Scariest Facts About the Catacombs

By: Riley Brown | Last updated: Aug 23, 2022

You might know Paris for the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, but what lies beneath the city is far more sinister. The catacombs in Paris are a system of underground tombs and passageways that were used as a place of burial.

If you visit, don’t be alarmed by the thousands of bones you’ll find there. Here are some of the most bone chilling facts about the Catacombs that might change the way you see Paris, France. Read on if you dare.

They were built because cemeteries were overcrowded

The catacombs of Paris were built out of necessity. The cemeteries were overcrowded and bodies were piling up (yuck). The catacombs were a quick solution to this pressing problem. They began emptying bones from Paris’ cemeteries into the underground tunnels beginning in the late 1700s.

Advertisement

The city of Paris needed such a fast solution because of the leprosy pandemic in France. To date, there are an estimated 6 million bodies (yes, you read that right) buried in the passageways. That’s a lot of French ghosts. Visit at your own risk.

There is art made from the bones

You can visit designated areas within the catacombs, but some are off limits because they are dangerous. Some tunnels are too narrow, or are flooded, so much of the tunnels still remain a mystery. In some parts of the tunnels, the bones are arranged into deranged forms of art and sculpture.

Advertisement

The “Barrel” is one of the most famous examples of these twisted structures. It acts as a support beam for the tunnels as well. Residing in the “Crypt of Passion”, this barrel of skulls and bones is sure to send a shiver down your spine.

People have gotten lost in the catacombs

There are over 100 miles of catacombs under Paris. Many have still yet to be explored, so there is great mystery surrounding these underground channels. There are many stories of people getting lost in the tunnels, but most have remained unconfirmed.

Advertisement

One man was confirmed dead from an exploration of the catacombs. In 2017, 2 teenagers came close to death when they got lost in the underground canals for 3 days. The lesson here is, if you do visit, stay in the area that is open to the public. You don’t want to find yourself stuck down there with 6 million spirits. Spooky!

They are home to secret communities

Since many parts are unexplored and closed to the public, the tunnels invite some suspect characters. There is an allure to the secrecy and haunted nature of underground Paris. Parisians that meet for various reasons in the secret parts of the catacombs are referred to as “Cataphiles”.

Advertisement

Some Cataphiles commit themselves to learning and exploring the different tunnels. Others meet for worshiping purposes. The creepiest part is, we can’t be sure what goes on down there. If you find yourself in Paris, think about what might be going on below your feet.