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Nam Koo Terrace – Ghosts and screams of troubled women

Nikola Petrovski

Standing at number 55 Ship Street in the metropolitan area of Wan Chai in Hong Kong is a house that nobody calls home, except for bawling ghosts that is. The plot was acquired in 1915 by a prominent businessman by the name of To Chun-man, who came from a wealthy family of merchants. He wasted no time in laying the foundations of this two-story building, completely made in red brick.

Front view of the house/ Author: Kay Yuen CC-BY 2.0

Front view of the house/ Author: Kay Yuen CC-BY 2.0

And once finished, in 1921, he immediately moved into the house. Around this period, To Chun-man was Chief Chinese Silks Salesman working for the Wing on Company – though he quickly advanced through the ranks, ending up as assistant manager. He was a man of good standing in the community, holding posts on several committees, for example, he became the secretary of Heung Shan District’s Commercial Chamber. His hard work and successful career allowed To Chun-man to have a comfortable life in what would become known as the Haunted House.

Outside stairs and blocked entrance/ Author: MKT55 CC BY-SA 3.0

Outside stairs and blocked entrance/ Author: MKT55 CC BY-SA 3.0

The house itself was designed in European Style, an architectural fingerprint from the Colonial Era of Hong Kong. It spreads its beauty, even though abandoned, across a large plot on the hillside, below what is now known as Kennedy Road.

Classical Revival architectural elements/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

Classical Revival architectural elements/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

But given its location, it’s only natural that the house would also make use of the sumptuous Chinese architectural motifs, ornaments and bibelots. Not to forget there are the voussoired windows and carefully done cornices and quoins that only add to the overall individuality of the house, making it one of a kind. The house also has its fair share of ironwork intelligently placed on the balconies and windows.

The balcony ironwork/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

The balcony ironwork/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

The facade itself, simple and clear, makes fair use of both Ionic and Doric Orders – types of Ancient Greek architectural orders – and overlooks the garden that is spread in front of it. Though the true story of the house is not about its looks, rather about its past.

The Ionic and Doric Orders/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

The Ionic and Doric Orders/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

It was during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong when To Chum-man had no choice but to leave his mansion and get far from the his invaded city. And this is when the story starts to take its shape.

During this period, 1941 to 1945, the house was used as a brothel where the many Japanese soldiers sought their “comfort” throughout the Second World War; this house wasn’t the only building to be converted to such a use, for the College of St Luke as well as the College of Tung Chi suffered the same conversion.

Completely abandoned/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

Completely abandoned/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

Folklore has it that the stories about the ghosts that many talk about today belong to the girls who worked in this brothel. People report seeing these ghostly figures at different points around and inside the house. And these sightings are more often than not followed with dire, bone-chilling and disquieting screams of women in pain. According to the BBC, “The basement storeroom used to be a makeshift mortuary during the Japanese occupation”.

Red brickwork and window grilles/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

Red brickwork and window grilles/ Author: 2009500376onland09 CC BY 3.0

But ghostly figures are not the only thing people report – ghostly flames are a common sight too, coming from inside the house. Some people believe that these flames are not ghostly at all, but real flames from little fires lit by homeless people and vandals, many of whom use the house as their shelter and temporary home.

The voussoired windows/ Author: MKT55 CC BY-SA 3.0

The voussoired windows/ Author: MKT55 CC BY-SA 3.0

It was during 2003 when a group of teenagers decided to make a daring move and spend the night inside the house in an attempt to witness these ghosts first hand. According to Oriental Daily News, some of the girls that went on this daring adventure became rather emotionally stressed for they were bothered constantly by a ghostly apparition.

Wan Chai District/ Author: QWB656 CC BY-SA 2.5

Wan Chai District/ Author: QWB656 CC BY-SA 2.5

According to the newspaper report, these girls were so distressed that they later ended up in a hospital. Today this house is part of the Wan Chai Heritage Trail, and in 1996 it received the protected status of Grade I Building. To this very day, the house remains abandoned, a ghost-infested edifice that literally screams at Hong Kong’s citizens.