Disturbing Facts You Didn’t Know About Paris’ Catacombs

The Paris catacombs are ossuaries found underground in Paris, France. They served as the final resting place for human skeleton remains and were used when burial grounds weren’t available. These tunnels are now one of the most popular tourist attraction sites in Paris. While some see it as a fascinating place with interesting history, others describe it as the gate to hell and a dreary place. You get to decide for yourself after we explore the following five disturbing facts about the catacombs.

1. It Houses The Remains Of Over Six Million Bodies  

In the mid 1700s, persons who had died were buried in cemeteries. Soon the cemeteries became overpopulated and ran out of space. In addition, some of the bodies that had not been buried appropriately began to cause the spread of diseases to those who resided close by. This was a public health risk. The city officials took the decision to condemn these cemeteries and to move the remains of over six million Parisians to the catacombs. This was practiced from 1786 to 1814. The bones were moved at night in carts during a quiet parade with the presence of the priest.   

2. The Bones Were Arranged In A Decorative Way

On arrival at the catacombs, the priest prayed a prayer which was believed to keep the dead at peace and the bones were placed in large heaps in the tunnels. The workers then began to use the bones to decorate the ossuaries. The workers lined the walls with the tibias, femurs and skulls. The bones were arranged in the shapes of hearts and circles. The barrel, which is a circular pillar with skulls and tibia surrounding it, is one of the famous displays. This is a sight to behold that fascinates many tourists.

3. The Catacombs of Paris Were Used to Grow Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms began growing in one of the chambers. This was an observation made by one man in the 19th century. This caught his attention and he soon realized that the conditions in the abandoned tunnels were ideal for growing mushrooms. He then began a mushroom farm in vacant chambers and his work was acknowledged and accepted by the Horticultural Society of Paris. This practice grew in popularity and mushroom farming was undertaken by several other farmers.

4. Unknown Groups Had Secret Operations There

In 2004, during a police training exercise which required police to go into the catacombs, police observed a camera which recorded them and triggered a recording of dogs barking. Upon investigation, a secret amphitheater, a restaurant, a fully-stocked bar, electricity and phone lines were found in the tunnels. When police returned a few days later to continue their investigations, they were greeted by a note on the floor which read, “Do not try to find us.” This mystery was never solved.         

5. The Catacombs Are Used By Cataphiles

Cataphiles are Parisian explorers who look forward to their adventures in the catacombs. In the depths of the catacombs are unmapped pools of water which are used as private swimming pools by those who know their location. Just think about it; they’re swimming in a graveyard. Some cataphiles spend time forming communities down there, painting art, hosting parties and having time away from the outside world.    

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