China / Society

Ghost-story fans dispirited by plans for renovation of 'haunted' church

By Fan Feifei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-28 09:49

Ghost-story fans dispirited by plans for renovation of 'haunted' church
A woman walks past the alleged "haunted house" - Chaonei Church at No 81 Chaonei Avenue in Beijing's Dongcheng district, owned by the Beijing Patriotic Catholic Association. Wang Jing / China Daily

Legend has it that the British priest who built Chaonei Church disappeared without a trace before it was completed.

Then, another story goes, the church became the residence of a Kuomintang officer who abandoned his wife. She became so distraught that she committed suicide. People later claimed that, on some nights, her screams could be heard in the corridors of the church.

These are among the spooky associated with Beijing's famous "haunted house" - Chaonei Church at No 81 Chaonei Avenue in the Dongcheng district.

But the Beijing Patriotic Catholic Association, the owner of the building, says it is not haunted at all.

The association has plans to renovate the historic structure, which consists of two three-story buildings.

"We are waiting for the green light from the local relics protection department before going through the necessary procedures," said Bi Wensheng from the association.

The funds for the renovation will come from multiple sources, Bi said.

Records show that an American missionary constructed the building in 1910 and that it was used as a school and a church. In the 1950s, it served as the offices of the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau.

In the 1990s, it was returned to the Beijing Patriotic Catholic Association and has been unused ever since.

Bi said people regard the old building as a possibly haunted house.

"Because the building has been left unused for a long time and its gate is always closed, many children from nearby schools are curious about it. They climb over the wall to see what it is like inside," he said.

"In recent years, we have allowed people to visit the outside of the building, and they can park their cars on the site."

But people are advised not to go inside the building because it is dilapidated and they might get hurt, he said.

"You can see the stairs are seriously aged. There are cracks in the ceiling and the wooden floors. The windows are also broken," Bi said.

Nonetheless, curious people try to sneak into the building at night, he said.

Ghost-story enthusiasts were disappointed by news of the planned renovation.

Among them was Daniel Newman, managing director of, which features tours, including "ghost tours," led by English-speaking guides.

"This is the first time that I've heard the haunted house would be renovated, and I feel very sad," Newman said.

There are many interesting ghost stories about the Chaonei church, and the renovation would damage those legends, he said.

"I hope the original appearance of the building can remain," Newman said.

But a passer-by at Chaonei Church surnamed Zhang, who works in a nearby bank, got into the yard for a better look at the building and said she was looking forward to the renovation.

Zhang had heard that the church was one of Beijing's haunted sites.

"The church is beautiful," she said. "If it could be renovated, it would become a unique part of the landscape of Beijing."

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