and began to touch the beads, letting them slip through her fingers as she spoke.
"These beads? They are his bones. This is all that is left. This necklace is a circle that holds him inside, so he cannot get out. When you took it down, you gave him part of his house back. Never, ever take this down," she instructed, letting the beads clink against the wooden doorway.
"Otherwise, he will get restless. And he'll never let you sleep."