Anyone who believes in ghosts will know that they tend to “appear” in areas of change, turmoil, and terror. Shanghai’s history is jam-packed with change and a fair bit of turmoil and terror on top, so it’s no surprise that the city is home to several legendary specters.
When the Qiu mansion on Weihai Road was relocated several blocks down the street (seriously) to make room for a new shopping mall, workers on the site reported strange happenings at night. Many were admitted to the hospital with severe bite marks, but no animals were ever seen.
The mansion was home to one of the Qiu brothers, who came into money when they found a stash of paint that had been abandoned by a German merchant. They used their newfound wealth to build a pair of extravagant villas (the second was destroyed) and fill the gardens with a menagerie of crocodiles, peacocks, and cats. The brothers disappeared one day and were never seen again.
If you’re traveling on the Yan’an Elevated Highway through the city, look for the elaborately decorated pillar at the junction of Chengdu Road. It is covered in nine golden dragons, designed to placate a disgruntled dragon spirit who apparently lives below it. During construction, a feng shui master was brought in to work out why the workers could only drill down so far. He revealed the presence of the dragon and advised that the pillar be built to appease it.
Be careful if you venture close to the lake inside Jing’an Park. The legend goes that water spirits lurk, waiting to pull unwitting victims into their lair. The park was built on the site of an old foreign cemetery. Exhumation disturbed the ghosts of the dead, who are now believed to walk around at night.
The Paramount Ballroom on the corner of Wanhangdu Road and Yuyuan Road near Jing’an Temple is said to be haunted by the ghost of a former dancing girl who was shot by a Japanese soldier whom she refused to dance with.
The burned-out hotel on the corner of West Nanjing Road and Yongyuan Road is said to contain the ghost of a young waitress. On the day of the fire in the 1980s, she was locked in a cupboard as punishment for spilling tea on a guest. When the fire broke out, no one remembered to let her out.
When the Plaza 66 shopping mall was being constructed on West Nanjing Road, workers had trouble digging the foundation. When the trusty feng shui master was called, he revealed an angry female spirit lurking below. The master suggested that the mall’s tower be built in the shape of an incense burner to make eternal offerings to the spirit and keep her quiet. It seems to have worked so far.