Here in Hawaii, people love spooky stories. That fits me well, since I’ve always told spooky tales. Perhaps it’s because I was born on Halloween. An astrologer told me, “your stars align in a way that make people confess to you.” It seems to be so, because people are constantly coming up to share their personal supernatural events with me. Hawaii just teems with great narratives of the extrasensory life! I think Spookies are so popular here because Hawaii is such a spiritual and spirit-filled land. Since coming to Hawaii in 1982, I’ve been told/given an incredible variety and volume of true local supernatural tales, rooted in Hawaiian culture. Indeed, these contemporary folk tales have guided me to a deeper understanding and respect for these traditions, so tangibly alive in Hawaii today. It’s a source of great pride, responsibility, and discomfort that I am often invited to speak before local & Hawaiian communities to tell these stories. These tales are a trust. My role is to tell what has been told to me so that the stories will live on… and to tell them right! Are the stories True? I can see in their eyes that what they share is their truth, and that telling it to me is a gift. And so I’m constantly retelling these ‘Best New Spooky Stories’ to audiences- for years! Sharing these phenomenal narratives of the ‘other’ in these islands is one of the greatest pleasures of my career.
I begin describing the context & place where I meet a person, who then tells me a tale. I become that person (voice, body, face), become the characters in the story, can also myself listening and responding, and I am also the narrator talking to the audience. This gives me tremendous flexibility to shape and pace the tale, and also gives me a chance to create portraits of ilsand people and our society. Some mainland listeners wonder if my characterizations are charactatures, while audiences here laugh in recognition. WE ARE THESE FOLKS! Pele lives here, and she messes with people. Menehune (the tiny first people) still are here too. Rocks (pohaku) change shapes. Dogs instantly grow. The spirits of the ancestors demand respect. Sharks are relatives. All true, all true.
Makia Malo (from Kalaupapa Molokai) calls me a ‘hunter and gatherer’ of stories. I am a white man in a brown world telling tales from Polynesia which I have been told. Some would say I have no right to share these tales. I invite you to read my response the article Cultural Stereotypes.
I like mixing humor with horror. The humor becomes a release valve for the tension. And oh, to craft the chilling ending of a tale where there is no release, to feel the room drop into a profound encounter with the “OTHER”, to guide listeners into a “chicken skin” goose-bump experience is a delicious thrill. I know from the screams and the screaming silence that the story is HAPPENING to them, INSIDE them, in the mind’s eye of imagination. I know they are MOVED… and then I bring them back into the room… this is a primal delight. Providing such powerful experiences is really my specialty. Yes, I get carried away. My voice and body change- PLENTY! It’s chilling fun to visit dark lands where we’d never go without a guide, who brings us back to safety again. Humans love to be scared. I bring folks back alright- but not back unchanged.
My Talk Story Festival has been Hawaii’s biggest and oldest storytelling celebration. I created it (’89), directed it (27 years), and hosted it. On Friday Night, the first of three free storytelling nights, was always for SpoOoky Tales, and it always drew our biggest crowd (think overfilled- packed- standing room only.) The audience of upto 1000 people were extremely attentive! Hawaii LOVES Spooky stories!
I have three CDs & a DVD in the Haunted Hawaii series and a 4th waiting. I’m very proud of this collection. Hauned Hawaii LIVE!
Certainly parts of the Arabian Nights and Egyptian mythology are horrific.
I have a dozen longish European & Japanese tales that I return to year after year (Rank Devil Mountain, Twisted).
On ALL my CDs I’ve been lucky to collaborate with powerful musicians. I am blessed to work with a gifted group of talented musicians on Maui (with piano wizard Les Adam in the center (link to * www.betzandadam.com ) who love playing to stories as much as I love having them. I am thrilled at how their soundscapes extend and color the narratives of both Spooky Tales and Children’s stories.(article Duets: Tunes ‘n Tales).
HAUNTED HAWAII LIVE! (DVD – Supernatural Hawaii)
The Man Who Met Pele (true supernatural tale, manipulated video, 11min.)
The Lovers of Panui (a stone stops murder, with 3 musicians, 17 min)
C.C. Camp (2 shorts, & man meets Menehune, 11:20 min)
Take Me To Afono (Samoan, tale of spirit woman, 5 min)
The Pig Hunter’s Tale (Night Marchers encounter, 3 musicians, 6:30) *
MORE SCAREY TALES
Mom, You’re Freaking Me Out (Mom’s really not herself, 6:16)
Ectoplasm (Teenager’s true experience with a ghost, 6min.)
Grandma? (a little boy sees her ghost, 2:39)
Okiku (intense Japanese ‘obake’ folktale of murder & retribution, 16:25)
Pokai Bay (righting wrong to a stone, Forgiveness Festival, 7:45 min)
Mr Fox (macabre folktale told by Jeff, Lyn Ford & Anne Shimojima, 20 min)
Past Spooky Events:
Reviews of Jeff’s Spooky Work:
GERE ACT NOT TO BE MISSED
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Honolulu Advertiser Drama Critic
Oct. 29, 2004
Jeff Gere has set up his latest storytelling venture at The Arts at Mark’s Garage. He’s spinning an eclectic collection of Halloween fright from the Middle East, medieval Italy, the Arabian Nights, and Hawaiian stories and it’s a release party for his new CD, “Haunted Hawaii Volume 1”.
As you listen- and watch him give scary, gory details (for adults only) you may want to suggest he include a video with the next CD. The CD should capture Gere’s vocal range and accompanying sound effects, but it won’t match the body language and gestures he throws with great gusto into an extreme, physical performance.
Whether he’s wearing Arabian garb, or slouching around in bare feet and vintage aloha shirt, Gere is a virtual kaleidoscope. In some of the passionate scenes, one could swear he literally turns himself inside out. …
Despite the gore and carnage, saying Gere keeps the material upbeat doesn’t go far enough. His asides and transitions have an element of tongue-in-cheek to remind us that these are simply stories designed to enthrall and delight. …
The second tale is a wonderfully tense story by a Hawaiian woman whose two grandmothers – one Christian, the other a spell-casting kahuna- battle for their granddaughter’s allegiance. In the telling, Gere transforms into the now old woman, petrified at entering the room where her grandmother practiced her dark arts, and later, Into her nonchalant, chain-smoking husband, whose matter-of-fact observations are every bit as chilling.
Gere makes the entire evening spellbinding. If you haven’t already experienced his magic, this would be a good place to start.