Eerie Pictures of the Underground Catacombs That Will Send Shivers Down Your Spine
You might know Paris for the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, but what lies beneath the city is far more sinister. The catacombs in Paris are a system of underground tombs and passageways that were used as a place of burial.
If you visit, don’t be alarmed by the thousands of bones you’ll find there. Here are some of the most bone chilling facts about the Catacombs that might change the way you see Paris, France. Read on if you dare.
They were built because cemeteries were overcrowded
The catacombs of Paris were built out of necessity. The cemeteries were overcrowded and bodies were piling up (yuck). The catacombs were a quick solution to this pressing problem. They began emptying bones from Paris’ cemeteries into the underground tunnels beginning in the late 1700s.
The city of Paris needed such a fast solution because of the leprosy pandemic in France. To date, there are an estimated 6 million bodies (yes, you read that right) buried in the passageways. That’s a lot of French ghosts. Visit at your own risk.
You have to descend over 100 steps
Home to 243 haunting steps, the catacombs stretch deep into the underground, spanning the height of a 5-story building. Before you can reach the heart of the hidden underworld, be prepared to descend 131 steps.
Nestled at the entrance is a popular sign that reads, “Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort!” which translates to Stop! This is the empire of death!” This a much-needed reminder of what lies ahead.
There is art made from the bones
You can visit designated areas within the catacombs, but some are off-limits because they are dangerous. Some tunnels are too narrow, or are flooded, so much of the tunnels still remain a mystery. In some parts of the tunnels, the bones are arranged into deranged forms of art and sculpture.
The “Barrel” is one of the most famous examples of these twisted structures. It acts as a support beam for the tunnels as well. Residing in the “Crypt of Passion”, this barrel of skulls and bones is sure to send a shiver down your spine.
It's more than a burial ground
Beyond the chilling bones and narrow hallways that fill the catacombs, there are also many artworks and sculptures. Many people tend to be surprised when they learn that the catacombs are not only stocked with remnants of the dead but also a place for the appreciation of art.
While it might all seem a little freaky, we can’t deny that the artworks add a touch of allure to the sanctuary.
Home to various exhibits and artifacts
Once designed to entice visitors, the Catacombs boasted different captivating exhibitions that certainly left a lasting impression over the years. One of these exhibits is the Samaritan Fountain, an enduring exhibit. It once housed goldfish; however, it turned out that goldfish can’t survive underground, and they all died out eventually.
Another exhibit that is still present today is the stone carvings made by the mysterious Decuré, a French army veteran.
People have gotten lost in the catacombs
There are over 100 miles of catacombs under Paris. Many have still yet to be explored, so there is great mystery surrounding these underground channels. There are many stories of people getting lost in the tunnels, but most have remained unconfirmed.
One man was confirmed dead from an exploration of the catacombs. In 2017, 2 teenagers came close to death when they got lost in the underground canals for 3 days. The lesson here is, if you do visit, stay in the area that is open to the public. You don’t want to find yourself stuck down there with 6 million spirits. Spooky!
A final resting place for many great names
There are many renowned people buried there. Among the esteemed names buried there is Jean de La Fontaine, author of “Fables,” and Charles Perrault, the writer behind beloved fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood.”
It is also the final resting place of some celebrities from French history, such as Jules Hardouin-Mansart and others. One can say the catacombs’ history intertwines with their art and resonates through the hallowed corridors.
There are stories of vanishing skulls
One of the creepiest and freakish things you would ever learn about the Catacombs is that there have been many cases of vanishing skulls. Skulls started mysteriously disappearing as the Catacombs welcomed many legal and illegal visitors.
At first, the quarries always tried to replace them, but they eventually stopped. So if you visit and notice gaps in the arrangements, know that someone decided they wanted a macabre souvenir.
They are home to secret communities
Since many parts are unexplored and closed to the public, the tunnels invite some suspect characters. There is an allure to the secrecy and haunted nature of underground Paris. Parisians that meet for various reasons in the secret parts of the catacombs are referred to as “Cataphiles”.
Some Cataphiles commit themselves to learning and exploring the different tunnels. Others meet for worshiping purposes. The creepiest part is, we can’t be sure what goes on down there. If you find yourself in Paris, think about what might be going on below your feet.