Shanghai's most infamous urban legends

Buckle up, 'cause you're in for a wild ride

Photograph: Zhu Peng via Pexels
Shanghai is the most modern city in China, but its rich history and retained sense of tradition mean that it still has its fair share of secrets, many of which are haunting and mysterious. For instance, did you know of the superstition that huge construction projects need human blood as a sacrifice?

With the abundance of skyscrapers and magnificent historical sites around the city, you can be rest assured that Shanghai has no fewer urban legends than any other place in the world. Sure, they're not all exactly historically accurate or scientifically reasonable – but they're still enough to get your skin crawling. Buckle up, 'cause you're in for a wild ride.
1
The Vampire Granny
Image: Willgard via Pixabay

The Vampire Granny

Your neighbourhood granny is lovely enough, but a blood-sucking one who snatches up little girls on the street? Not so much. Back in the mid-1990s, rumour had it that an old woman would kidnap young girls who were dressed in red and suck their blood; some believed that children with type O blood were more likely to get chosen. Netizens recall that they would refuse to wear red clothes or shoes and would beg their parents to accompany them to and from school. While this rumour had stirred up much fear in the past, it’s fortunately now a distant memory... or is it?

2
Pacific Department Store (Xujiahui)
Photograph: courtesy Pacific Department Store

Pacific Department Store (Xujiahui)

Established in 1993, Pacific Department Store in Xujiahui has been infamous for the strange music played over its loudspeakers throughout the day. The music of choice is 'Baobei Duibuqi' ('Darling, I'm Sorry'), a classic children's song. Not only does the repetition drive people slightly mad, some claim there is a much more sinister story behind this act: the site used to be the cemetery for a nursery for orphans across the road. 

The department store was built after the nursery got demolished, but night guards would allegedly hear toddlers' cries and children's laughter despite there being no one else in the building. After consulting feng shui masters, the store began playing the nursery rhyme day and night to appease the spirits of the dead. 

Read more
932 Hengshan Lu
3
The Dragon Pillar
Photograph: courtesy Baidu Maps

The Dragon Pillar

Of the many pillars that support the elevated highways across Shanghai, the Dragon Pillar at Yanan Dong Lu (near Nanbeigaojia Lu) is certainly the most famous one not simply for its design, but for the story behind it. During the construction of the highway, engineers realised they couldn’t drill through the ground despite Shanghai’s soft and flat terrain. Construction ground to a halt until a Buddhist monk came to explain the failure was due to the fact that they were 'trying to drill through the veins of a dragon'. 


After advising that the pillar should be decorated with nine golden dragons, the monk recited ancient scriptures at the site for days before the ground finally gave way – with the monk passing away soon after. Although some experts have since come forward with scientific explanations, the Dragon Pillar certainly remains one of the best-known urban legends in Shanghai.

4
Caobao Lu Station
Photograph: Kaique Rocha via Pexels

Caobao Lu Station

Metro stations around the world often have urban legends surrounding them, and the one 'haunted' representative of Shanghai would be Caobao Lu Station. With its 'inauspicious' geographic location near Longhua Mortuary (allegedly, the women's staff toilets used to be right next to a hospital morgue) and platforms that seem a little too narrow, the station seemed doomed from the beginning. Rumours say that as many as nine mysterious deaths have happened at the station; trains inexplicably break down, a woman's cackling laughter can be heard echoing along the railway tracks at night, and some people have even claimed to have been grabbed by an invisible force, or that they have seen 'something' pushing another person off the platform. Next time you visit this station, stay well away from the tracks.

5
The Paramount Shanghai
Photographs: courtesy The Paramount Shanghai

The Paramount Shanghai

Opened in 1933, The Paramount is reputable for its glamorous dance halls and extravagant banquets. In February 1940, Chen Manli, one of the most popular dancers at the time, was shot to death inside. While some speculate that she was murdered by a Japanese official who she turned down that evening, others think it was a crime of passion, or they associate her with war spies. While the truth may never be uncovered now, perhaps you should still take caution when you are on the fourth floor of The Paramount, as people claim to have seen the ghost of Chen dancing silently and alone there.

Read more
218 Yuyuan Lu
6
1933 Old Millfun

1933 Old Millfun

While 1933 Old Millfun was built in the same year as The Paramount, this building tells a very different story. The site used to be an abattoir, and while there have been few reports of actual sightings of animal spirits, many have noted the eeriness of the architecture and atmosphere. The complex system of bridges, the use of grey cold concrete and the quietness make people shudder at the thought of wandering inside.

Read more
10 Shajing Lu
7
Cha Gong Guan (Qiu Mansion)
Photograph: courtesy Baidu Maps

Cha Gong Guan (Qiu Mansion)

Formerly the residence of the Qiu brothers, two paint industry tycoons in the early 20th century, Cha Gong Guan was also home to many animals like peacocks, Burmese tigers, 2,000 pigeons and more – the Qius kept this lavish collection in their garden. But after the brothers fled the mansions, the poor animals were left to die.  

First reported by CNN a decade ago, during the restoration of the building in 2009, construction workers began to report sightings of strange 'beasts' or the emergence of inexplicable animal bite marks, leading many to believe that the site was haunted by the spirits of the abandoned pets. So, while you should visit Cha Gong Guan for its historical and architectural value, maybe stick to Planet Earth if you want to check out the animals.

Read more
420 Weihai Lu
8
Wukang Mansion
Photograph: @tak_vill via Instagram

Wukang Mansion

Wukang Mansion is one of Old Xuhui's most popular landmarks due to its design by Hungarian architect László Hudec. Built in 1924, the building had been home to many celebrities, including actress Shuangguan Yunzhu who jumped out the window of her flat in 1968. She was among the handful of suicides by high-profile victims that took place at the building during the '60s and '70s, eventually earning it the macabre nickname the 'Diving Board'. Look closely at your pictures next time you snap a photo here – you might notice something shadowy in the background that doesn’t seem to belong...

Read more
1850 Huaihai Zhong Lu
9
37 Linjiazhai
Photograph: ahmed adly via Pexels

37 Linjiazhai

We’ve left the best for last, as the urban legend of 37 Linjiazhai is probably one of the most horrifying tales about Shanghai. In 1956, police were called to a house on 37 Wuning Lu after a mysterious man confessed on the telephone that he had committed murder. Yet, there were no bodies at the scene – just a lot of blood, which was thought to belong to the family of four living in the household. The father of the family, Ye Xianguo, was suspected to be the heartless killer, but he was never found. In the meantime, children's laughter would be heard in the house, lights on the second floor would turn on and doors would fly open by themselves. But there was a twist – it was all fake. The story of 37 Linjiazhai actually originated from web fiction (Shanghai Lingyilu, or The Shanghai Paranormal Archive), but this first chapter went so viral that many thought it was a real unsolved mystery. In fact, by 1956, 37 Wuning Lu had already become part of a large residential estate.

Read more

Comments