Would I have to start planning outfits around the tattoo like I plan for weather?
"Do you know about the Noose House?"
My friend Amy posed this question to me after we'd made our nightly visit to CD World to ogle/impress her crush Sammy Music Store Worker. Zipping through the streets of Dallas in her 1985 Mercedes (I coveted that car so much), blasting something '90s and British from the car's CD player, I had no idea what Amy was talking about, but I wanted to sound cool.
After all I had just like, totally impressed Sammy Music Store Worker with my STAGGERING knowledge of The Verve, Ocean Colour Scene, and Suede. I wanted to continue my "cool girl" streak. And though Amy is now certainly the friend who has seen me at my "Louise-iest" — "I'll just wear these pants as a scarf, I DON'T GIVE A SHIT!" — at the the time we were but tender sophomores in high school, and Amy's boldness, confidence, and good hair made me want to impress her.
"Uh, I think so. Is that the house over near Greenville?"
"No, it's off Midway —"
"—Right! Midway, yeah. Wait, which house is this? I might be remembering it wrong..."
Good save, Hung.
Amy proceeded to tell me about a large house, in an affluent neighborhood that had stood empty, in an unfinished renovation limbo, "since forever". (NOTE: If you Dallasites out there think this story bears a striking resemblance to the "Hanging House" legend, I'll get to that in a moment.)
As the story went, the house had supposedly been inhabited by an old lady and her son. One night the old lady discovered her son hanging from a noose in an upper bedroom. The CREEPY PART was, the police found no way that the man could have gotten himself into the noose. There was no chair, no bed, no ledge — he was just unexplainably hanging in the middle of the room.
After that the old lady (it's always an old lady) sold the house. A family moved in and started renovating the place, but did not stay to see the renovations through. According to urban legend, no workers would work on the house because of ghostly happenings — seeing the shadow of the hanged man, demonic screams, tools disappearing. The family couldn't take it either and just up and left the house.
After the house was abandoned, it stood empty and half-renovated for sometime. But, supposedly, if you drove by in the dark of night, and stopped in front of the house, you could see the see the phantom body of the son, still hanging from the mysterious noose.
That night Amy drove us to what she was "pretty sure" was the Noose House. Driving slowly down a dark, narrow, residential street, we came upon a house undergoing construction.
Slowing to a halt in front of the house, the street silent and empty, we peered through the dark at the house. Zeroing in on an upper room, partially exposed by construction we stared and waited for the ghost to appear.
As my eyes adjusted to the moonlit night, my stomach did flip-flops of anticipation. WOULD I SEE A GHOST?
And then I gasped. So did Amy.
"Do you see that?" I whispered.
"That's so creepy," Amy whispered back.
"...yeah..." I said.
Truth be told, I didn't see anything. Neither did Amy. But at the time, I really wanted to see something. So I fudged it. Such is the stuff of urban legends and bored teenagers.
Since that night back in high school with Amy, I've been told numerous versions of the Noose House legend. Like I mentioned earlier, what I've always known as the "Noose House" has also been known as the "Hanging House".
Very similar story, only it's a young girl from the 1950s who hung herself and her parents never took the noose down, left her bedroom exactly the same over the decades, and hung a realistic portrait facing the window. According to this legend, when you drive by, either because of "optical illusion" or because of a ghost, you can see the girl hanging in the window.
This story is slightly more plausible, except for the fact that nobody seems to know exactly where this house is. I should also note that the Noose House from Amy's and my adventure finished construction relatively quickly and went on to be a very not-spooky residence.
I have never been able to find any concrete proof that either of these stories ever happened. Maybe at some point there was a scrap of truth to some version of this legend, but at this point the tale has gotten so tall that it is entirely fiction.
And that's okay. Frankly, if we're talking hangings and such, I'm just fine with fiction.
So, why am I bringing up the Noose House?
Aside from the fact that I've been trying to find a way to work it into the Creepy Corner for years now, I was reminded of it today when I found myself by the Sai Ying Pun Community Complex AKA the "High Street Ghost House".
Built in 1891, the original building on the site was used as nurses' housing until World War II. During WWII it's unclear what the building was officially used as, though there are rumors that the Japanese used it as an execution hall. I have not found anything clearly confirming or denying this rumor. It's not outside of the realm of belief, as the Japanese occupation yielded many horrors that Hong Kongers had to contend with, but it could also just be adding fuel to the urban legend fire.
Speaking of flames, the original building was badly burned by two fires. The facade is really all that is left of the original structure.
After WWII, the building functioned as the Old Mental Hospital, Hong Kong's only mental hospital. When the hospital stopped serving patients in the early '70s the building was left empty, only to be broken into by drug users, thrill-seeking teens, and the homeless. During the decades when the building stood empty, the Community Complex opened in the early 2000s, ghost stories relating to the building's past swelled and spread throughout the city.
I'd even heard stories from aunts and cousins concerning the place — while I was in the US. Knowing I love ghost stories, an auntie would pull me aside and say, "Oh you should ask your mom to take you to the ghost house in Sai Ying Pun! There's headless ghosts there! My girlfriend worked nearby and SHE said that HER friend said..."
Shades of the Noose House stories.
The most famous ghosts associated with the Sai Ying Pun Community Complex are yes, a headless ghost that runs through the halls, and a demonic-looking man, dressed in traditional Chinese garb, that appears to burst into flames on the second floor.
These stories really gained a foothold while the building was unused, but supposedly sightings of the above ghosts continue even now. Again, and maybe it's the fact that I can't read Chinese, but I have yet to find more "ghostly evidence" than "people say..."
On a side note, I completely understand why folks have capitalized on the site's potentially dark history over the years, but I think it's a great turnaround that the building is now used to further community enrichment and education, while also giving space to local charities and government aid offices.
And while I'm not at all wild about celebrating a building or house's tragic past, I do think that the legends that are often born of such history are part of the tapestry of a culture. It's one way we don't forget people, places, or change.
Plus they make us curious about the past. There can be such value in that.
So what ghost stories and legends keep your hometown haunted? What stories do kids tell each other at sleepovers or while driving around at night? What local stories gave you goosebumps when you were growing up? Now?
Tell us! You know we all love a good story.