Disclaimer: This post is about the Paris Catacombs; it contains pictures of real skeletons, readers beware!
Last week while in Paris, we visited the Catacombs museum. With Halloween a week away, I though this would be a perfect creepy post to share.
It is said that there are more dead Parisians under the city than there are living in Paris. The Catacombs run for hundreds of kilometers under the city. A very small section is open to the public; this “museum” is unlike any other.
Helpful hint #1, buy your tickets online before you get there. The lines are long!! There are two lines, one for those buying tickets onsite and one for those who pre-bought online. The line for those who have tickets is much, much shorter.
As soon as you walk in, it was clear that this is going to be a freaky experience. You start by going down a metal spiraling staircase with 180 stairs that quickly bring you 20 meters under the city. This is probably not a great activity for anyone who is claustrophobic!! Or anyone who is super tall, lol.
This video shows the walk towards the galleries where the bones are displayed. Creepy right?
Once you get to the bottom, things get real, real fast!! I am not claustrophobic; or I didn’t think I was, but as we walked towards the entrance I did get a bit freaked out. Helpful hint #2; don’t overthink the fact that you are 20 meters underground, lol.
I told my friend Claudia that I was feeling a bit anxious; she did the right thing by ignoring what I had just said and started talking about unrelated stuff. I think I just needed a moment to climatize; it gets real dark, real fast too!
Full disclosure, you are allowed to take pictures and videos, they just ask that you not touch anything…mmm no worries there! At first I wondered if it was disrespectful to take photos? Millions of people a year visit the catacombs and do take pics; and the museum itself has photos of the remains on posters, flyers…I was mindful to remember that these walls of bones were once people. Some families were taking pictures of their kids in front of the remains…yeah, too creepy for me!!
These are limestone quarries that originated in the 15th century.
This sign is a warning of what lies beyond this point. It says: Stop! This is the empire of death. Mmm nothing creepy about that!! Lol
So here is a super brief overview as per the guide.
One of the largest Parisian cemeteries was closed in 1780, due to safety concerns. Little by little the quarries began to House bones from all the cemeteries of central Paris. Basically because they wanted to expand the city, so cemeteries were closed and the remains moved.
At some point a dude called Hericart de Thury, created a theatrical display with the remains, similar to how a museum would display objects. The overall impression he wanted to create was one of respect, mediation and fear.
The catacombs have been open to the public since the early 19th century.
My impression was a combination of awe for the sheer size and the intricacy of the displays and creeped outness, new word, just made it up (meaning to be super creeped out).
During our time in the catacombs I found myself getting caught up in the stories, we paid extra for the audio tour, it’s a must. It’s beautiful in a morbid and surreal way. It’s easy to forget that each bone belonged to a person.
I am not a super religious person, seeing all these skulls and bones really brought home that we leave our bodies. What’s left are just bones. And that we each have a short time here.
Being surrounded by so many who have passed reminded me to live life as best I can. My final hint for this post is more a hope; let’s try to not be shitty people!! Lol
If you have time, I would recommend visiting the catacombs.
I will close on a lighter note, they had a pretty decent boutique, I bought a cool skeleton umbrella. And FYI, those 180 steps are much easier going down than they are coming back up! And 20 meters is approximately 63 feet.
I would like to know if you would visit the catacombs if given the opportunity? Yes? Or is it too creepy for you?? Share!