Fengdu, China, is so creepy that it instantly inspired a horror novel.
Fengdu is a ghost city in the true sense of the word. The village was abandoned when the construction of the Three Gorges Dam dramatically raised the water levels.
There’s something spooky about exploring an abandoned city, and Fengdu–with its rusted cable cars and sinking pagoda–doesn’t disappoint.
According to legend, Fengdu got the name of Ghost City during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Two imperial officials, Yin Changsheng and Wang Fangping, came to Ming mountain to practice Taoism and in the process became immortals. The combination of their names, Yinwan, means King of Hell, and that was the beginning of the site’s focus on the underworld. Many of the temples and shrines show paintings and sculptures of people being tortured for their sins.
A lot of the statues are quite gruesome, depicting sinners getting their eyes plucked out, being flayed alive, or boiled in oil. At first it feels like any over-the-top tourist trap, but after awhile, the overall effect is unnerving.
According to Chinese beliefs, the dead must pass three tests before moving on to the next life. First they must survive the ‘Bridge of Helplessness’. At the bridge, demons allow or forbid passage. Good souls are allowed to pass while evil souls will be pushed to the water below. This is now a tourist attraction–performers dressed as demons momentarily stop tourists on the bridge, but finally allow them across. Just enough time for a photo op!
The dead then proceed to Ghost-Torturing Pass, where they present themselves for judgment before Yama, King of Hell.
The third test is at the entrance to Tianzi Palace, where the dead must stand on a certain stone on one foot for three minutes. According to legend, a virtuous person will be able to do it, while an evil person will fail and be condemned to hell. The stone is round and slippery with rain. According to the test, I’m going to hell.
Fengdu seems safe when it’s crowded with chattering tourists, but I could easily imagine how creepy it would be after dark, when all the people had gone back to their cruise ships and hotels. That idea inspired the first novel in my GhostWriters series, City of Ghosts, in which a young man schemes to spend the night there in the hopes of writing a best-selling book about his supernatural experiences. (He doesn’t believe in ghosts and he isn’t a writer, but he doesn’t expect either of those facts to stop him.)
Have you ever been to Fengdu? What’s the most disturbing place you’ve ever visited, or heard of?
PS: To read more about my crazy trip to China, check out this post!
**With files from Wikipedia