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The Catacombs of Paris

Listed under Paranormal in Paris, France.

  • Photo of The Catacombs of Paris
  • Photo of The Catacombs of Paris
  • Photo of The Catacombs of Paris
Photo of The Catacombs of Paris
Photo by flickr user ricardo.martins
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Revered as the perfect inspiration for tragedies, thrillers and adventures by literary luminaries from Victor Hugo to Umberto Eco, coveted as a meeting ground by secret societies and alternative arts movements and the source of many a creepy legend, the Paris catacombs boast a long history of significant events and are a prime spot for ghost hunting.

Excavations initially took place here in Roman times, not to bury the dead but to extract limestone, a huge mass of which could be found beneath all seven of the southernmost arrondissements of Paris. The result was a three hundred kilometre network of huge, cavernous tunnels undermining large areas of the city, causing occasional cave-ins even today, which is why only the quarry beneath the 14th arrondissement is open to the public.

In the 18th century, finding a new place to store the thousands of excess, long-buried skeletons in the city cemeteries to make way for new bodies became a priority. Improper burials were causing the spread of disease in the city centre, and removing the bodies to the empty quarries seemed like the perfect solution. A number of cemeteries were made functional again in this manner, and the bodies of those executed or killed in riots were also placed in the quarries.

Due to the fact that most of the burials which took place here were secondary, the bones of the skeletons were arranged as walls, decorative sculptures and displays in order to save space. These have remained in place to this day and can be observed, alongside the ancient graffiti, when on the catacomb tour - the source of a large number of the ghost stories which have sprung from this city of six million dead.

Glowing mists and orbs, shadows and disembodied voices have allegedly accosted visitors here on many occasions. Tour guides have even described groups of shadows following the tour groups through the tunnels in silence, causing some to panic and leave. Many attribute these strange goings-on to the fact that almost all the bodies kept here were moved from their intended original resting places, and their spirits remain unsettled as a result.

In spite of the fact that the larger part of the quarry tunnel network is out of bounds to the public, there are a number of secret entrances, and the occasional thrill-seeker has wandered in and become lost. Murders took place here during the French Revolution and German soldiers used one quarry chamber in the 6th arrondissement as a bunker during World War II, and these tales have also spawned their own ghoulish urban legends.

Written by  larapiegeler.

Other expert and press reviews

“Catacombs of Paris”

We have always wanted to go to the Catacombs of Paris. The last time we were in Paris, we ran out of time and didn’t make it to its underground labyrinth of death. When we visited Lima, Peru the catacombs were high on our to do list and we were s… Read more...

Written by  Dave and Deb. Continue reading on

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

When you walk among the bones of so many dead, it is hard not to reflect upon your own life. Each and every skull was person with a life and a story to tell. 6 Million, at one time living breathing humans working or toiling, laughing and crying. Made me realize that good people or bad, happy or sad, this too shall someday be our fate, not even a memory. Try to enjoy each and every day for what it is, another day you are here.

Worth the chill down your spine

Steep slender stairs lead you beneath the romantic city of Paris into its macabre underground Catacombs. Winding narrow pathways guide the visitor into a labyrinth of bones. An eerie chill will creep up your spine not only because it’s chilly so far beneath the ground but because with so many bones surrounding you there are bound to be many ghosts roaming around. The decorative displays of bones, hearts made of skulls and pillars made of arms and legs will keep you fascinated and confused whether it’s beautiful or just creepy. Walk down dirty pathways among the dead with only a few lamps to guide your way. You have to be brave to plunge into these underground caverns but it’s worth it and remember they check your bag at the end so don’t try to take some of the bones home with you.

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