Pok Fu Lam Reservoir
Stairs leading down to the greenhouse
The approaching road at Dragon Lodge
The greenhouse, perfectly intact
A view into the greenhouse
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Dragon Lodge: An Abandoned Mansion on the Peak

Born into a world where so much is unknown to us, humans have filled those spaces of unknowing with wild tales for thousands of years. Goddesses’ tears were explained for rivers and lakes, runaway deities for bright constellations, and fallen heroes for bountiful mountains. Things seen in the light of day were given explanations woven from the imagination. But so were the things we cannot see. The unsettling whispers. The eerie creaks of an unsettled house. Goosebumps that rise for reasons unknown. We are gluttons for ghost stories. But living in one? Few would dare. That is why Dragon Lodge, a pre-war mansion commanding an unrivalled view of the Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbour, has sat empty for years. Corruption, death and cries from beyond the grave leave people too fascinated to turn away, yet too fearful to step foot into 32 Lugard Road.

From the nineteenth century, Victoria Peak was a popular choice for Hong Kong’s European residents. With an elevation of 552 metres, The Peak held the double advantage of a remarkable view (with sights of the outlying islands, Victoria Harbour and Central) and a more temperate climate. The roads were dotted with pre-war mansions, constructed before WWII. Dragon Lodge was no exception. Built sometime in the 1920s, its exterior is the classic grey cinderblock of the era. As with most homes in The Peak, Dragon’s Lodge’s location – resting along a steep hill – assures owners that the property’s view will never be lost to encroaching development. Dragon Lodge’s interior lives up to the quiet dignity of its exterior, and the mansion’s prime location alludes to the original owner’s early prominence.

To enter the mansion from Lugard road, visitors followed the U-shaped approach road into the entryway. Its courtyard sat beside a staircase leading down into the garden terrace. Fitted with two floors and an attic, the first floor opened into a modest hallway. Key features included the lounge/study area, dining area, as well as three bedrooms (one being the master with an en suite), the kitchen, pantry and laundry room. A small staircase off the kitchen went into a tower. There, you would find three maid rooms and a simple bathroom. Upstairs, two large windowless rooms were off to the side of the lobby, built as additions after 1954.

Rumour has it that the mansion’s original owner went bankrupt and the second owner died inside the house. During WWII, Japanese soldiers used the property for operations. Some believe that these soldiers decapitated several Catholic nuns in the courtyard. These whispers are repeated time and again online, but no one seems to know where their origins lie. After the 1980s, the inner roads became overgrown, and Dragon Lodge gained a reputation as Hong Kong’s Most Haunted House. A construction crew started work on the property in the late 2010s, but it is said that they abandoned their efforts. Why? They were convinced the building was haunted. The cries of an unseen child echoed through the mansion, shaking their nerves and rattling their courage. Left to the elements, Dragon Lodge quickly developed the derelict façade that made it a popular site for urban explorers and daring spirits. As more people came in search of ghosts and ghouls, these explorers contributed further to Dragon Lodge’s ramshackle appearance. Many walls were marked with graffiti, their bold colours clashing violently against the monotone cinderblock. In fact, many people believed that the building, so decrepit in appearance, was set for demolition.

Harlech Road Fitness Trail
Lugard Falls
The peculiarly open second-floor window
Razor wire set on the fences
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While the local legends scare children and intrigue adults, what is known of Dragon Lodge’s true history is proud and beautiful. From 1945 to 1952, building contractor Tom Mun-Long (譚文龍) called 32 Lugard Road home. He founded Tom Construction Co, one of the leading building contractors in the 1950s. Shortly after the Second World War, Tom specialized in rebuilding homes in his neighbourhood. This proved a lucrative business, as many mansions in The Peak had been looted and destroyed. Tom rebuilt the mansion after the roof had collapsed during Hong Kong’s period of Japanese Occupation. This was a point of pride for the contractor, as he was able to repair the roof using the same methods as the original construction. During their brief residence here, the Mun-Long family hosted parties with esteemed guests that included politicians, bankers and high-ranking soldiers. When Tom and his family moved out, they continued to own the property and rented it out.

Wanting to see the mansion ourselves, we headed out one Sunday morning. The temperature was a blazing 29 degrees without factoring in humidity. From Victoria Peak, we took a leisurely stroll down Harlech Road Fitness Trail. Great trees were all around us, their canopies far above our heads. The path twisted and turned with the landscape, following the rocky face to the right of us. Metal guardrails were fitted on the left, preventing visitors from a steep fall into tightly packed trees. Lanky evergreen trees, shrubs of the poisonous prickly ash and silver fox trees account for just some of the flora we saw. We passed by Lugard Falls, a small waterfall with severely cracked rocks that formed steady streamlets of water. Pok Fu Lam Reservoir greeted us at the halfway point. And everywhere we saw crowds of bamboo. At the junction between Harlech and Lugard, a wide pavilion provided shelter for many weary walkers. Children ran about on the grass, and elderly couples took care to walk in the shade.

When we met the sight of green mesh and razor wire, I wasn’t entirely surprised. Though unoccupied, Dragon Lodge is a privately owned property. Official government warnings were tacked to the end of the tall fence, demanding squatters vacate the premises. Several notices stressed that trespassing was not allowed. A heavy chain was wound through the gate, impossible to break without heavy and conspicuous machinery. Looking through the fence, there was still much to be admired. I could see the greenhouse, its glass structure intact and empty. A separate staircase led down to it. Past that, there would be easy access to the garden terrace. Turning to the main building, the structure was empty of the vandalism that had plagued it not long ago. Curiously, a window on the second floor, overlooking the greenhouse, was wide open. From the other side, the courtyard grass was neatly trimmed. In the middle stood a round table and four chairs, each with a brick path leading towards it. The bend in the approach road was home to a makeshift shelter, which housed extra building material. Here is a house, exquisite and unique, whose features beg for life to fill it. But of the current owner’s plans for the great mansion, we can only guess.

While Dragon Lodge was purchased in 2004 for 74 million HKD, the house remains vacant. In 2017, renovations were made to Dragon Lodge’s exterior, but little was done to the interior. The front garden was cleared, and shrubs were planted above the driveway. Ivy that had once crawled up the walls and the driveway railing was removed. Additional security measures ensure that any decay will not be the fault of unwanted visitors. And maybe someday, another family will call Dragon Lodge home and spend their nights sitting in that vast courtyard, surrounded by the jungle and lulled into drowsiness by the harbour’s rolling waves.

Text & Photos Victoria Mae Martyn