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Tuesday, 16 July 2013



No.10 Poltergeist in the poorhouse

Add: Huguang Huiguan Hufang Bridge, Xuanwu district. Beijing.
Much like the house in the Poltergeist movies, Huguang Huiguan got its ghosts from the fact it was built on an ancient graveyard. From the beginning of the establish of new China, a rich philanthropist decided to do away with the cemetery and built a home for the poor on the site. The spooks were originally kept at bay by the fact that the home's janitor was so disfigured by leprosy that even the undead couldn't bear the sight of him. The dead rose again once the building became the Provincial HQ of Hunan and Guangdong. Though it has kept this title, it now houses an opera museum. Legend has it that if you  throw a stone into the courtyard you will hear someone scolding, yet there is nobody there.
These days it's probably scarier being inside the yard and having would-be-ghost hunters hurling rocks at you like it's the Japanese embassy after a Prime Ministerial shrine visit.

No.9 A nightmare of red mansions 

Add: Cao Xueqin former residence 33 Xiaoshihu Hutong, Xidan Xicheng district.
According to local residents, the house where Cao Xueqin wrote the classic Chinese novel, A Dream of Red Mansions is possessed by a small orchestra. Like the family in his literary masterpiece, Cao was from a big family which was torn apart - he dealt with the aftermath of the split by moving into this home and writing the book. Although the building where the house once stood is now a wedding photography studio, local people said that late at night you could hear the sound of music played on traditional stringed and woodwind instruments accompanied by a woman reciting poetry.
Poetry can be scary stuff at the best of times, especially when it is written by angst-ridden teens. As for the ghost orchestra – a lung-less woodwind section? Sure.

No.8 Tornado of terror 

Add: Liwangfu Xian Gate (west of Forbidden City), Xicheng district.
Now a government office, during the Qing dynasty this building was the home to the family of a high-ranked official family. Mrs Shi, the granddaughter of a servant to the Manchu household tells how a whirlwind up to four meters blows around the courtyard even though the air a few steps away is completely still.
Ghost tornado – sounds like a lot of hot air left over from all those politicians.

No.7 Book spines and spooks

Add: Songpo Library 7 Shihu Hutong, Xicheng district.
Songpo library holds a special place in Chinese history as it was once the home of Wu Sangui, the general in charge of the vital pass at Shanhaiguan and the man who is said to have let the Manchu army through the Great Wall – an act instrumental to the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Wu's decision to abandon Ming Emperor Chongzhen and defect is said to be due to his love for the beautiful courtesan Chen Yuanyuan – once again proving the Chinese idiom, 'a beauty wrecks the country.'  For his troubles Wu got both a cushy new post in the Qing court and the girl, who he soon tired of. A heartbroken Chen decided to end her life by hanging herself and for the last hundred years has been haunting the quiet hutong.
What with all those rules about being quiet all the time, libraries can be spooky places. But surely the startling amount of Dan Brown books on the shelves is more of a cause for alarm.

No.6 Altared state

Add: Chaonei church 81 Chaoyangmennei (On the north side of the road, opposite Simin Primary School), Chaoyang district.
Reputed to be one of the city's most haunted buildings, it easy to guess why this downtown church is one of the only deserted buildings in such a heavily built up area. A British priest started to build the church, but mysteriously disappeared before it was completed. The Church of England sent a team to investigate but all they found was a strange tunnel that led from under the crypt all the way to Jiuxianqiao Lu in Dashanzi. This early precursor to the Airport expressway was destroyed with the building of the city's line 2 subway. During the Republic of China period between the fall of the Qing dynasty and the war with Japan, the church became the residence of a high-ranking National Party official. When the communists came to power in 1949 he fled to Taiwan, leaving his family to fend for themselves – his wife was so distraught that she committed suicide. Some nights you can still hear her cry. The building still lays deserted, save for a night watchman, and subsequent efforts to redevelop the site have been plagued by the mysterious disappearances of workmen.
Churches at night are places that only insomniac vicars and candlestick craving cat burglars dare venture. If it wasn't for the fact you'd have to use a footbridge, you'd probably cross the road to avoid walking past it.

No.5 Suicidal siren 

Add: Zijin Building 68 Wanquanhe Lu, Haidian district.
Late at night the howls of a suicidal woman echo through the corridors of this building – if you don't believe us, ask the developer. Before this part of Haidian was redeveloped, an older apartment block stood on this site, where a woman once hung herself. Because the suicidal woman's grievances were so strong, she came back as a ghost and it was not long because the land was condemned as nobody wanted to live there. A sharp-eyed investor later picked up the plot on the cheap and built the building that currently stands there. It was not long before the people who had rented apartments in the new building started moving out, complaining of a ghostly woman shrieking at night. 

The investor, not a man that believed in ghosts, decided to spend a night at the building to stop the superstitious chatter once and for all. But, exactly as he had been told, he heard the woman's deathly screams, leading him to flee the building in just his pajamas and check into a local hotel. The next day he hired a Fengshui expert from Hong Kong to come and rid the haunted building of its ghost. As soon as the would-be ghostbuster arrived at Beijing airport he asked for the building's location and set about making a few calculations on his Fengshui instruments. Who knows what he found out? All we know is that he got the next plane home. 

Anything that puts the willies up someone who specialises in interior d├ęcor isn't technically that scary. 

No.4 Front page news 

Add: 1 Mianhua Hutong (South to Jiaodaokou), Dongcheng district.
What's the story? This former courtyard home is stained in blood and has, literally, an army of ghosts. This former barracks was the place where no-nonsense Ming dynasty official Qin Liangyu had hundreds of soldiers executed for an alleged breach of discipline. As if the spectres of soldiers weren't enough, during the Republic of China period it was the home of Society Daily editor, Lin Baishui, who met an untimely end on the premises in August 1926 after offending a heavy-hitting National Party politician. More recently the building became home to a Mr Li who is alleged to have abducted a young girl, murdered her and then set himself on fire. To this day the house remains deserted as nobody dares live in it. 

The thought of ghost soldiers and a kiddy murderer made the hairs on the back of our necks go up. 

No.3 Chopping block party

Add: The old execution ground Caishikou (southwest to the southern end of Tiemen Hutong), Caochang Street, Xuanwu district.
One ghost story that has passed over into local legend is that of a tailor in Caishikou, the city's old execution ground. He awoke one night to find a thief walking around his shop and - safe in the knowledge his shop contained nothing valuable and fearful for his safety should he intervene - he did nothing. On hearing the intruder leave, the tailor checked his shop to find that all that was missing was a needle and thread. He then heard shouts from outside and went out to find the body of a thief who had been executed the previous day – his freshly removed head had been neatly reattached using his stolen needle and thread, which lay beside the corpse. It seems that after suffering a most unnatural death, many of the dead appear not content to let bygones be bygones.

With more blood spilt on the execution ground than at any other place in the city - it has to be the most potential to be Beijing's most haunted place. Even though people aren't killed there anymore, you'd have to be off your head to get the ouija board out here at night. 

No.2 Army

Add: General Yuan's tomb Zhongsitiao, Huashi Dajie, Chongwenmen, Chongwen district.
Despite being a tactically astute general who had repeatedly held off against Manchu invaders, Emperor Chongzhen suspected Yuan Chonghuan was not loyal to the Ming throne. These suspicions started a chain of events that ended with not only the fall of the Ming and the start of the Qing dynasty, but also Yuan's capture and eventual execution in 1630. To add insult to injury, his corpse was butchered and his body was fed to the poor. Luckily an officer named She remained loyal to his old general and rescued what was left of his body and gave it a proper burial. Despite the ever loyal She family guarding his crypt for 17 generations, some nights the general still gets out and roams the surrounding area looking for revenge. 

In theory a ghost general thirsty for revenge should be a pretty frightening thing, but seeing as he went to such lengths to feed the poor, he's got to have a good bone in his body. 

No.1 Regal reign of terror

Add: The Forbidden City
It is no coincidence that Beijing's most haunted house also happens to be its most famous - The Forbidden City. The home of the country's all-powerful Imperial family and a vipers nest of concubines and servants betraying and murdering one another for influence - thousands have lived and died within its blood red walls. One of the palace's most dramatic episodes came when a peasant uprising spelt the end of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Before Emperor Chongzhen trudged up Jingshan hill to hang him he ordered his wife, Queen Zhou to hang herself – which she dutifully did. His favourite concubine, Yuan Fei failed to follow the same order, and on hearing the news the Emperor stormed into her room cut off both her arms, leaving her to bleed to death. He then went straight to the Ningshou Palace and cut off daughter Princess Changping's left arm before killing his youngest daughter.

It is said that in the 1950s security guards at Forbidden City often sighted strange animals running around at night. They report that that they were shaped like a rat but as big as a pig and could run so fast, that no one has ever been able to catch one in 60 years. Many believe the beasts were bred in the Qing dynasty to chase ghosts away. One of the most credible ghost sightings is from Wang Yanru, whose Grandfather was a security guard at the Palace and let the then nine-year-old into the city early one winter morning in 1968. 'It was freezing cold, and I was the only person in the entire City,' says Wang. 'I walked through the first temple courtyard to where the concubines were housed. A door was ajar; something urged me to open it. When I did, I saw women inside, I could hear them crying. I was terrified and ran as fast as I could, but I was lost and couldn't find a way to get out. I reached the Imperial Garden, and there was a woman with very long hair standing there with her back to me, I yelled to get her attention but she didn't turn around. Finally, I reached the end of the complex where another security guard heard me and let me out. I told him that he should go and warn the woman in the garden. He looked at me very strangely and said, 'you must have been mistaken, there is no-one in there at all.'  

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