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Ghostly Gathering

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As part of the third annual Haunted Little Tokyo festivities, the Haunted Ghosts of Little Tokyo Walking Tour was held on Oct. 19.

Bill Watanabe of Little Tokyo Historical Society (pictured above), actor Kennedy Kabasares, Andy Lowe of East West Players (pictured below), Abraham Ferrer of Visual Communications, and Clement Hanami of Japanese American National Museum were among the guides taking participants through the former Union Church (now Union Center for the Arts) and the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (now Go For Broke National Education Center).

A special guest was Tony Sperl (pictured), whose family has owned the A. Sperl Building on First Street (home of Suehiro, Family Mart, Space City Vintage and, previously, a video store) since 1880s. He spoke in the parking lot behind the building.

Stories included apparitions, voices and moving objects at the former Union Church. Actors, for example, have reported seeing an elderly man or elderly couple in the balcony — which was locked — while rehearsing on the EWP stage. Some believe that the man is the spirit of Tsunejiro Takahashi, the caretaker of the church before it moved to its present location. Others have heard a child laughing late at night when the building was empty, or saw videos flying off a shelf for no apparent reason. Not surprisingly, before it became Union Center for the Arts, the deserted building was used in the 1987 horror movie “Prince of Darkness.”

Sperl said that people have seen spirits in his building, one of whom may be his own great-grandmother and others who may be members of the Pentecostal Church formerly located in Little Tokyo. Ghost Expeditions has visited the site.

The last spooky stop on the tour was the former Buddhist temple, which has had its share of unexplained sightings, possibly the spirits of priests and monks or people whose final rites were held there. A video (right) about strange goings-on at the site before it became part of JANM — combining interviews with a dramatization — was shown.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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