We are in Beijing, China. The Fox Tower at Dongbianmen (chinese 东便门 ) 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, and 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 British girl, daughter of retired British consul ETC Werner and academic resident in Peking, had been raped and dismembered. Her murder and mutilation while cycling home from an evening of ice skating has never been solved.
The expatriate community in Peking was widely shocked at the crime which, without specific evidence, was fanciful attributed to a Japanese secret society or an American organized sex ring. An Englishman resident in China claimed to have been informed by Japanese military officers that girl’s death was in retaliation for the killing of a Japanese soldier by British soldiers in a drunken brawl. Although the source was a known eccentric, British diplomats provisionally accepted this account while not taking the matter further.
Detectives tried to solve her murder before Japanese forces rolled into Beijing, but investigators met with a slew of 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 that curious tourists and ghost enthusiast can follow via the official Midnight in Peking audio walking tour.
Dongbianmen is just one of several macabre 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.
On current 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.
Images from web