Tales from the Chinese Crypt is a regular web column exploring bizarre and creepy stories from across China.
Vengeful, decades-old ghosts roam the hallways of Zhongyin Building, located near the heart of Shenzhen – or so the rumors say.
They’re blamed for the failures of Zhongyin’s businesses, said to have a preternaturally short lifespan. And at least online, an otherworldly influence is cited as the cause for the complex’s rock-bottom rent.
The ghosts haunting Zhongyin are said to date back to the bloody days of China’s Cultural Revolution, in the 60s and 70s, when the site of the building was allegedly used as an execution ground.
After Shenzhen’s founding and rapid development, some say developers decided to capitalize on the cursed plot of land, hiring a specialist for advice on putting its ghosts to rest. That’s how the office building ended up with two pointy towers that resemble candles, plastered over with auspicious, rose-tinted windows.
Zhongyin is, undoubtedly, an offensively pink monstrosity. But does it deserve its ghastly reputation?
Naysayers point out that the stories serve the business interests of Zhongyin’s competition. The color may just be an unfortunate quirk, and the cheap rent a self-fulfilling prophecy. In short, there’s no proof of haunting (is there ever?), just speculation.
The ghost stories may date back to well before the modern rumors, however. According to Shenzhen native Wen Miaozhang, back when the area was still Gangxia Village, the site of Zhongyin was a dumping ground for the bodies of those too poor or young to afford a proper burial.
Local legends circulated about the childish or unhappy spirits said to reside there. In one story, the ghosts hoodwink a man passing by on his way home from a fishing trip, tricking him into mistaking the worms he’d been using for noodles. He wakes up the next day with mud on his face and the unsettling realization that he ate a bowl of squirming fish bait.
Another superstition says that spirits are to blame for people getting lost in the area. The only way to ward off ghostly interference is to make a metal clanging sound – by hitting a gong with nails, for instance.
Despite her knowledge of local lore, Wen herself remains dubious: after all, if Zhongyin is haunted, why aren’t Shenzhen’s many coastal properties, which are built on shores where hundreds – if not thousands – perished while trying to swim to Hong Kong from the 50s to the 80s?
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s a sobering thought.
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[Cover image via Shadday Studios (WeChat: shadymonkey), in-text image via sz.focus.cn]