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Beijing, China

The Fox Tower at Dongbianmen

This historic Chinese tower was said to have been haunted by fox spirits but is now haunted by a grisly murder. 

The Fox Tower in Beijing, China has been said to be haunted from pretty much the moment it was founded in 1564. Initially the tower was said to be inhabited by deadly fox spirits, but by the 20th century the historic fortification was haunted by the very real specter of a grim murder.

Built by meanie isolationist emperor Jiajing, a man so cruel his own concubines tried to strangle him en masse, Dongbianmen’s probably seen more than one murder. It’s one of the few fortifications that survived the dismantling of the old city walls that began after the dynasties bit the dust in 1911.

In the dead of winter in 1937, the badly mutilated body of 19-year-old Pamela Werner was found at the base of the Fox Tower at Dongbianmen. The pretty British national, daughter of sinologist ETC Werner, had been raped and dismembered. Detectives took a good stab at solving her murder before Japanese forces rolled into Beijing, but investigators met with a slew of eyebrow-raising bureaucratic hurdles, no arrests were made, and the smaller tragedy was forgotten in the larger atrocities of war.

Nearly 80 years later, historian Paul French dropped his 2011 book, Midnight in Peking, which retraces Pamela’s steps in the days and minutes leading up to her death, a path morbid tourists and creeps can follow via the official Midnight in Peking audio walking tour.

Dongbianmen is just one of several morbid stops on the audio walk. Pamela’s house - now a print shop - still stands nearby, the alleyway where she ate her last meal is a 10-minute jaunt away, and the old brothel district she took pains to avoid after dark is now a residential street.

These days, the Fox Tower is the site of Red Gate Gallery, a contemporary Chinese art space which includes a historical section with vintage photos of Dongbianmen’s semi-recent past. 

 

Know Before You Go

Dongbianmen is located just inside Beijing's Second Ring Road, and is its own address. The large landmark is located on a low hill and is visible from nearby. Best to give a taxi driver the Chinese name and be dropped off at the gate: 东便门