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The haunted history of the Paris Catacombs

Paris Catacombs Tour & TicketsParis Catacombs Haunted

Paris Catacombs | World's largest underground ossuary

The City of Love is home to some of the most romantic and popular attractions in the world - the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, and the Louvre Museum. But the dark side of the City of Lights is also home to the Paris Catacombs, an underground ossuary that contains the remains of over six million Parisians.

Today, this macabre ossuary is one of the most popular Paris attractions, attracting millions annually. Read on to learn about why this sober attraction is often considered haunted, and read about the myths and legends that originate from its darkness.

History of the Paris Catacombs

Are the Paris Catacombs haunted?

There is no definite answer to this. The Paris Catacombs are in itself a macabre attraction with a dark history attached to it. Visitors have been known to get lost in the Catacombs, see apparitions, hear disembodied voices coming from the walls, witness strange orbs and spectral lights, and be touched, only to find no one when they turn around. These strange occurrences have led people to believe that the Paris Catacombs are indeed haunted.

Paris Catacombs ghost stories

Read about the famous people who have been interred at the Paris Catacombs.

Lost video camera and footage

In the early 1990s, a group of cataphiles (those who explore the Catacombs regularly) found a video camera within the tunnels. The footage showed a man who was clearly lost with no idea of how to escape, paired with disturbing noises. Watching the footage, it became clear that the man had lost his mind trying to escape the Catacombs. The video ended with the man abruptly dropping the camera to the ground; no one knows if he managed to get out alive. The movie 'As Above, So Below' is said to have been inspired by this incident.

If walls could talk

Locals believe that something eerie takes place at the Catacombs after midnight. According to legends, the walls of the Catacombs start to talk after midnight: disembodied voices will try to persuade you to venture deeper into the tunnels until you are completely lost and can't find your way back. The labyrinth's acoustics further intensify and echo noises creating a ghostly atmosphere.

The ghost of Philibert Aspairt

During the French Revolution, a doorman at the Val-de-Grâce hospital, Philibert Aspairt, ended up in the Catacombs by accident in search of liqueur in a cellar. With just a single candle to guide him, he walked around the pitch-black Catacombs until he became lost. Eventually, his candle went out, making it impossible for him to escape the tunnels. His body was found 11 years later by a group of cataphiles; he was identified by the hospital key ring still hanging from his belt. Aspairt was buried in the Catacombs in the exact location where he was found with a tombstone describing his death. It is believed that his ghost haunts the tunnels every year on November 3rd.

Secret hideout

In 2004, police officers uncovered a PA system playing pre-recorded guard dog barking on a loop, 3000 square feet of galleries, and wires for phones using pirated electricity in a restricted part of the Catacombs. They also found a bar, living area, workshop, lounge, a cinema that could seat 20, and cameras on the ceilings recording them. When the police returned with a larger team to further investigate, everything had vanished. All that remained was a note: Ne cherchez pas (Don't search).

Paris Catacombs entrance

The Paris Catacombs entrance does not make the attraction any less eerie or scary. A corkscrew stairway that plunges 20 meters underground is the only way to access the tunnels. There are no elevators to the Catacombs. Although you enter a well-lit room with information and displays, the grand entrance below that leads to the ossuary reads: STOP! This is the Empire of Death. The lengthy tunnels are quiet, humid, and hard to breathe in. If you get lost, there is no way to find your way back since there are no phone signals underground.

The legend of the cat skulls

This legend is supposedly found in a book about underground Paris. An 1896 exploration of the Paris Catacombs led to the discovery of hundreds of skulls in the tunnels that weren't human. Cat skulls. The tunnels seemingly shared a well with a nearby restaurant that was run by a manager who passed off these cats as rabbits, their tastes apparently similar. As this was an unacceptable practice, it meant that the manager had the feline carcasses and bones disposed of in the well, accumulating within the Catacombs.

People get lost in the labyrinth

The Paris Catacombs are huge: roughly 300 km in size, at around 60 m below sea level. Most of the tunnels in the Paris Catacombs are uncharted, with some areas that are nearly impossible to access. That, however, does not deter explorers. Apart from Aspairt who got lost and died in the Catacombs, there are several stories of explorers who have wandered the tunnels, only to never come out alive. In 2017, 2 teenagers almost lost their lives after being stranded in the tunnels for 3 days before they were sniffed out by fire service dogs and rescued.

"Gates of Hell"

The Barrière d’Enfer (Gates of Hell) toll houses are located below the city, at the entrance of the Paris Catacombs. These gates were once city gates located on the outskirts of Paris. Although they were not used for what they were designed for, they still exist today. The Catacombs extend south of these gates implying they are an entry to the hell that are the Catacombs.

Secret societies and cults

There are rumors of secret societies and cults who hold clandestine meetings and sacred rituals within the Paris Catacombs. Although there is no evidence to support these claims, is is believed that the vast labyrinth are the perfect setting for these, especially since many areas of the tunnels are unmapped or restricted, provoking speculation of what could be transpiring here.

Ancient artifacts and forbidden knowledge

The sealed-off tunnels with their shrouded mysteries have encouraged legends that believe that these tunnels harbor ancient artifacts and forbidden knowledge. Since they remain unmapped even today, these secret chambers spark rumors of ancient rituals and hidden manuscripts suggesting that they are home to unthinkable wisdom and treasures.

Ghost sightings

Visitors recount having spotted a ghostly apparition within the Paris Catacombs resembling a quarry worker, dressed in the historic attire reminiscent to laborers. Although these sightings have been fleeting, they contribute to the macabre setting of the underground tunnels, suggesting an ever darker history to the site.

In search of lost love

Among ghost sightings, a recurring occurrence is that of a young woman dressed in 19th century garb wandering the tunnels in search of her lost love. This particular sighting adds to the eerie and romantic element of this lore, describing her melancholic yet perpetual journey in search of her love.

Moans and footsteps of restless spirits

In addition to ghost sightings, visitors recount hearing moans and phantom footsteps of presumably restless spirits echoing the tunnels at midnight, furthering the belief that the Paris Catacombs are haunted. Accounts claim that the very walls themselves echo and carry the voices of these departed souls, adding an unsettling atmosphere to the Catacombs.

Cataphiles driven mad

In the 18th century, a group of cataphiles (regular Catacombs explorers) found themselves lost in the never-ending tunnels and were driven mad by hunger. While this legend cannot be corroborated, it remains famous as a cautionary tale meant to discourage enthusiasts from and the potential dangers of exploring restricted areas of the Catacombs.

The Catacomb Butcher

There was a serial killer in the 1950s, called the 'The Catacomb Butcher' who frequently disposed of his victims in the Paris Catacombs. However, there is no historical evidence that such a killer existed. Nonetheless, the tale that a killer uses these dark tunnels for these purposes further adds to the sinister and dreadful landscape of the Catacombs.

Ancient cursed relic

Legends claim that the Paris Catacombs contain an ancient cursed relic that casts a dark spell and drives its finder insane. Tales of explorers who venture through the tunnels in search of treasure are reported to come across this relic and succumbed to the consequences of finding this relic.




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Know before you go

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The Paris Catacombs have one entrance and one exit point.

Entrance: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy
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Exit: 21 Av. René Coty, 75014 Paris, France
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  • Photography is permitted at the Paris Catacombs. However, flash photography and tripod use are not allowed at the Catacombs.
  • There are 131 steps to the Catacombs and 112 steps to climb back up. Please be careful as the passageways are narrow, slippery and dimly lit.
  • Since the Paris Catacombs are underground, the temperature is likely several degrees cooler. You can carry a light jacket to keep warm and remember to wear comfortable shoes for the walk.
  • Go for a guided tour to learn more about the history and significance of the Catacombs.
  • Eating, drinking and smoking are strictly prohibited inside the Catacombs.
  • The Catacombs can be crowded and claustrophobic. If you are claustrophobic, you may want to reconsider visiting.

There are no restaurants with the Paris Catacombs. However, you can grab a bite at one of the nearby restaurants: