Death is universal, but the definition and response to death, dying, grief, and loss vary from culture to culture.
Chinese culture views death as a negative and talking about death is taboo. Those who have passed away, especially the elderly, are held in the greatest respect. In a home or building where a death occurs, the proper precautions ensure no bad fortune will occur to those surviving. Statues of deities are covered in red paper, and mirrors are removed.
Confucius said, “Respect ghost and gods, but keep away from them.” Chinese culture also dictates that ghosts can take on many forms depending on the way the person died. Could these beliefs be the reason behind the abandonment of a basement in Seattle’s International District?
Take a walk along South King Street, and venture down into Maynard Alley South, if you are brave enough. You will find a three-story building with a few small businesses on the ground floor. The rest of the building and especially the basement are locked and vacant. They’ve been abandoned since the early eighties. A rusty lock and chain block entrance to the former Wah Mee Club, which is the site of the worst mass killing in Washington State. In February 1983, thirteen people faced three heavily armed gunmen who murdered them in brutal, execution style in the after-hours gambling club.
After this night of terror, that area of the building was sealed like a tomb. Like a scene from a horror movie, the club is frozen in time. Nothing has been changed or moved since the massacre. With any luck, this respect for the dead would ward off any evil spirits.
However, almost thirty years later, fate would attack the building at 665 South King Street. On December 24, 2013, flames erupted from the building. Firefighters could only work to contain the flames from the outside of the 104-year-old structure, as they didn’t know if it collapsed. The building was mostly vacant and was on Seattle’s list of endangered buildings because it posed a high risk for fire and collapse.
Smoke grayed the skies, and water soaked the streets as over a dozen fire, trucks arrived to help stop the flames. The cause of the two-alarm fire, which destroyed the building, remains unknown. The owner of the building has no idea what started the fire. He stated the fire department had condemned the top three floors years ago, and it was secured with a padlock.
The fate of the building remains in limbo. While officials are leaning toward demolishing the collapsing structure, locals fear the repercussions of disturbing the dead. What will become of this cursed plot of land? It's fate is still unknown and it's future is grime.