Hawaii Kai teenager Kain Masutani grew up with ghost stories, huddling in the dark with his four sisters while their dad spun spooky yarns of restless spirits and bone-chilling horror.
Although Les Masutani never revealed the source of his tales, his son has long suspected his father was recounting events from his own life.
"He was always telling us these stories. He never said it was him, but you can tell he sees stuff. It gets kind of scary sometimes," said Kain, a 17-year-old senior at Mid-Pacific Institute.
Elements of Kain Masutani’s winning entry in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s inaugural Halloween Fiction Contest would seem to be rooted in reality. His father’s family really is from the Big Island, and as for the gruesome kicker to "Ghost Story," when Grandpa takes his own life by hanging, that may have been inspired by the elder Masutani’s Halloween prank last year when he rigged a harness to a lamp post to make it appear as if he was hanging from a noose.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ABOUT "GHOST STORY," BY KAIN MASUTANI
"The story has a nice local flavor with a credible and warm relationship between the grandfather and grandson. Its narrator has an honest, believable voice and the reader is easily drawn in, made to wonder why they ‘are the only two people he knows of with this gift or burden’ of hearing/seeing ghosts. And the chilling ending not only gives one chicken skin — the one prerequisite of a good spooky story — but it leaves the reader wondering about the grandson and whether he might answer the deadly persuasive calls in the future."
"He tries to go all out and scare the kids," said Kain.
The student said he’s been enjoying the classic literature, such as "Treasure Island" and "Catcher in the Rye," he’s been reading at school, but doesn’t consider himself a writer. It should be no surprise it was his dad who brought to Masutani’s attention the Star-Advertiser announcement about the Halloween Fiction Contest and encouraged him to enter.
"In school they make us write, but this is definitely a new thing for me. I’ve never written a full story like this," he said. "I was surprised. I definitely didn’t think I would win. It was just for fun."
Masutani asked that we donate his $200 prize to the Star-Advertiser’s Good Neighbor Fund, which helps needy families during the holidays.
Lots of other readers also thought it would be fun to write a ghost story, with more than 200 entries submitted. After initial screening by Star-Advertiser staffers, the lucky 13 finalists were sent, without names, to a panel of judges from the Hawaii Publishers Association. The judges are Jodi Parry Belknap of Belknap Publishing & Design, George Engebretson of Watermark Publishing, Kerry Germain of Island Paradise Publishing and Jane Gillespie of BeachHouse Publishing.
The second-place story, "Dreams of Bones and Other Things," was written by Marie Alohalani Brown of Waikiki. The judges said her creepy tale of a mo’o (lizard) woman and her human lover "reads like a legend, in a sense, with a great opening paragraph that draws the reader in." They also cited the "delightfully macabre ending."
Brown wins $100, and her story appears on our website, www.staradvertiser.com.
Other top finalists are "Before the Stories Were Told," by Donald Carreira Ching, "Peek-a-Boo," by Gordon Fernandez, and "The Well Wisher" by Kekoa Anduha.
Rounding out the 13 finalists are Lee A. Tonouchi, Daniel McLaughlin, Jim Parsons, Peter S. Glick, Allen Kiyota, Virna Castanera, Bob Newell and J. Freen.
Other writers participating in the contest included 8-year-old Josephine Muniz, and Emme Weienfeld and Lindsey Grady, both 9, and folks many years their senior. A good number, like Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate Mel Yoshida, said they had never entered a writing contest before. "This is my very first try at it," Yoshida said.
For Jadine Nielsen of Honolulu, the Star-Advertiser contest provided the inspiration she needed to put pen to paper.
"I’ve thought about writing for years, but never have. When I spotted your item, ‘Calling all ghost writers,’ I just sat down and started writing. I can’t explain why I did it this time, but I’m very glad I did. Whether or not I’m the winning entry, I thank you for motivating me and hope you enjoy my story," she said.
We did. Mahalo, and happy haunting, to all our Halloween story writers.