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Haunted Places

Date Posted: 2001-10-25

Okinawa certainly has more than its fair share of haunted buildings. Following are some of the more popular tales of the island’s local haunts. Are you brave enough to pay these places a visit? Also, if you would like to see some of the local haunts, be sure to sign up with MCCS for their Spooky Site tour.

Haunted Hanger
One hanger on a U.S. base here on island has earned the reputation of being ‘haunted.’ A number of flight line and security personnel have reported hearing voices, talking or arguing, singing and laughing. Though too faint to be understood, it’s been loud enough to be heard by a number of witnesses. Yet it always stops when an individual gets close to the building. There have also been reports of things moving around inside the hanger, and ‘ghost’ pilots running to the back of the building.

Building "404"
A reporter had been working in the darkroom of this building, then a military photo lab, when he heard an outer door open. Assuming it was another swing shift worker, he noticed a figure pass by the door twice. Thinking the man was awaiting an OK to enter the darkroom, the reporter went to open the door, but the figure slowly walked away. As the reporter called out to him, the figure turned around. The reporter described the man as a half-skeleton/half-man who sneered and disappeared into thin air.

A former Japan Update employee, after hearing this story, got together a group of "ghostbusters" to investigate "404," and set up cameras in the building as an attempt to investigate the claim. The group partied, laughed, and told jokes, and soon fell into a half-sleep. At about 2:30 a.m., a noise jolted them awake. Listening, the group heard the sound of a chair being dragged across the floor. Soon, a ‘cold, unkind wind,’ as it was described, enveloped the group, ‘turning excitement to sheer horror,’ according to the story. Everyone involved soon picked up the equipment and left the building; after the photographs were developed, nothing exact could be seen, although some say there was a man in the corner of one, with a ‘weak smile on his face.’

Kadena’s Infamous Dwelling
Most people on Kadena have heard about the haunted house behind the USO. Rumors abound, including one of a woman washing her hair in the sink, children laughing or screaming, the sounds of a horse’s footsteps, and even one of a man who killed his family inside. A Halloween séance was even held there some years ago, and it is said that while those involved didn’t contact Harry Houdini as planned, they definitely did contact a spirit. Whatever story you have heard, or perhaps believe, there is something strange about the house. Why board up a perfectly good home when a grateful family would gladly take it? Why does the USO use it for storage, and why do the employees there only enter in the daylight or in groups? Maybe someday the truth will be told about the house behind the USO.

Haunted Hotel
One of the most often told stories, and most often confused stories when told, is that of the haunted mansion which was built in the early 70s. The mansion sits near the Nakagusuku Castle Ruins, off of Route 329. Stories have been spread of tourists being murdered and other hotel guests drowning in the pool. The hotel, in fact, was never opened to the public, never even finished. Inside, stairs lead to nowhere, and what was once meant to be a luxury hotel was a fiasco. The hotel was built on ground said to be sacred, but the developer, an Okinawan businessman, failed to listen to the local villagers. Instead, he went ahead with his plans...or lack thereof, as the place was built without the use of blueprints. Soon into the building, several construction accidents claimed the lives of those working on the hotel. Workers began to fear going to the site, and soon everything was abandoned. The businessman went bankrupt not long after the hotel idea failed, and now resides in an insane asylum. A monk lives in the ruins where he has built a small altar to help the spirits rest.

Three-Day House
An Okinawan couple built their dream home only to find out that vicious spirits inhabited it. One evening, the husband awoke to find knives stuck in the mattress, surrounding the outline of his body. Upset, he and his wife asked a friend to sleep over to see if he would experience anything strange. The man swears he saw the ghost of a man hanging himself in the same room, and a little boy playing with a ball. Soon after, the owners moved out and the house has been rented out ever since. No Okinawans will live in the house, and it is usually rented to Americans through a local housing agency. The families, however, have often moved out only three or four days after moving in, complaining of ghosts. Those who live in nearby homes and apartments are said to place salt and a knife in each room to ward of the evil spirits of the ‘Three Day House.’

Haunted Neighbors
North of Kadena Circle, just off of Highway 58, sits an apartment building rumored to be haunted. The lower floors of the building were once a department store owned by a popular chain here on Okinawa. It was closed soon after it opened, due to lack of business. It is said that children who entered the store often saw other youngsters, usually bandaged or in pain. They would talk or play with the children, and after too many reports of this happening, parents began to stop visiting the store either because of the rumors or because of their own children's experiences. Nowadays, I've heard that no one lives in the top four floors, because of the ghostly occupants found there. Next to this apartment building is a hospital built after World War II. A number of children have claimed to see ghosts in this building and through its windows, and rumors abound that if you take a picture of the fourth floor of the building, previously unseen faces will appear when developed. Perhaps the 'ghost' children in the old department store were the souls of those kids who died next door. A friend and I went to this area to see if the claims were true, and when we questioned a security guard at the hospital about it, and the apartments next door, he answered, "Ghosts? What are ghosts? I don’t know what those are." Perhaps he didn’t want to tarnish the reputation of these buildings...

Unfinished Business
Near Yonabaru on Route 77 sits a restaurant that has never been finished. According to local lore, an elderly woman had three sons, all who became doctors. One of the sons built a number of businesses on land his mother owned scattered around the island. A few years later, the businesses failed and the son was seriously in debt. He borrowed money from loan sharks to pay these off and began to drink heavily, blaming his business failures. When he couldn’t pay back the loan sharks, his mother sold all of her land, including the restaurant that was being built on one parcel. Soon after, the mother died, and neighbors now tell of seeing the woman near a fountain on this particular piece of land. The building itself stayed empty for many years, until one brave woman purchased the property and began to renovate. A carpenter she hired began his first day of work in the building and was surprised to find that his lunch had turned rotten in the first hour. He soon got a terrible headache and left the building. As he was driving away, he saw an old woman sitting in the backseat of his car when he looked in his rearview mirror.

The Memorial
If you drive past the Southeast Botanical Gardens to Hwy. 329, you’ll notice a small park with a tall white memorial on it. The tale is that the original owner of this land died and passed it on to a friend. Within days, the friend died, and the land was passed to someone else. After the cycle repeated itself, the government stepped in and decided no one could own the land, and instead built the memorial to ward off evil spirits which seemed to haunt it.

Haunted Hill
Close to the memorial on Hwy. 329 is a hill which juts out of the ground like a monument, which in a sense, it is. The land was used by the U.S. military as a base; after it was closed, the land was turned back to the Okinawa government, who decided to use the land for a residential and commercial area. The large hill was to be torn down, and the demolition went smoothly until one section of the hill was reached. Bulldozers and trucks reached this portion of the hill, and things soon went wrong. On four separate occasions, someone died at the hill or there was a fatal accident during the demolition. The final blow was when one of the bulldozers rolled over and killed a worker. A tomb was later found in the hill, and there are now stairs that lead up to a shrine, and a fence was built around the now landscaped area.

Faces in the Waves
Itoman was the scene of some of the fiercest battles and atrocities in Okinawan history. Many Okinawans refuse to visit the cliffs around Itoman. It is said that if you look over the cliffs, you’ll see the faces of those who jumped during the Battle of Okinawa, beckoning the living to join them. Faces have also been glimpsed in the waves surrounding Yomitan’s Cape Zanpa.

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