A New Spin Around the Old Haunt
I didn't recognize Guangzhou anymore. It had been twenty years since I had been there. It was a lot dirtier these days. From the train station, I could see that everything covered in pollutants. Gone are the old style houses with courtyards and moon gate entrances, so named for their round shape. The pristine view of the Pearl River now obscured by the heavy construction going on to transform this port into a burgeoning metropolis you know today. I had trouble getting used to the time change, was overcome by the familiar smell of diesel, and met with a few new relatives. So it wasn't everyday that I get to ask these kinds of questions.
"Grandfather said the house was haunted. Was it?"
"What do you think?"
My aunt didn't know either way.
"Yeah. It was very haunted."
I seemed to recall that my uncles and aunts still lived in the same village.
"So where's the house?"
She pointed somewhere beyond where we were.
"Does it still stand?"
"No. Not for years. It's been torn to the ground long before you were even born."
In fact, the building we were talking about was built over unmarked graves. Taoist priests had to be invited to cleanse the ground of the restless spirits before anything else could be put up again. What made it haunted was something else entirely. The bricks used in the original construction were brought from Yi De Road in Guangzhou.
Not everyone was aware of the connection until grandfather even mentioned it.
I am not entirely sure of the details myself. It wasn't a story commonly told in my family, but I found it intriguing nonetheless and tried to learn what I could about it.
Recently I came upon the one and only documented account of the grisly murder that happened on Yi De Road.
Back in 1727, a horrible crime was committed on Yi De Road that resulted in the death of seven people. The case was heard before the local mandarin and recorded for posterity. In the end, justice had been served.
I'm sure you've heard of Leung Tin-Loi. His story became a folktale of sorts. It had been made famous countless times by film, stage, and song as early as the 1940s.
He had a rival, Ling Kwai-Hing, who blamed all his business failures on Leung Tin-Loi. He was a vengeful man. When Leung happened to be away from home the night of September 3, 1727, Ling and his companions dragged the rest of his household, eight people including his pregnant wife, into the Leung family mausoleum on Yi De Road, set fire to the place and sealed them all in. Of the eight victims, there was only one survivor, Leung's mother. All the rest died from smoke inhalation. Seven dead, eight lives lost. For his crimes, Ling Kwai-Hing was tried and summarily executed.
When the remains of that mausoleum came into our family's possession, that was when people started to report all sorts of mischief from beyond the grave, sightings, levitation, presence in an empty room. Unfortunately, these accounts were not written down for anyone to see.
Assuming the priests succeeded in cleansing the place of spiritual unrest, was everything really okay with the lord of the underworld?
Now. I may not know much about spirits. I don't seem to recall if such rituals would have any effect on unborn fetuses.
Ten years later, I've come back to test a theory that maybe that little one was not appeased like the rest of his family but may in fact still maintained a tie to its ancestral land.
To that end, I had to spend a night in a dilapidated temple that now sit at the site of the old property. I was not scared. There are good spirits all around. From the west there is the Sacred Heart Cathedral up the street. From the east, I'm chanting to Amida Buddha for protection.
I dusted the cobwebs off of a faded yellow prayer cushion before settling down for the evening.
"Namo amituo fu. Namo amituo fu. Namo amituo fu..."
I close my eyes while I chant, to help block out the scary imagery cast in the shadows around me. It's dark even with a powerful flashlight on. It's quiet so it's easy to hear a mouse walk by.
A noise sent shivers up my spine. I looked around. A candlestick got knocked down. You could blame that on a mouse.
"...amituo fu. Namo amituo fu. Namo amituo fo..."
What was that? That was no mouse. It sounded like a laugh.
I shine my flashlight at the altar. A scruffily dressed boy slowly emerged from behind the statue of Buddha. A street urchin. He was a scrawny boy about thirteen, something not commonly seen anymore in Guangzhou today.
"This temple...haunted. Afraid of ghost, city slicker?"
The brat was mocking me.
"Hey! What are you doing here?"
He crossed his arms in defiance.
I poked him in the arm to make sure he was for real. He seemed solid enough.
"Ha. I live here."
I shone my flashlight around the temple to see if anyone else was there.
All of a sudden, it felt like someone was watching us. Out the corner of my eye, I noticed something illuminated by my light. I moved the light beam over to that spot again. We both looked over to the side.
What I saw looked like a person, but it was definitely not human. It just stood there, staring blankly at us and in that light you could tell it had no legs.
I still had mine, so without thinking, I grabbed the kid by his sleeve and bolted out of the temple. By the time I was standing outside the temple, my hand was gripping air. The boy had vanished.
I don't know what I saw that night. It's better I didn't know. The only thing I did do was burn some incense for it before I left. The last thing I want is for the spirit to follow me home.
Parts of this was true. The murder did happen in 1727 and I really did ask about the old house. I neither got to see it nor did I visit Yi De Road, however, during my last trip to Guangzhou, I managed to capture an image of that street. The photo is in my profile.
To get a sense of where this street is. The Pearl River flows east and west of Guangzhou. Yi De Road lies just north of the river.
I always liked talking about the haunted house. Having read the case report, I was able to point to where it happened and add a spin to retelling an otherwise old story. (Added a twist at the end based on suggestions by demonhaunted. 1/10/11.)