Photo by: Travis Grossen. Looking at the photo above, this is an example of what the walls of the Paris Catacombs would look like.
Beneath the city of Paris, France there are more than 200 miles of tunnels which tourists can explore- that's if public tours were actually available at the moment. In fact, the area is so large people have actually gone missing within the Paris Catacombs.
However, the Paris Catacombs remain significant for a different reason: they house the skeletal remains of more than 6 million people. By the seventeenth century, these remains were not always skeletal.
Furthermore, many of the bodies which overpopulated Paris graveyards were not fully decomposed when they were brought to the already-existing tunnels. So, people living in Paris had to cope with the smell of rotting flesh on a regular basis.
No, this is not necessarily a murder tale. Instead, the existence of the Paris Catacombs is based on an expanding population- at least for the most part. As a folklorist, I want to examine the creepiest aspects of the tunnels underneath the city of Paris.
Why were people buried beneath the city?
To no one's surprise, Paris is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Interestingly, Gaelic peoples lived in the area as early as 52 B.C.E, until they were conquered by the Romans- and this happened to a lot of civilizations centuries ago.
The population of Paris was constantly expanding since its earliest civilization, and by the seventeenth century "enough people had lived and died in Paris, its cemeteries were overflowing." (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/paris-catacombs-180950160/)
Photo by: John Towner.
Evidently, the city of Paris is often romanticized through literature and films. However, the city is known for its high crime rate, and more specifically- its city of the dead underneath.
Housing skeletal remains:
Creepy? Yes. However, the presence of skeletal remains is not necessarily why the Paris Catacombs is a strange place.
"As Paris grew into its a role as a major European hub, it eventually ran into a major problem: by the 17th century, enough people had lived and died in Paris that its cemeteries were overflowing, overstuffed with graves to the point when corpses, at times became uncovered. And so the solution arose to place them in the centuries-old tunnels that had existed beneath the streets of Paris since the 13th century, remnants of a time when limestone quarries were mined to build Paris into a thriving city. By the time these burials ended, 6 million Parisians' bones came to their final resting place in the city's catacombs."
Photo by: Chelms Varthoumlien
Shortly after bodily remains were brought to the already-existing Paris tunnels, people living in the area started complaining about the smell due to decomposed bodies.
However, I do not wish to discuss the economic disadvantages caused by the Paris Catacombs. Instead, there's something else I believe deserves attention. Considering its association with death, it's not surprising the Paris Catacombs have produced some interesting ghost stories, and other events.
A little side note, but I have recently started a new YouTube channel. Readers can check it out right here:
(c) themodernistson/ YouTube
One of the first creepy tales is commonly known as "Voices at Midnight". Since modern people have explored the Paris Catacombs in the twentieth and twenty-first century, advanced technology has allowed people to better record their findings and experiences.
With the use of voice and sound recorders, explorers and field-workers have been able to capture events known as "electronic voice phenomenon", or E.V.P. Yes, this is the type of thing you see on Ghost Hunters.
With respect to our first story from the Paris Catacombs, it goes something like this:
Legends always said you could hear voices coming from the Paris Catacombs late at night, but I never believed it. I decided to check it out for myself, but didn't expect the walls to talk to me. After midnight, the disembodied voices of spirits of the dead just started talking- telling me what to do. The further I walked- the louder the voices became.
According to this legend, the disembodied voices in the story will ultimately take control of the explorer's body.