When you think of the Paris catacombs, you may think of a daunting environment that would freak anybody out. Skulls, bones, and death surround you, looming over you with every step you take. But where ever there is death, history lingers as well, a history just waiting to be told.
Beneath Paris, France (often referred to as La Ville Lumiere, or ‘The City of Light’), lies a tunnel system lined with the bones of over 6 million of Paris’s former inhabitants. The catacombs stretch for miles (about 186 miles in total) and while it’s been open to the public since 1809 by appointment, some areas are now completely off-limits to the public.
The history of the catacombs started with a city-wide panic in the mid 18th century when cemeteries became overcrowded. This lead to improper burials, opened graves, and exposed corpses. Understandably, residents began to worry at the stench of the decomposing dead and the potential health hazards that could arise. An edict was issued by Louis XV to ban all burials from the capital. The Church turned it down because they didn’t wish to disturb or relocate the cemeteries, thus, the situation progressively became worse until something had to be done.
In 1786, the former Tombe-Issoire quarries were turned into the Paris Catacombs once they were consecrated and blessed. It took over two years to transfer the bones from the Les Innocents and over the following decades, the bones of the deceased were moved from cemeteries around Paris to be reburied in the catacombs. From then on, it became routine to bury the dead in the catacombs directly following the French Revolution. In 1859, the final transfer of bones went underway by Georges-Eugene Haussmann and in 1860, it was completed and opened seven years later.
During the 1970s and 80s, there were parts of the catacombs that were illegally explored by a group of Parisian urban explored called the Cataphiles. Some of those areas were transformed into more creative spaces. One was turned into a secret amphitheater with a movie screen and a few seats and movies. Another area close by was made into a fully stocked bar and restaurant, where moviegoers could stop by for a meal and a drink. It is estimated that about 300 Cataphiles enter the catacombs secretly every week, but those who aren’t apart of the group and tourists are not as welcome in the activity.
While it may seem tempting for thrill-seekers to illegally enter the catacombs, it is far from being a good idea. One known incident (likely not the only one) took place when two teenagers were lost in the tunnels for three days before they were found by rescue dogs. They were rushed to the hospital and treated for hypothermia. It’s not clear as to how they became lost but it goes to show that it’s not difficult to lose your way in such an environment. I know I wouldn’t take any chances…
What do you think about the catacombs? Have you ever been or would you like to go? Let me know! And if you enjoyed this post, check out other posts that I’ve done and don’t forget to subscribe to keep up with weekly paranormal posts!
Disclaimer: The information above is a combination of prior knowledge and research. No works were plagiarized, only referenced as a source of information. While anyone is welcome to comment, I attempt to make this a positive and friendly community where we can share our experiences. Any derogatory or negative comment(s) will be deleted. As always, reader discretion is advised.