Author Archive


Informant Information:
Lauren is a 19 year old student currently studying human biology on the pre-medical track at the University of Southern California. She was born and raised in a small house town in Hawaii and later moved to a suburban area closer to Honolulu. Lauren shared the following story with me after asking her if she had ever encountered a ghost before.


Lauren: “The town that I grew up in was built on top of a torn down pineapple farm. It’s called Mililani if you want to look it up. Growing up I had always heard that there was a history of ghosts from the plantation haunting little kids and talking to them and stuff, or maybe kids even having visions of ghosts. When I was little I had a little girl ghost named Lani, and she would always ask me if I wanted to play with her. She would just say ‘My name is Lani. Do you want to play with me?’ She sounded sweet but it was just strange.”

Me: “Did you ever see her? Did you get the visions other kids got?”

Lauren: “So I never saw her, but I heard her a lot, and the way I distinguished it from a voice outside my head was that it was a voice I never heard and you can’t just make up a sound. Or at least that’s what I tell myself so that I know I’m not crazy (chuckles). But anyway, she was really quiet and shy, and I always wondered why a little girl was a ghost, and I just wondered what happened to her. It was weird because when she spoke to me it sounded like she was to the side of me, which might explain why I never saw her, but now looking back I wish I had known it was a ghost because maybe I would’ve looked over and seen her.”

Me: “Wait, so you didn’t realize that she was a ghost until you were older?”

Lauren: “Yeah. After a few years my family and I moved, and when we moved I had stopped hearing her, so she was definitely only in my house since I only heard her in my house. But, anyway, when I got to middle or high school I was talking to another boy from my hometown and he told me about his ghost. Like I said ghost stories are pretty common in Miliani, so he told me about how there would just be a woman in his room angrily looking at him, but she would never say anything. And when he was telling me this story, I realized Lani had to be a ghost too. Like I said, I couldn’t just make up a new voice, and also I had never met someone name Lani or even Elaine because sometimes Lani is a nickname for Elaine. When I was younger it definitely felt like there was a presence when she spoke to me; I didn’t feel anything touching me, but I just always got a feeling. So looking back all signs point to ghost, but I guess at that point I was just too young to put that together.”

Me: “Were you freaked out after you realized it was a ghost?”

Lauren: “Yes and no. Obviously it’s creepy that I grew up in a house that had a ghost, but she was never mean or scary or threatening. But also Hawaii has a really strong ghost belief and history, so it also wasn’t out of the ordinary. Like if you talk to someone from Hawaii there’s a good chance that either they’ve encountered a ghost or they know someone else who has.”


It’s interesting that Lauren’s story begins with the fact that her town was built on the “ruins” of an old pineapple farm—ruins are a common motif seen amongst other ghost stories. Children are also another motif in some ghost stories, and both Lauren and the ghost she spoke about were children during the time this all happened. Lauren was very calm when she was talking about her ghost encounter, especially when compared to Christine who still seemed nervous about the experience despite the fact that it happened several years ago. Lauren, however, explained that Hawaii has a rich ghost history, and I personally never thought of Hawaii to be a ghost-filled place. After doing some research, however, I then realized that one of the largest ethnic groups in Hawaii is the Japanese-American group; this is relevant because we had learned about Shintoism and how many people in Japan believe in ghosts and spirits, so it is possible that the large Japanese population influenced Hawaiian beliefs over the years. It is also possible that this shift in belief over the years thus affected Lauren’s context. Lauren grew up in a place where ghost stories and beliefs were common, which might then explain why she was so calm.

Folk Beliefs

Homemade Ouija Board

Informant Information:
Christine is a 19 year old student currently studying anthropology and human rights at the University of Southern California; she is also on the pre-law track. She was born and raised in Orange, California within a small, yet traditional, Korean family. Christine shared the following story with me after asking her if she had ever encountered a ghost before.

Christine: “I’ve never seen a ghost, but now that you mention it, I think one did kind of mess with my friends and I in middle school.”

Me: “Was your school haunted?”

Christine: “No, the ghost wasn’t in our school; it just happened during middle school. We were messing around with a Ouija Board one day after school because we were all bored and had nothing else to do.”

Me: “Can you explain what happened?”

Christine: “Let me try to remember what happened (paused). It was at my best friend Jacquelyn’s house. It was me, Jacquelyn, and Johanna, and we were sitting on the ground in her room. It was late afternoon-ish but definitely already dark, and Jacquelyn was, like, ‘We should do a Ouija board!’. I don’t remember how it came up, but Ouija boards were kind of popular at the time. But the strangest thing was that we didn’t have a legit Ouija board, so we just drew one out and looked up some chant online to make it real. Then we just used some glass we found as the triangle replacement. Then all three of us put our hands on the glass, and we said the chant to make it start. Then the cup just started moving even though none of us started to push it – and it was weird because the triangle can move easily but this was a glass that you really had to push.”

Me: “Did the glass say anything, or did you ask it any questions?”

Christine: “The first question we asked it was whether or not we were talking to a good or bad spirit. It ended up being a good spirit; it was a girl.”

Me: “Did she say anything about herself?”

Christine: “We asked her a few more questions and found out she was from like the 1900s, but a lot of the other questions she asked her didn’t make sense and were basically gibberish. Then eventually we asked her how many other ghosts and spirits were in the house, and the answer was really high. We got really freaked out and I wanted to stop, so I took my hands off the glass but then all of a sudden the door slammed shut. It was probably just the wind but still the timing was just really freaky. I put my hands back on and we said goodbye. I don’t know if it was a ghost or not, but it was just way too coincidental and specific and we swear to this day that none of us were pushing the glass.”

Me: “Would you ever use a Ouija board again?”

Christine: (Immediately) “No. We used a homemade one and it freaked me out; I wouldn’t go near a real one because I don’t even know what might happen.”

It’s interesting that Christine seemed to bounce back forth between believing that she actually encountered a ghost/spirit and that she just witnessed a series of coincidences. For example, she specifically describes the fact that a ghost “messed with” her and her friends, but at the end of the story she blames the wind for the slamming door instead of the ghost. This can just show that belief—whether it is the belief in ghosts or in something else—is fluid and can therefore changes over time and between different contexts. In this situation, her and her friends were playing with the homemade Ouija board when it was already dark out, which might explain why Christine was so quick to call this experience a ghostly encounter; if they had done this during the day, perhaps Christine would not have been so bold as to start her story stating that a ghost messed with her friends. Another way to look at it would be to look at how Christine immediately dismissed my suggestion of using a real Ouija board. The experience with a fake/homemade board was creepy enough, so she would not want to put herself in a context/situation that involved a real Ouija board that has been used/discussed in other scary stories, movies, or the like. This context, in comparison, is much scarier/creepier.