To say that the entire city of Paris is haunted and home to the skeletal remains of millions of people would be a bit misleading, but only a bit, because in fact this is the description of what lies beneath all of Paris.
By the 12th century France’s capital had become so overpopulated and so disease ridden that the dead began to pile up, so they started burying them in the abandoned mines below the city. By the 17th century they began arranging the skeletons in a decorative fashion, and in the 21st century they’re all still down there. Welcome to the Catacombs of Paris…
France has always had a bit of a macabre tradition where it regards the burial of the dead. However, dating as far back as Roman times it was the standard to bury the dead far from city limits.
A procession of black-painted horse-drawn wagons decorated with human bones would carry the masses of dead from the city to the consecration grounds where for the first thousand years the bodies were simply stored in a disorganized manner. As the city grew and the cavernous tombs merged into the city limits the processions ended and the level of disorganization increased.
Eventually the tombs built for the dead would not be enough to handle the piling corpses and skeletons and the ancient Roman mines below Paris, unused for more than a thousand years were adopted as new storage spaces.
By 1810 the tombs and mines held over six million skeletons. It was at that time that a French politician, Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury, took it upon himself to create what he planned to be the greatest of sepultures on par with any mausoleum, which was named l’Ossuaire Municipal. Today we know it as the Catacombs of Paris.
Paris’s former Barrière d’Enfer city gate serves as the main entrance to the Paris Catacombs through a narrow spiral stone stairwell the equivalent of six stories deep. Beyond thirty feet the stairwell is encased in complete darkness and the only sound is the gurgling of a hidden aqueduct which diverts local springs away from the Catacombs. When you reach the bottom there is a single ancient gate that reads “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la Mort” or “Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death”.
Beyond that gate the walls are adorned with thousands upon thousands of human skulls, divided only by more carefully arranged bones. In one section a heart-shaped outline crafted from the arrangement of skeletons is clearly visible, pillars are crafted from human leg bones, and fountains crafted from skulls are neatly arranged throughout the caverns.
There are also rusty ancient gates like that at the entrance, these seal the miles of catacombs that were either un-renovated or were too un-navigable for regular tours.
A place such as this doesn’t need to be haunted to be creepy, but you can’t stuff six million skeletons into one underground labyrinth without a few spirits floating around.
Fortunately there’s never been a single report of a direct encounter let alone a malicious encounter, but infra-red recording equipment and EVPs will jump from zero to maximum depending on where you’re standing. Even regular photography throughout the catacombs repeatedly turns up unexplained orbs and mists.