Written By: YN
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
In the heart of Beijing, there’s a notorious courtyard house that, up until now, hasn’t been snatched up in the market. Rumors say that this house is haunted by ghosts. There’s the suicidal woman peering behind one of the windows and the missing men coming back from the past.
This is the 81 Chaoyanmennei Daije, also known as Chaonei No. 81 or the Chaonei Church. It is located in the Chaoyangmen neighborhood of the Dongcheng district in Beijing, China. This 100-year-old building used to be a Chinese language school to train foreign missionaries. However, it was used for different things throughout the years until its abandonment. Now, it is haunted attraction after becoming a focal subject in the 2014 Chinese horror movie “The House That Never Dies”.
Looks can be deceiving…
Dilapidated and abandoned, Chaonei No. 81 has a 20th century French Baroque architectural design. The outer walls are bricked, with one wall being mainly orange while some parts are gray and white.
Chaonei No. 81 is found inside a courtyard with an outer building and two other rundown bungalows. Inside, its former opulence is laid in ruins. Its bannisters are intricate, while the flooring showed off fragments of what used to be a grand decorative tiling.
Looking from the outside, you will notice some graffiti peeking out behind the ivies covering the wall. The windows were boarded up with some glass panes missing or shattered. Nonetheless, you can still see the dark rooms inside.
But one thing that most stood out with the house is a chalked inscription on the wall that says, “There’s no ghosts here.”
The mystery behind…
The history of Chaonei Church No. 81 is muddled because of its incomplete records. Most of which were destroyed or lost before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Thus, the stories of its origins and history are varied and uncertain.
Nonetheless, stories say that it was built by the Qing imperial family as a church for the British residents of Beijing. The year of which is unspecified.
In the late 1930s, it became the property of a Catholic organization, which some claimed to be an American Benedictine Group, to be used as a language school for foreign missionaries in the country. When World War II came, some Belgian Augustinian nuns took over Chaonei No. 81 and turned it into a clinic until 1946.
In another story, it is said to be owned by a French engineer named Georges Bouillard who used to work for the Qing dynasty. It was built around 1922. His stay there, however, was brief because he died in 1930. It was left in the hands of his widow who eventually had to rent the rooms out to make ends meet. Some of which were rented to the Archdiocese of Beijing and other foreign missionaries.
One popular legend claimed that it was once owned by a Kuomintang officer who left his wife or mistress there when he fled to Taiwan in 1949. However, many people debunked this claim by saying that the records from 1949 onwards are all complete, and there was nothing that mentioned about this officer and woman.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the building was converted into a government building where various departments and agencies for the PRC were located. Afterwards, it was briefly occupied by the Red Guards but was later on abandoned. Residents said that the guards left suddenly and hurriedly, looking frightened.
Since then, the building was left to its own devices. Anytime anyone tries to live there, they all end up moving out. It didn’t take long for it to fall in disrepair, left almost forgotten in the center of Beijing.
It was then bought by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing in the 1990s with the intention of turning it into a Vatican embassy. Hence, the building was saved from being demolished. Later on in 2009, it was included in the list of protected cultural relics in Dongcheng District.
Residents around the area have always been wary of Chaonei. No one dares enter it especially after the incident with the Red Guards. Others claim being near the house gives them the creeps. There’s a sense of dread and unease when you pass it by. It also does not help that there’s an observable drop in temperature when you’re around it. And during thunderstorms, people can hear screaming inside.
One famous ghost story is the suicidal woman lurking behind the windows. Remember the officer who left his woman behind? It was said that upon leaving her to fend for herself when the Communists came marching into the city, she hanged herself from the rafters of their three-story home. Thus, her spirit has haunted the house ever since.
Another story says a British priest who had initially built the building went missing before it was finished. When authorities came to investigate his sudden disappearance, they discovered a secret tunnel in the crypt which led to the Dashanzi neighorhood.
In 2001, three construction workers also disappeared. Ironically, they weren’t even working inside the Chaonei. They were working in a basement of a neighboring basement. One day, while drunk in the job, they found a tunnel behind the wall beside Chaonei. They reportedly entered it and never came back.
Just recently, more ghost stories emerged during the renovations of Chaonei. It was said that the workers were prevented from finishing the renovations on time because of some pesky ghosts that kept disrupting them. Workers reported that some of their construction equipment would just suddenly start up, hammers being tossed out of the windows, and more.
A new beginning
Sometime in 2014, it was announced that Chaonei No. 81 was going to undergo some renovations. They were going to reinforce its structures to prevent accidents since many ghost enthusiasts try to climb over the gates and enter it.
Now, businessmen are planning to change its reputation from haunted house to a normal commercial building in Beijing. The walls were repainted to cover up the graffiti. Each room is now with mahogany doors, and the tiles on the floor were removed to be replaced by wood. Despite its facelift, however, it remains empty with the gates closed, holding back the ghosts behind it.
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