Burbex has lived in China since 2004, but even he is not
immune to the wiles of the Public Security Bureau, who have this week sent him
to Hong Kong to update his new visa. You might have guessed Burbex is not a big
shopper and certainly isn’t going to push through the mainland tourists to buy
cans of milk powder. But if you want to get away from the people mountain
people sea, there is a place you can go where it is always quiet.
Up hidden amongst the winding paths that dissect The Peak,
set on three levels you can find the decaying pre-war mansion Dragon’s Peak
Lodge, or as its better known, “The Most
Haunted House in Hong Kong”. Although it has some of the choicest real
estate in Hong Kong, it has fallen foul to the the usual triple whammy of
corruption, bad fengshui, and ghosts.
Apparently the original owner of the house which was built
before World War 2 went bankrupt, and the subsequent owner died in the house.
Later it is reputed that the Japanese occupied the property and several
Catholic nuns were decapitated in the grounds. The gruesome reputation of the
property made sure that it lay derelict for decades.
No. 32 Lugard Road last changed hands in 2004 for HK$76
million, but renovations have been constantly thwarted by construction crews
who are convinced that the building is haunted, and in which they have heard an
unseen child’s cries. The closest that Burbex got to any living creature nearby
was an enormous porcupine that raised its quills and secreted some kind of
pungent piss into the surrounding air.
The premises is set over three different levels, the main
four-story house with ample attic space on the highest level, the staff
quarters where a tower of 1980s washing machines still stands features in the
middle level, and smaller art studios can be found on the bottom level. The
house itself also faces out onto a massive garden, which in turn commands an
incredible view of the bay on a clear day.
You may remember in the last post Burbex was nursing a midlife crisis. What better way is there to find a new identity than exploring the frozen bowels of abandoned Changchun bathhouse? Unlike mushroom trips at The PLA Hospital or spending time with the disembodied residents at The Catholic School, Burbex wasn’t sure if he was going to reemerge this time.
The Changchun Bathhouse had seen thousands of weddings over the past two decades, but not unlike Mrs. Haversham’s wedding in Great Expectations, the wedding scenes have been left to rot, and the groom is nowhere to be seen.
Burbex had not been invited to the wedding party though. Despite the grandiose decor and luxurious rooms, he was heading straight for the basement, where the upper crust of Changchun society used to bath away their filthy richness.
Penetrating the lower levels of the bathhouse, everything was caked in darkness, only glimmers and glints from the spectacular chandeliers stood out in the dark, slowly swaying from unfelt gusts of spirit movement.
A word of warning before he entered the subterranean world. “Leave your clothes here and don’t forget to lock up your valuables.” The gaping mouths of the rotten lockers suggested, “We’re not responsible for anything you lose tonight… especially not your life!”
Burbex followed a streaking trail of red light beyond the changing room. Already in the icy depths of the bathhouse, he could feel the metamorphosis about to begin. Electricity crackled around him, drawing him to the fire pit.
A great spark of light, and the fire took it corporeal form. When the fire was brightest, only then could the spectres who became viscous in the thick darkness which hides in hidden corridors and secret corners be called upon.
Burbex uttered the soundless vowels of their tongue, and with promises of blood, he drew forth a spectre which bathed in the light of the fire. It tapped its feet and drummed it’s fingers, working up the gusto for a dance.
The barely visible spectre emerged fully and danced his long forgotten dance:
Follow the balls of fire to the mirror,
where our two worlds are riven,
there within the mirrored cage,
unto you a new life shall be given
The heavenly orbs appeared as promised and lit the way for Burbex to follow. Six mirrors to other worlds before him stood, dark tendrils emanated from five, but one glowed a lustful red, drawing Burbex towards it, to touch it, and move through it.
Burbex stepped through into the mirror room where a thousand reflected identities had been stored. Burbex snatched at the first new identity, which grew furnace hot and glowed proudly within his chest.
What identity Burbex grabbed out of that place or whether he’ll make it out of that mirrored cell, we’ll never know, but if you are ever looking to rediscover yourself, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe he can take you to the other side too.
Alright, Burbex is going to let you have it. One of his favourite best-kept secrets. He’s going to tell you about the PLA Hospital. It is not the first time that Burbex has found abandoned hospitals. In the Tianjin Chest Hospital, Burbex was constantly being chased by his shadow, and his echo kept whispering replies. You never get lonely in an old hospital. But this secret place was different.
This story, like many others, starts out in a pub. Supping the craft beer at The Great Leap Brewery, Burbex heard the words “huge abandoned castle” float through the smoky air towards him. Burbex’s ears dragged him to where a drunken Scotsman was slumped at the bar.
“Can I buy you a beer?” Burbex asked. “That you can, pal!” The Scotsman replied. Two beers later, the Scotsman leaned forward in a conspiratal whisper, “It’s out there in the woods, hic! A huge fuckin’ castle, in the woods. It’s haunted they say. I ne’er found the place, but maybe you’ll have more luck.”
The Scotsman gave Burbex a rough idea of where the castle was located before falling asleep sitting straight up. Burbex wrote: ABANDONED CASTLE WOODS on the back of his hand, just in case he forgot it in the morning.
Burbex spiralled around in the grey dusty forest. It was biting cold, and his usual strategy of walking around in circles until he found what he was looking for, wasn’t really working. Sometimes you must lose yourself to find what you’re looking for.
This was certainly a strange forest. The pine trees were spaced too far apart, and the echoes of a man bellowing Italian opera echoed between the trunks. Whichever way Burbex went, the opera followed him. He was just on the verge of giving up the search for the castle, when he caught a glimpse of grey brick.
Hidden in the forest was the castle. The Scotsman had exaggerated its size, but with turrets and a huge gate, it had to be the place. Burbex slid under the gate, and then contorted himself through a broken window pane.
Inside, corridors snaked into the distance, and a cold chill travelled down Burbex’s spine. Burbex made his way to the top of the building. This was his usual strategy, get to the top and then come down. That way if he was chased by dogs, guards, or Beijing ghosts, he could still take photos on the way down.
Burbex took the stairs up to a room which he would come back to again and again – The Nightingale Room. Florence looked down from a huge portrait on the wall. She looked over empty beds and resuscitation equipment.
Since that first time Burbex found The Nightingale Room, Florence has been taken down, and the room emptied, but the fine architecture of the room remains.
In cupboards, Burbex found imitation pistols, and boxes of empty chlorazopan ampules, a schizophrenia drug.
Burbex has been back here many times and brought other urbexers along too, and there is always something new to discover. On a night expedition, Burbex ate “the fruits of the forest” and could see a million tiny fairies sleeping in dewdrops at the tips of leaves on the trees. They whispered a secret to Burbex.
Burbex ran though the corridors, through The Nightingale Room and up onto the flat roof. He tore thick electrical cable from the wall and abseiled into a hidden courtyard. Burbex had found the luxury wing of the hospital.
Inside were rooms with four-poster beds, the rotting floorboards sucking them downwards. Other rooms had art rehabilitation equipment, and in the dining room, paintings of French cheese and wine blackened with mildew. Burbex ran for the roof.
The black forest hummed silently, but then the silence was broken by the opera singer hidden somewhere in the forest. In the darkness, the song was not so threatening. Burbex sat and grinned enjoying his heightened sense of perception.
Burbex does not give up his secrets easily. The ghosts at Chaoyang 81, he kept a secret for a long time, at least until the movie came out and the house was renovated. The undead inhabitants of The Nationalist Hotel were familiar with Burbex, but then they were evicted and the neighbourhood gentrified.
Burbex doesn’t have many secrets left, but if you want to find out a few places, be sure to send a message to email@example.com. Be sure to bring mushrooms enough for everyone though.
By the way, have you checked out the new video page yet? It has links to all Burbex’s latest videos both in Beijing and around the world. Plus, don’t forget to follow Burbex on all your favourite social media sites:
When I was going up the stairs, I saw a man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today, I wish, I wish, he’s go away.
“Have you ever been to that ghost house in Chaoyag District?”
That and questions about the impossible to find Underground City are probably the two most common questions that Burbex gets asked. Chaoyang 81 is now legendary in Beijing attracting visitors from all over China not just for urbex, but also for ghost hunters and thrill seekers.
There are many urban legends about the two houses. The first myth talks about a Nationalist leader who lived in the house before the revolution. Before he and his wife could escape, his wife hanged herself from the rafters in the room you can see below.
Ghost hunters and drunk kids still invade this building at night and at Halloween they have seances and try to find a ghost. This is much to the annoyance of the local government who have put up banners inside declaring:-
Don’t make love in the open house, don’t believe in ghosts.
(not sure what the connection is either)
One thing is for sure, is that the building is still owned by The Catholic Diosese in Beijing, and is reportedly worth hundreds of millions of yuan. This is not surprising as it is prime real estate. The buildings themselves began to seriously decline after the release of the third rate 3D movie The House That Never Dies, which encouraged even more visitors to tear the place apart.
Whatever the true history of the building, one thing is for sure, it is very very spooky in there at night. Burbex visited for the first time in December 2013 at 5am in the morning. Not usually one to be spooked, there was definitely a chill running down his spine.
Both buildings have extensive attic space which looks out onto a school at the back, and a building that looks like a mosque at the front. Both building also have plenty of basement rooms and hidden tunnels.
The left hand building which is significantly bigger, is beginning to collapse, and it is very easy to put your foot through a floorboard and end up on story below. Chaoyang 81 has been a victim of its own success with visitors all tearing away a little piece of their own.
Surprisingly when Burbex went there for the first time, there was no graffiti, rather just chalk messages in which it was written that they had seen the ghost. The only remains of ghostly activity though are left over props from the movie, and also the bizarre props from photo shoots.
Despite the fact that they are falling down quickly, the buildings still have an imposing presence, and as soon as you enter you notice a distinct drop in temperature. All the banisters and window frames are all made of the red wood for which Beijing is famous.
As part as of the article for Burbex.org published in The Guardian newspaper, photographer James Wassenger took some night photos with light painting, one of which was used for the main picture below.
Whatever your interest in the building, from ghosts to architecture and weird history, Chaoyang 81 has something for every level of explorer. For this Chaoyang 81, The House That Never Dies, gets special mention with an A*** grade.
In the meantime, if you ever want to come out exploring, just get in contact with Brin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can set up a time to meet. Don’t forget to bring your crucifix and holy water.
When it comes to urbexing in Beijing, or indeed anywhere in the world, there are certain features that urbexers search for. Some people go for the tunnels, some people go for the high places, others like a place with a good story. When you can find a site which combines all of these features and more, that’s when you know you have found a classic site.
Longyun International Park has all of these features and more. Burbex stumbled across this site by chance. Passing in a taxi from the airport, the top of a dome poked its way into the smoggy sky begging to be explored.
Scouting the outside perimeter there are Communist slogans encouraging citizens to be “civilised” and make Beijing a “centre of development”. Burbex took a knife to one of the slogans and cut his way through to the other side.
Plunging into the darkness beyond, underground canals snake their way hundreds of metres forward. Faint glints of light barely seen in the pitch black.
The frozen canals meander from left to right, and along the way there are plenty of unusual water features to be taken in. Small flags warn of the water’s edge like flashes of colour at the village fete.
Getting lost is inevitable in this underground labyrinth. Tunnels weave off in all directions, and circle around and around in circles. Only the lucky will find the Tiffany roofed exits.
These are the most heavily guarded areas though, and the security guards shout down curses at intruders but do not dare penetrate the labyrinth.
The inner dome is a smaller version of the first, and does not have the balconies or the grandeur of its big brother. It feels no less dangerous though.
The mouth of the canal leads out into a half-completed Suzhou style water garden. Missing the colour of flowers and trees, it is just a cement garden. From here though, the villas and the upper areas can be accessed.
Entering through the glassless windows, the villas are easily accessed. Running up the stairs and through unlocked doors, the rooftop dome yawns at the sky.
The beginning of this post mentioned a good story behind this location. According to local taxi drivers, it was shut down because of the death of several workers on the site. Due to this the Fengshui is now considered too bad to continue. This is a curse for construction companies who cannot battle against the entrenched superstition in China.
This is very similar to Chaoyang 81, which has remained empty for decades simply because of its ghostly reputation. Probably this site will be left to rot until it becomes too dangerous or too much of an eyesore for the local government to stand.
In retrospect this is the only site that has ever given Burbex nightmares, so maybe its ghostly reputation is true. Whatever the case, with or without ghosts, this is a first class site for urban exploration and earns a solid A-.
Nestled near the entrance to the Hutongs (alleyways) near Qianmen Gate, the entrance to the famous Tiananmen Square, lies this haunted hotel.
Upon asking locals about the hotel, they said that it used to be the residence of a Nationalist leader before the revolution in the nineteen-forties, but after the revolution it was abandoned and then later turned into a cheap hotel.
Outside, the hutongs are bathed in yellow light from the street lamps. Inside you are shrouded with cloak of thick velvet darkness.
Unlike much of the surrounding area which has been demolished and gentrified to give Beijing’s history a more polished look, this building exerts power and more than a little menace over its small corner.
The architecture of the building crosses western and Chinese styles which was very typical of the period. On the outside it looks like a western orphanage, but on the inside it is one hundred percent Chinese.
Going in you can hear every door in the whole place creaking in the wind. Entering into the hotel rooms you get a strong sense that these rooms have seen a lot of visitors and that some of them might never have left.
It has three floors, and there is possibly a cellar which might connect to the underground city, but this is still yet to be found.
Stairs snake up to bricked off and boarded up rooms, through which only the spirits of long-deceased residents can pass.
This is an easy place to get into, but beware the balconies as they are very rickety and could collapse at any time adding you to the list of guests who never check out.
Gusts of wind brush past your face and tickle the base of your spine. Look round fast enough and you might catch someone watching you.
Be sure to bring a flashlight and an extra pair of batteries. The residents don’t need much excuse to jump on you once the lights are out.
The full moon was half-visible through the murky light of the glass skylight.
Of course, if you are ever in Beijing and you want to check out this great urbex location, or any of the other great haunted locations in Beijing like Beijing Steel Works, where thousands of people lived and died over the years, or a spooky Abandoned Theme Park, just get in touch on email@example.com, bring a flashlight, and we’ll go ghost-hunting together.