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Ghost at the gate: 3 Hauntings at Kadena Air Base

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It isn’t terribly hard to find stories of ghosts, unexplained events and seemingly supernatural occurrences on battlefields and at military bases. Both historical significance and circumstances of the locations lend credence to the idea that (for those who believe) spirits would be more prevalent there. In looking through all of the most talked about instances of truly haunted places, one continued to come out on top: Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

A long history of eyewitness accounts and abandoned living quarters are accompanied by actual video footage of one of the more prominent, and less camera-shy, spirits said to reside there. The base itself even leans into the idea, offering haunted tours every October, stopping at some of the most active sites. Three of these areas at Kadena each play their own role in earning the base the unofficial title of the most haunted military installation in the world. 

The cave

Kadena Air Base
Marine Corps Community Services Spooky Sites Tour via Flickr (Cpl. Janessa Pon)

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One stop on the tour of Kadena Air Base is a cave, right next to the popular Banyan Tree Golf Course. During WWII, this cave had been the site of a Japanese field hospital, with its opening covered in vines, and protected by a mounted machine gun.

The story that is often told, and believed by many of the locals, is that during the war, 17 nurses had committed suicide in the cave. There are some discrepancies as to how or why this may have happened, but it remains regarded as a very spiritually impacted location. Many Okinawans refuse to even get too close to the cave itself, and especially the entrance, which has long since been sealed shut. Those who live in or frequent the area are very mindful and respectful of the space, and encourage those who visit to also treat the land, and those who may have died on it, with the same consideration. 

Building 2283

Family housing aboard Kadena Air Base (USAF Photo)

Related: That time the U.S. Army went ghost hunting in Germany

This former single-family home, which was later used only as storage until it was demolished in 2010, has enough history and mystery surrounding it for a lifetime’s worth of stories. Ask a tour guide, or many of those who have been stationed here, and you’ll undoubtedly find yourself in the midst of stories more akin to something on the ID channel than a military installation.

If you start digging into news articles, there are some pretty grizzly accounts of violence on this base, that we won’t go into here, but none of the documented ones are tied to this specific building. There have long been stories of multiple murders taking place in this home. One story depicts a man taking the lives of his entire family, before his ultimately taking his own. Another, seemingly the most common, ends with the death of a teenage girl at the hands of her stepfather. While tangible evidence for these accounts is scarce, there are those who believe with everything they have that these things not only happened, but that they are in some way tied to the ongoing occurrences at this site. 

First-hand accounts range from water faucets turning on and off on their own, to a full-body apparition of a Samurai warrior and his horse storming through the home. There have also been multiple instances of people seeing a woman washing her hair in the sink, as well as the sounds of children laughing, crying and playing, despite there being no children around at the time. A former tour guide, as well as former residents, have since recounted one room frequently being ice cold, despite the summer heat and the buildings lack of air conditioning. There are also claims of seeing bloodstains on the floor and curtains, long after anyone lived there. 

It’s up for debate exactly when and why officials decided to board up the home and use it for storage. Those who are convinced that a murder took place seem to believe that event was that catalyst, while others feel as though one too many scary stories and ghost sightings tipped the scales toward housing choosing to keep families out. With tour guides themselves occasionally getting too spooked to continue tours, and those stationed there years ago still unsure of what went on during their time there, it’s safe to say the lore surrounding building 2283 has a long life ahead of it. 

Gate 3

Kadena Air Base, Gate 3 (USAF Photo)

The third, and arguably creepiest place at Kadena Air Base is one of the northeast entrances, Gate 3. I say creepiest because, not only have some of the first-hand experiences been enough to make Marines refuse to stand guard here at times, but also because their security cameras have actually captured…something.

A security video from 2008 shows what appears to be a black, human-like figure run from behind a sign, over to the other side of the road. In the video you can hear the security guards confirming with one another that they’re both seeing the same thing, seemingly in disbelief. Upon viewing, it’s pretty obvious this isn’t just an unaccounted for person crossing the road, and if it’s truly an undoctored video, it backs up many of the stories that have been told.

On numerous occasions, both guards and service members alike have recollected seeing the ghost of a bloodied WWII soldier, approaching them and asking for a light for his cigarette. At one point these sightings were said to be happening almost weekly, and there is speculation that at one point this gate went unused for a time (although it appears to be in use today). 

Something that’s also interesting is looking through any article, post, or video about Kadena Air Base with a comment section, and seeing just how many people are sharing their own experiences, and overwhelmingly affirming that these ghost stories aren’t just tall tales. In fact, many of them go on to talk about Okinawa as a whole, and all of the places within it that seem to have some connection to the other side. With a particularly dark history, it isn’t surprising that Okinawa would be host to so many spirits, and the local communities do their best to respect the space, while also giving visitors a look at some of the more well-known haunts. 

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This article was originally published 10/13/2020

Feature image: U.S. Air Force

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Amy Dickey

Amy is a military spouse, mother of two and counseling intern at a substance abuse clinic. She is currently working towards her Master's degree in Mental Health & Wellness Counseling from New York University, and has obtained a Bachelors degree in Human Services from Southern New Hampshire University.