THEY say the spirits of those ill-treated and killed by the Japanese during the occupation still return at night to seek help and revenge at the Old Mental Hospital in High Street, Western. The unpacified spirits of patients who died in the three-storey granite asylum, which has been empty since 1971, are said to be trapped there. In reality, the Victorian building is haunted at night by drug addicts and stray animals, littered with beer bottles and rubbish. And now all but the facade of what was built in 1892 as quarters for British nurses and turned into an asylum after the war will be destroyed to provide a community centre. Ko Man-fai, senior quantity surveyor of the Architectural Services Department, said the new six-storey complex would comprise two blocks. There will be a day nursery, an activity centre for the handicapped, a dormitory for the severely mentally retarded, a day-care centre for the elderly, an early education and training centre for babies and children and some work units for youngsters. Central and Western District Board members have demanded immediate repairs because they fear the building will collapse before it is rebuilt. Yuen Bun-keung said: 'The roof and floor have collapsed after several fires and because of lack of maintenance.' It has also attracted many youngsters, Mr Yuen said. 'The Government has to fix the holes before Halloween,' he added. Fanny Lai, who has lived in the district for 10 years, said she felt frightened every time she walked past the building. 'It looks horrifying, especially in the evening. We can hear screams and see moving shadows inside it. These frighten me and my young daughter,' she said. She believes the spirits will be set free only if the building is pulled down. Lo Bor, 70, said even without the ghosts, the building should be pulled down to stop drug addicts from going inside. He said a nearby methadone centre attracted many addicts who sometimes sneaked inside to take drugs. The redevelopment is expected to begin in 1998 and be completed by 2000. The Architectural Services Department will finish a feasibility study by February before applying to the Finance Committee for funding. The Land Development Corporation has promised to subsidise part of the project.