Twisted: The Creepy Catacombs of Paris

by beccatran / Apr 20, 2013 /

Let me begin my story by saying that I have a really odd younger sister. So, we were in the most beautiful city ever: Paris. And what did she want to do? Go visit the Catacombs of Paris. My little sister has always been really adventurous, and is fascinated with morbid and unusual places and things, whereas I am very indifferent to the idea. I don’t like to stray out of my comfort zone; I don’t like surprises and unordinary things. I guess I’m just not adventurous, unlike my family members, who are all extremely adventurous people. They are amazed that I even decided to take a year off of high school to travel with them.

 

Visiting the Paris Catacombs

My sister, Paris Catacombs

 

I had a sudden realization, though: that I never really did anything out of my comfort zone. Although I’d like to think of myself as daring and adventurous, I knew I wasn’t. Especially compared to my family, who always wanted to go out and explore old and uncommon places. Most of the time my parents had to drag me out to museums and ancient ruins; but I honestly have never had an interest for these kinds of things.

 

But back to Paris. Basically, the Catacombs are an underground graveyard with over 1.6 million skeletons, 63 feet below the surface. In the 17th century, Paris had a very big problem: all the cemeteries became overcrowded with bodies, and people were running out of space to bury the dead. The city was unsanitary to live in with all the dead rotting bodies. In the late 17th century, a police lieutenant had the idea to use the empty underground tunnels to put the bones in. The procedure of moving the bodies took several years. That is how the Catacombs began.

 

But back to the Catacombs. I was definitely not so keen to be so deep down underneath Paris, surrounded by endless tunnels of skeletons in the darkness. I hadn’t even known the Catacombs existed until that morning, when my sister had explained to me what it was. The thought of so many skeletons piled up together just creeped me out and sent shivers through my whole body. As we were buying our tickets (after waiting 45 minutes in line) we made our descent down a very narrow spiral staircase to the burial. It’s completely silent down there, and is only illuminated with very dim lights lining the walls. The air tasted kind of stagnant, like it hadn't moved in centuries. The stone walls felt damp and cold. My sister bounced around, excitedly skipping ahead deeper into the darkness of the tunnels. I followed her, although with some hesitation; I have never been too fond of the dark. But I had already made it this far; there was no turning back now. We continued our walk through the narrow tunnels. I thought it would never end. When you think it’s almost over, it just goes on. Only 2km of the Catacombs are available to the public - I could only imagine how many tunnels are underneath the city. It would be so easy to get lost. My sister and dad were a really eager to see the bones so they were walking ahead. I was being used as a walking cane for my mom, who of course decided to wear completely impractically fancy shoes.

 

My sister, Paris Catacombs

My sister, Paris Catacombs 

 

I knew we were close to the chambers that held the bones when I heard screams coming from a group of schoolgirls. As I walked into the room, I wondered to myself if this place was haunted, and what all the ghosts would think about their bones being moved deep underground and piled on top of each other. I have always been freaked out by ghosts. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this! Creepy was the best word to describe the atmosphere of the room. The walls were lined decoratively with thousands of bones and skulls all placed very neatly and artistically. “This is so twisted,” I silently thought to myself. Normally I would have my camera in hand, snapping tons of pictures; but my camera dangled loosely around my neck. I was so creeped out I didn’t even want to take pictures. This was unusual for me, so my dad decided to take a few photos with his cell phone since I refused to take any with my camera. I remember saying to my dad, “If I take any pictures, and then upload them to my laptop, the images of the piled up bones and skulls will definitely haunt my mind (and my computer) for the rest of my life.” We continued along the tunnel of bones. It was completely silent, except for some drops of water and the occasional screams from young girls. The tunnels of bones continued for what felt like forever, until we finally reached the end and made our way back to the sunlight. Just imagine going into the Catacombs on Halloween!

 

Visiting the Catacombs was so far out of my comfort zone but I’m really glad I experienced it, as it will make a great scary campfire story. If you are ever in Paris, I highly recommend that you visit the Catacombs. It’s something you should experience once in your life.

 

 

 

 

Becca Tran is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

Photos courtesy and copyright Becca Tran

 

 

Comments (2)

  • Brianna Krueger

    7 years 6 months ago

    Great article! And way to go out of your comfort zone :)

  • curtissmith003

    7 years 6 months ago

    Hello:

    Your post brought back memories! Our youngest son, then 9, begged us to go see the catacombs. We relented and waited in line for over an hour. We got down and he was so scared that he wanted back out right away. Eventually, we coaxed him through the dark maze. However, he tells a different story. Thanks!

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