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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Glen Grant was teacher, storyteller

By James Gonser and Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writers

Glen Grant, who died of cancer here yesterday, was an author, historian, businessman and teacher, but first and foremost he was a man who could tell a tale.

"He had a genuine kind of love for entertaining people," said friend Raymond Funamoto. "He just enjoyed spinning a good yarn, whether it was true, psychic phenomenon, or fiction. He just sort of drew you in."

"Glen always billed himself as a storyteller," said Arnold Hiura, another longtime friend. "Coming to Hawai'i just allowed it to blossom because this is the mother lode of spiritual things with Hawaiian beliefs and the Asian and Pacific immigrants' cultures."

Grant, 56, wrote a series of best-selling ghost stories and an anthology of detective mysteries. He ran a coffee shop in Mo'ili'ili called The Haunt, which also served as his office. People know him for his spooky TV specials and ghostly trolley and walking tours of Honolulu.

Grant told The Advertiser in 1999, "Something like one in four Americans claims to have seen a ghost," Grant said. "The belief in an afterlife is extremely high in America — much higher than (in) any other industrial nation."

On his tours, Grant took pleasure in pointing out graves, buildings and fountains thought to be occupied by the souls of the departed, dearly or otherwise.

"He touched so many people in so many different ways," Hiura said. "Some people will remember him for his storytelling, others as a teacher, some as a historical resource."

He was raised in the West Los Angeles community of Culver City. His father, Cliff Grant, was a Hollywood special effects expert who worked on such films as "Gone With The Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."

His father helped create the extraterrestrial robot Gort from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" in 1951, and Robby the Robot, a film forerunner of R2D2, featured in the 1956 MGM science fiction film "Forbidden Planet."

Robby became a member of the Grant household — stashed in the garage — where Grant said he would see the famous 7-foot tall robot on a daily basis. The robot eventually ended up in a museum.

"He often affectionately remembered Robby the Robot as his brother," Funamoto said.

Grant had a Sunday-evening radio show called "Chicken Skin," a term he copyrighted for his Chicken Skin Series of books that included "Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawai'i," "The Secret Obake Casebook: Tales from the Dark Side of the Cabinet," and an award-winning mystery anthology, "Honolulu Mysteries: Case Studies in the Life of a Honolulu Detective."

Grant earned a bachelor's degree in history from UCLA and moved to Hawai'i in 1970. He earned a master's degree in education in 1974 and his doctorate in American studies in 1982. He taught history, American studies and political science for more than 30 years at the University of Hawai'i, Kapi'olani Community College and Hawai'i Tokai International College, where he became a vice chancellor.

Hiura, who was a teaching assistant at UH with Grant, said that when a professor took a sabbatical, Grant took over his class on Japanese Americans. "He did almost every lecture in character," Hiura said. "He wore costumes and makeup and used stage settings. The students loved it. "

The City Council honored him in 1995 as one of Hawai'i's Living Treasures of Multiculturalism.

Grant is survived by his brother, Philip, and sister, Pamela, both of California.

His ashes will be spread in the ocean at Ka'ena Point, said to be the jumping-off spot for the souls of the Hawaiian dead, a passageway from this world to another. The family believes it is an appropriate site for the storyteller's last resting place.

A scholarship fund has been set up in his memory. Contributions can be mailed to the Glen Grant Memorial Fund, University of Hawai'i Foundation, P.O. Box 11270 Honolulu, HI 96828.