This expansive stone mansion — known Chaonei No. 81 — is an architectural anomaly in Beijing. Once a church, then a home, today the building stands out for its ornate Baroque style, yet it lies in decay. Why? Because it’s probably haunted, and no one wants to go near it.
The New York Times has the scary story of a place cloaked in legend and deep disrepair. Built around 1900 as a gift to British colonists, by the end of the civil war in 1949 the manse was home to a high-ranking nationalist official. As the communists were marching through the city to declare victory, he fled to Taiwan leaving behind his wife (or maybe concubine), who, in despair, hung herself from the rafters of the opulent mansion.
Chaonei No. 81 has been riddled by rumours of paranormal activity ever since, and with the exception of local daredevils who have snuck in to photograph it, the place is repellent to nearly everyone who encounters it. In fact, members of the Red Army who took up residence there during the Cultural Revolution fled, and locals still won’t set foot inside. According to one ghost forum, the government tried to raze the place some years back, but halted the project after some construction workers mysteriously disappeared.
Perhaps in an admission of defeat, the home is now listed on the historic register, so it can’t be demolished. But nothing is being done to preserve it either. Money isn’t the problem here — there’s new construction going up all over Beijing. Again, the problem is obviously local ghost lore:
It has led some to suspect that the derelict state of the home has more to do with ghosts, or at least the belief in ghosts, than with costs. Potential tenants might be shunning the home, some say, because of a tendency among many Chinese to avoid all things related to death. The superstition is so pervasive in Chinese culture that mobile numbers or apartments with addresses that contain the number 4 are often automatically devalued, since the word for four in Chinese sounds like the word for death.
The only signs of recent life at the house? Graffiti, which warns people to stay the hell away, and beer bottles from the (clearly drunk) people brave enough to sneak in. But according to one film website, there’s currently a horror movie being made about the house — which is bound to complete its transformation from local to international legend. [New York Times]