Searching for ghosts in the haunted lanes of Hong Kong

Searching for ghosts in the haunted lanes of Hong Kong

It might be Halloween on Friday, but Lucy Christie sets out on a tour of Wan Chai after dark to prove that she ain't afraid of no ghosts

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An eerie lane is a perfect place for ghosts.
An eerie lane is a perfect place for ghosts.
Photo: Lucy Christie/SCMP

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The sign of famous spooky spot Nam Koo Terrace.
The sign of famous spooky spot Nam Koo Terrace.
Photo: Lucy Christie/SCMP

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A former bomb shelter is now Pacific Place.
A former bomb shelter is now Pacific Place.
Photo: Lucy Christie/SCMP

Wan Chai is known for its bustling markets, nightlife and trendy restaurants. But peeling back that bright exterior reveals a much darker - and spookier - past.

"Wan Chai is a place where old meets new," says Maria Kwok, a tour guide for Liuda walking tours. Kwok has lived in Wan Chai for more than 20 years and considers herself a kaifong, or an expert on the area.

The tour begins at 8pm at Southorn Playground, or as Kwok calls it, "the execution ground of Wan Chai".

Southorn Playground earned this nickname during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in the 1940s. Japanese soldiers would try to get information out of local residents, and if they weren't satisfied with the answers, at the end of the day they would line up the prisoners on Southorn Playground and either shoot or behead them.

After the war, many children claimed to see white shadows lining up on Southorn Playground at night, but when their parents looked, the playground was completely empty.

Kwok explains that many people think that when someone dies in a terrible way, their spirit will be distressed and linger in this world. It is commonly believed that children, and often dogs, have this "seeing eye" which can see, or at least sense, spirits.

Walking down Lockhart Road, Kwok explains that no businesses have lasted very long in this area because there have been many accounts of people having ghostly encounters.

It might seem more logical to blame high rents for failed businesses, but Kwok has her theory.

She says that while it should be a prime location for bars and restaurants, the businesses that have survived the longest are shops that sell lamps or lighting. As she tells us, ghosts like dark places, and the light drives spirits away.

This is why, in addition to famous spooky spots such as Nam Koo Terrace, the tour ventures down so many dark and narrow lanes. Along the way, Kwok points out bomb shelters, hospitals and schools with unsettling pasts, as these places are more likely to host spirits.

Many people believe that ghosts cling to walls to move around. They say that unlike humans, ghosts rely on objects to hold their form.

When asked if she believed in ghosts, Kwok replies: "There are spirits around us." However, she adds that most people should be quite safe.

"If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have to worry."

Raymond Huang, the founder of Liuda tours, is a frequent traveller. After taking part in similar walking tours all over the world, he knew Hong Kong was missing out on a chance to show a different side of its personality. But his tours aren't just aimed at visitors to the city. "We target both tourists and local residents to show a totally different side of Hong Kong," he says.

Most people think of Hong Kong as a shopping haven or a financial hub. "But Hong Kong is a place with a very rich culture and it has a lot to offer," adds Huang.

With so much history in such a small district, frightening truths and creepy myths are inevitable. But even for those who feel they are safe from the clutches of the spirit world, the tour is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Wan Chai … and it definitely has some spine-tingling moments along the way.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Is Hong Kong haunted?

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