Catacombes de Paris

CATACOMBS OF PARIS

1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, Paris, FR

+33 1 43 22 47 63

Status: Historical Famous Catacombs; Limited Public Access; Private Property

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Map of the Catacombs

A008, Paris, France, Catacombs, 1991.jpg

By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Brian_W._Schaller" title="User:Brian W. Schaller">Brian W. Schaller</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, FALLink


History

By the end of the 18th century internment of the deceased was becoming a very serious problem in Paris. In 1780 one of the many mass graves in St Innocents – the largest of the public cemeteries within the city boundaries - collapsed into the basement of a surrounding house. Almost everyone who lived around the cemeteries complained about the constant smell of human decomposition.

After 1780 burials were forbidden in the city limits and the cemeteries were in such a state – many bodies were simply left on the ground to rot – even the remains already there had to be moved.

Under the Left Bank – in areas not within the city boundaries at the time (12th century) – were a number of mines from which the stone to build the city was removed. By the end of the 18th century the city had annexed many of the administrative districts that had been built over the old mines.

It was decided those abandoned mines provided the best solution for the internment of human remains. Renovations of the mines began in 1782 and the transfer of bodies begun in 1785. For the next 2 years at night there was an endless procession to the mines turned catacombs of black draped wagons moving the bodies.

In the beginning the catacombs was just a place to dump bones and other human remains; the 10-year French Revolution in 1789 didn’t help much either. By 1810 some organization began to be developed making the giant mausoleum into a place that could be visited. This was also when the stone tablets describing the catacombs were put up as well as the arrangement of the human skulls as they are today.

The French Resistance hid in the catacombs during the Nazi occupation in World War II. They even led the insurrection in 1944 when Paris was liberated from offices in the catacombs.

Since their creation in the early 19th century the catacombs have been an object of curiosity attracting visitors. At first only the wealthy Parisians were allowed in but eventually everyone was. They have been closed and reopened to the public many times in the last 200 years due to vandalism and degradation of the tunnels.

Only a small portion of the catacombs are open now – since 2020 under Covid-19 protocols – and entering any other part of the huge tunnel system is trespassing and illegal. Most websites say the locals are pretty tolerant of illegal entry but the police will fine you if caught. The police also patrol the tunnels.

There are about 6 million people interned in the catacombs.

 

Paranormal Activity

Should you be in the catacombs after midnight legend says the walls will begin to speak urging you to go further and further into the tunnels until you become lost.

The ghost of Philibert Apsairt has been seen walking the catacombs every November. During the French Revolution Philibert went looking for a bottle of liqueur in the basement of the hospital he worked at. Somehow, he got into the catacombs instead and became lost. His body wasn’t found for 11 years and he is now buried in the catacombs at the same spot his body was found.

In 2004 police patrolling an area restricted from public use found 3,000 square feet of the catacombs had been furnished into a workshop, a living area, a bar and even a theatre with seats for 20 people. It was powered by pirated electricity and even had phone lines. There were cameras in the ceiling taping everyone who entered the area. When the police returned a few days later they found everything gone with little sign it had ever been there.

In the early 1990’s a video camera was found also in a restricted area. A tape was found inside of a man who had gotten lost in the catacombs and had obviously gone crazy. No sign of the man has ever been found anywhere in the catacombs.

Somewhere in the catacombs is a tunnel built of cat skulls. This thought to be from a chef who served cat calling it rabbit on the menu.

Other Activity: Apparitions thought to be the ghosts of those who became lost and died in the tunnels; shadow figures usually seen with your peripheral vision disappearing quickly, touches, tugs and pulls by unseen presences; disembodied voices and feelings of being watched and not being alone.