Photo: The Occult Museum
Beijing’s most 'haunted house' Chaonei No.81 has been renovated and put out for lease after remaining derelict for over half a century. According to its agent, the two classic French Baroque-style mansions aim to get 10 million yuan in rent annually, well beyond the rent of commercial buildings in the neighborhood, said the Beijing Youth Daily, a local newspaper.
The house agent told the Beijing Youth Daily the Chaonei No.81 courtyard includes two main houses and a bungalow of four rooms. “There are no restrictions on usage of the houses by the tenants, as long as they promise to maintain the original architectural structure and prevent house fires,” he said, adding the courtyard is not for sale now.
When asked why its rent is obviously higher than office buildings in the neighborhood, the sales person emphasized the house has a good location with subway within walking distance and separate courtyard that allows serenity.
Last March, the news about Chaonei No.81 being refurbished caught the attention of many Chinese netizens. It was reported the local administration of state protected monuments had called for tenders of the repair project with a budget of over 33 billion yuan. The municipality of Beijing designated Chaonei No.81 as a historic building in 2009.
The Beijing Youth Daily visited the refurbished site recently. Pagoda trees in the courtyard remain there, while the two mansions have all got a complete facelift, with Virginia creepers all cut out and holes in the wall all mended.
All walls have been freshly painted, all rooms floored and equipped with fresh new doors and windows. The agent said, with water, electricity and central air-conditioning in place, the two houses are good choices for offices or clubs.
Photo: Vision China
Now, it is hard to revive the previous dilapidated scene of the residence. The New York Times visited the haunted place in 2013. One of its articles said “with its floor-to-ceiling cobwebs and crumbling floorboards, the house, Chaonei No.81, certainly seems like the ideal breeding ground for paranormal activity.”
Chaonei No.81 actually has gained its fame as one of the most haunted sites in recent years. Before being renovated, it was an apparent anachronism in the neighborhood. It sat dilapidated and deserted for years, in a quiet enclave amid Soviet-style blocks and glittering modern buildings. Interested netizens and urban explorers had frequented the place and posted their paranormal experiences on the Internet.
Lores about Chaonei No.81 include ghost of an abandoned woman who committed suicide because her husband, a high-ranking Kuomingtang official had left and fled to Taiwan. Another horrifying story about the houses happened at the beginning of the century -several construction workers mysteriously disappeared after they supposedly got into the house from a residence building across the street through an underground tunnel.
The current owner of the house, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing, says the story of the suicidal woman is not true, as no record has been found suggesting that a KMT officer lived there or owned the house. Among other paranormal phenomena associated with Chaowai No.81, one is that people who walk by it could sometimes experience a cold-blast air blowing over or feeling of dread.
Most commonly, the houses are believed to have been built around 1910 as the North China Union Language School, to teach Mandarin Chinese to Missionaries from the West. However, other accounts suggest the building was older, dating to at least 1900, when it was built by the Qing Dynasty government to be used by western missionaries as a church.
Although the history of the houses predating establishment of the new China is very difficult to get straight, ownership and use records after that are all traceable. It is recorded that the new government took control and used the buildings intermittently till early 1960s to house various government agencies.
By the time of the Cultural Revolution it had remained unused until a group of Red Guards briefly occupied the place, according to a local resident. And it is rumored the young people left in a quite hasty way because they were frightened. Since then, Chaonei No. 81 began its over half a century’s solitude.
In the late 1990s, the houses were close to being demolished, although the archdiocese suggested that they could one day be used as a Vatican embassy. In 2009 the municipal government listed the property as historic, and saved it from the fate of being torn down forever.
By 2011, Hong Kong filmmaker Raymond Yip began to shoot a horror film set at Chaonei No.81, titled The House That Never Dies. From then on, Chaonei No.81 has become a real legend.
The poster of the horror film The House That Never Dies (jing cheng 81 hao). Photo: baidu.com