Stories teach lessons of respect

WAIMEA — The spirits that roam the Hawaiian Islands should always be respected — and perhaps feared, a little, too, said ghost storyteller Joseph Keoki Punohu.

“I’ve seen them, I’ve been around them and I know they’ve been real since I was a kid,” Punohu said. “I was always taught that ghosts aren’t meant to be that scary. There’s ‘pono’ in everything. For me, I try to learn from them. I listen to what the kupuna teaches.”

Having told ghost stories since he was a boy, Punohu has loved sharing his encounters. On Thursday, guests can listen to Punohu’s experiences at the Historic Waimea Theater for “Tales and Treats” starting at 6:30 p.m. Guests are welcome to enjoy a multitude of sweets including chocolate, candy, cupcakes and ice cream. The event is open to children and adults.

“It’s a chance to do what I love to do,” Punohu said. “What I enjoy more is connecting with people. I enjoy earning their trust and hearing their stories and sharing their experiences.”

Through his storytelling, Punohu also hopes to shed light and understanding on the subject of ghosts.

One of Punohu’s earliest memory of ghosts is of his grandfather’s spirit.

As he and his family were sleeping, the storyteller heard footsteps in the living room of their house, even though the doors of the house were locked. Frightened, Punohu ran across the hall to his mother’s room and as he did, the young boy saw a white, misty figure in the shape of a man crossing the hallway into the kitchen. Punohu and his mother soon heard their refrigerator door open.

“She looked at me and said, “What kind of robber goes into the fridge?’” Punohu said.

Punohu’s mother soon realized the ghost was Punohu’s grandfather as there was beer in the fridge and he had enjoyed that beverage while he had been alive.

“We woke up in the morning and there were beer cans on top of the counter,” Punohu said.

As Punohu grew up and encountered more ghosts, he came to realize that they are not to always be feared. He hopes his stories will help individuals “become a stronger person and help them stand up in the face of adversity.”

Having written all of his stories down, Punohu has between 40 and 50 tales, which he hopes to have published one day.

Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door or by calling Puni Patrick, 651-5744.

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