Now that we’ve established that a surprising number of American homebuyers — and expats living in Hong Kong – are willing to move into a paranormally afflicted property if the price is right, here’s a look at an absolutely stunning — yet rapidly decaying – historic stone mansion in the center of Beijing that no one is touching due to its longtime reputation as being populated by poltergeists.

The subject of a lengthy profile in last month’s New York Times, the reputedly ghost-ridden fixer-upper in question, Chaonei No.81, has remained derelict and deserted with “floor-to-ceiling cobwebs and crumbling floorboards” for decades as local investors continue to stay far away from the French Baroque-style structure as possible. According to some, the mansion was built as a church in 1910 for Beijing’s British residents and later served as the private home of a Nationalist army official and his wife (or perhaps concubine), who after being abandoned by her husband who fled to Taiwan, hung herself from the rafters. It is her ghost that has cemented the million dollar property’s permanently unoccupied status.

Li Yongjie, who grew up near the home, tells the Times: “Even in the 1970s, people thought the house was haunted. As children, we would play hide-and-seek in the house, but we didn’t dare come in by ourselves.” He adds: “Even the Red Guards who lived in the house during the Cultural Revolution got scared and left.”

So why not demolish the cursed home and call it a day? Therein lies the problem. Chaonei No. 81 has been deemed as historic by Chinese officials and cannot be razed. The mansion, however, can however be renovated, an endeavor that current owner, the Beijing Catholic Diocese, estimates at costing in the ballpark $1.5 million. And, to the chagrin of the Catholic Diocese, no one will step up to the plate and do it (has anyone tried Vanilla Ice, yet?)

It has led some to suspect that the derelict state of the home has more to do with ghosts, or at least the belief in ghosts, than with costs. Potential tenants might be shunning the home, some say, because of a tendency among many Chinese to avoid all things related to death. The superstition is so pervasive in Chinese culture that mobile numbers or apartments with addresses that contain the number 4 are often automatically devalued, since the word for four in Chinese sounds like the word for death.

Naturally, officials with the church deny that the home is haunted or that a Kuomintang official and his suicidal wife ever actually lived in the home. Claiming that the building was actually built as a language training center and later used as a school, Shi Hongxi, secretary general of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Beijing, is adamant that “the whole story about the house being haunted is complete nonsense.”

Whatever the case, Chaonei No. 81 continues to serve as a must-see destination for tourists looking to Instagram one of already ghost-heavy Beijing’s most notorious (alleged) haunted houses. And as evidenced by the beer bottles and cigarette butts littering the property, some adventurous types have mustered up the courage to sneak into the home at night despite the presence of guards and graffiti kindly warning potential trespassers to stay the hell away.

My question to you: Do you have a house like this in your neighborhood or town? A high-valued and historic property in a state of disrepair that’s just begging for a renovation but has failed to secure anyone to do so thanks to unsavory local lore?

Via [New York Times]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

In Beijing, a ghost-plagued fixer-upper that eludes renovation
In Beijing, a city lousy with haunted spots, one historic mansion in need of some TLC just can't seem to catch a break due to its ghostly reputation.