Each year during the week leading up to Halloween, Building 2283 on Kadena Air Base becomes a focal point for tour groups visiting spooky sites on Okinawa.
The building is actually a single-unit family home that sits in a residential area reserved for mid-grade officers and civilians of comparable rank. A day-care center sits next to it.
The tranquil surroundings belie the hair-raising, spine-tingling stories associated with the house.
Tour guides tell of murders former residents committed and of eerie occurrences: water faucets and lights turning on and off by themselves, apparitions of a Samurai warrior riding a horse through the house and of a woman washing her hair in the utility sink. Former residents and neighbors also reported hearing the voices of children laughing and crying, when no children were around.
Base officials stopped assigning families to the home years ago. It is now uninhabited and serves as a storage facility.
April Marling, director of Kadena’s Information Tickets and Travel office, recalled one frightening moment two years ago while she was giving the annual Spooky Sites tour. It was late at night as 30 people gathered in the back yard to hear her recount the history of the home.
“Suddenly, the phone started ringing in the house,” Marling said. Everybody darted for the bus, she added.
Nobody orchestrated the phone call to enhance the effect of a Halloween scare tour, Marling said. As far as she knew, there shouldn’t have been a phone line connected to an uninhabited house, she said.
Another group visiting the house in the mid-1990s had a similar experience, said Jerry Johnson, a former tour director for Kadena’s United Services Organization.
As the tour guide began speaking, “a curtain parted in front of all of them,” said Johnson. “That was enough to break up the tour for the evening.”
For some years after housing officials stopped offering the home as a residence, USO personnel used the house, which sits behind the USO parking lot, for storage.
Johnson said he had heard all the stories and was curious to check out the house. So he and some fellow USO employees went inside. Although it was summer and nearly 100 degrees outside, he said the house was ice cold as if the air conditioning had been left on high.
Because past residents had often complained of one room being much colder than the rest of the house, base officials knocked down that room.
Besides the chill he felt in the un-air-conditioned house, Johnson said he saw bloodstains on the floor and on the old curtains. “It was an extremely eerie experience going into that house. One could almost feel a presence there,” Johnson said.
Author Jayne Hitchcock wrote about the residence in her 1995 book “The Ghosts of Okinawa,” which documents a number of Okinawan ghost tales. From her research, Hitchcock determined, “The most frequently heard and most horrifying story is of the teenage girl who was stabbed to death by her stepfather. They were the last family to live in the house. After the murder, it was boarded up before being used as storage.”
Other tour guides speak of an officer bludgeoning his wife to death.
Hitchcock, who lived on Okinawa from 1992 to 1995 while her husband was assigned there as a Marine, said base officials were very vague about the details then.
Kadena housing and security forces officials did not respond to recent Stars and Stripes’ questions about the house or alleged murders there.
In her book, Hitchcock details how she held a séance in the house on Halloween night in 1994. During the séance, she said she spoke with a spirit of a little girl who played with the spirit of a little boy. The girl said she was afraid of a man on a horse.
The author noted how a candle flame would jump up four or five inches each time she would ask a question that required a yes answer. She claimed to have a recording device that picked up whispers of the spirit answering questions.
Although many people asked her to do more séances, Hitchcock said she was so spooked and unnerved by her experience, she never returned to the house.
Because ancestor worship is deeply imbedded in Okinawan religious life, many island locals are very superstitious, said IT&T tour guide Setsuko Inafuku. They believe that many sites on the island built on or near ancient burial grounds or sacred sites become prime sites for hauntings.
Inafuku said local city officials believe a tomb across the street from Kadena’s haunted house belonged to an Okinawan Samurai warrior. The house may have been built on part of that property, she said.
On the Spooky Sites tour, Inafuku takes groups to several sites throughout the island that are believed to be haunted. The house is one of three sites on Kadena that the tour passes. Another site is in a cave near Kadena’s Banyan Tree golf course where the Japanese had a field hospital during World War II.
After the Americans took the airfield, 17 volunteer nurses committed suicide in the cave. For Okinawans it’s a very spooky place, said Inafuku, who refused to go near the entrance of the cave.
One problem that arises after the spooky sites tour is that many youths want to go back to explore the sites on their own, said Marling. “My concern is that we respect the land and the history associated with it. We don’t want to disrupt the land and cause a disturbance with the locals,” Marling said.
Inafuku’s concern was more on a spiritual nature. She warned that people should never go to these sites alone, and they should go prepared to appease the spirits.