The 6 spookiest places in Beijing

We went ghost-hunting to unravel some of Beijing's scariest spots

Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Thought the pollution was scary enough? Well, underneath the fog of killer air hides some truly spooky spots in Beijing. Check out these historically haunted sites and get into that Halloween mood.
Chaonei No. 81

Chaonei No. 81

What's the story
A century-old abandoned French Baroque-style mansion, Chaonei No.81 is associated with many spine-tingling stories which have turned it into one of the most hyped haunted houses in Beijing. Built on behalf of the Catholic Church in the early 20th century, it was meant to be a residence for British missionaries living in Beijing, but then it was disused. Nevertheless, thanks to its imposing appearance and the urban myths with which it is associated, it has become a famous shooting location for Chinese films and TV series. 

One story related to the house involves the family of a Chinese Nationalist Party general who used to live there. After losing the civil to the Communist Party in 1949, he ran off to Taiwan and left his wife behind. Distraught, the poor lady committed suicide by hanging herself from a beam. Many believed that the sound of her crying coming from the house can still be heard at night. 

Some more supposed paranormal goings-on concern a summer night in 2001 and a group of drunken construction workers from a site across the street. The basement of the building they were working on was divided from the ‘ghost mansion’ by a thin wall. Rumour has it they were so drunk that they broke the poorly built wall down with their bare hands and went inside. The next day, none of the men could be found. It’s also said that, during summertime, the temperature at the mansion’s door is much lower than the temperature on the same level of a building just 20m away. Spooky. 

If it were a film, it would be…
The House That Never Dies – posthumous wedding, pale-faced women in red dress, and plenty of scares with Chinese characteristics

Where is it?

81 Chaoyangmennei Dajie, Dongcheng District 东城区朝阳门内大街81号

Execution Grounds

Execution Grounds

What’s the story?
Finding a ghost story set around Beijing’s old execution grounds at Caishikou isn’t much of a surprise, but considering the kind of cruel and unusual punishments that used to be dished out there – death by 1,000 cuts being the nastiest – our favourite tale is surprisingly bloodless. It begins in the shop of a tailor near to the grounds.

One night, he was awoken by the sound of a prowler on his premises. Knowing that he didn’t have anything of real value, the tailor decided to feign sleep, hoping that the thief would leave. Upon hearing the door close, he got up to check what was missing and found that the only objects taken were a needle and thread. Suddenly, he heard a commotion in the street outside. Heading out, he found the body of a thief who had been executed by decapitation a few days previously – but now his head had been sewn back on (recapitated, if you will) with the missing needle and thread. It seems the dead man didn’t appreciate being left in pieces.

If it were a film, it would be…
A sort of reverse Frankenstein: ‘It lives! It lives! It… oh.’

Where is it?
Caishikou execution grounds (southern end of Tiemen Hutong), Caochangjie, Xicheng district. 菜市口刑场, 西城区草场街 (铁门胡同南口)

Image: 徐然宽 via Wikimedia Commons

Huguang Guild Hall

Huguang Guild Hall

What's the story?

Huguang Guild Hall is one of Beijing's most famous opera houses and the home to the Beijing Opera Museum. It also has a legend worthy of a Hammer Horror film. Originally a poorhouse, the building’s benefactor made the mistake of building it on a graveyard, with predictably bothersome results.

At first, the ghosts were scared off by the caretaker’s leprosy ravaged face, but eventually he moved on and so they came out to menace the area. Now, legend has it, if you throw a stone over the wall of the courtyard, you may hear someone scolding you – but upon entering, you will find it empty. The possibility that the cursing person might have fled inside to safety is apparently not an option.

If it were a film, it would be…

Poltergeist – all the ghosts and falling-off faces you could want, but with nothing too traumatising and no body count.

Where is it? 

Huguang Guild Hall, 3 Hufang Lu, Xicheng district (6352 9140). 湖广会馆, 西城区虎坊路3号

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

What’s the story?

It’s no wonder that a place where royalty, politicians, servants and concubines fought for power should have a ghost or two, but monsters? And yet, in the 1950s, rumours abounded that the Forbidden City held a population of pig-sized, rat-shaped beasts that would menace security guards at night, but could outrun any man.

Additionally, in 1968, a young boy named Wang Yan Ru was let into the city at night by his grandfather, a security guard. He entered the courtyard where the concubines were once housed and found a roomful of crying women. Terrified, he fled, coming across a girl in the Imperial Garden who refused to turn and face him. Lost, he finally found another security guard and told him about the women. ‘He looked at me oddly,’ Wang later recalled, ‘and said: “You must have been mistaken. There’s no one else in there.”’

If it were a film, it would be…

Ghostly girls? Scared children? Tourist traps with a dark side? This is The Shining all over.

Where is it?

The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Dongcheng district (8500 7421). 故宫, 东城区天安门广场北侧

The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower

What’s the story?

Upon completion of the Bell Tower during the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Di declared himself happy with everything but the bell, which looked too dull. He ordered another be cast and, to add impetus, said that all the men working on it would be executed if the replacement wasn’t forged within three months.By the eve of the deadline, the bronze still wasn’t setting properly. Distraught that her father would be killed, the daughter of the head bell-maker threw herself into the liquid metal, leaving her embroidered shoes behind. The bronze suddenly changed to the correct colour and the team, deciding not to let traumatic suicide get in the way of a good job, successfully cast the bell. Now, according to legend, if you enter The Bell Tower on a quiet night, you can see the girl walking around, still looking for her embroidered shoes.

If it were a film, it would be... 
A dour safety film about the dangers of ‘bring your daughter to work day’.

Where is it? 
The Bell Tower, Zhonglouwan Hutong, Dongcheng district.

68 Wanquanhe Lu

68 Wanquanhe Lu

What’s the story?

If your neighbours are noisy then at least give thanks that they might move out – not an option for the residents of 68 Wanquanhe Lu, whose dwelling place supposedly contains a screaming spook. The story goes that, prior to the area’s redevelopment, a woman hanged herself in an old apartment block. So intense was her anger, however, that she returned from the dead not just to haunt the block, but also the building that replaced it.

Ignoring her lack of foresight, we have to commend her commitment. Even a feng shui expert couldn’t shift the old gal, although if knocking down and replacing the building couldn’t get rid of her, we’re not sure what moving a sofa would do.

If it were a film, it would be…

The Grudge – grumpy dead women and tainted ground all round.

Where is it? 

Zijin Plaza, 68 Wanquanhe Lu, Haidian district. 紫金庄园, 海淀区万泉河路68号

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