Dark Secrets of the Catacombs

By Eloise Heath 1 month ago

1. Catacombs are full of dead bodies

Image Source: Reddit 
There are plenty of creepy facts and spooky anecdotes about catacombs around the world, but they're inherently dark and scary in nature! Catacombs are systems of underground burial, usually found beneath the ground, either in natural rock formations or in excavated tunnels. That means they're filled with dead bodies!

2. The Paris catacombs hold 6 MILLION dead people

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If the zombie apocalypse really does ever happen, and people starting bursting out of graves left right and centre, remind me to get as far as from Paris as possible. The huge Paris catacombs have got the remains of an estimated 6 million people stashed in walls and tombs.

3. The creepy camcorder

Image Source: Esquire
Even without a zombie outbreak, the Paris catacombs are utterly terrifying. In the 1990s, a man went missing whilst exploring the tunnels. Disorientated in the dark, he couldn't find a way out- all he had was a camcorder. One day people discovered the camcorder, abandoned on the floor, with footage showing him panning around and suddenly dropping the camera. No one knows if he ever found his way out.

4. It's easy to get lost in over two hundred miles of tunnels

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Although only a small part of the Paris catacombs are open to the public, anyone straying off the path could get lost very easily- especially given the tunnels stretch for over two hundred miles underneath the famously romantic city, in a huge labyrinth of the dead.

5. The walls begin to talk at midnight

Image Source: Reddit 
Local legend has it that something horrifying happens in the Paris catacombs late at night. According to rumours, at the witching hour the walls begin to whisper. It's said that the dead inside the walls are trying to lure unsuspecting explorers deeper and deeper into the maze.

6. Philibert Aspairt's death

Image Source: FX Richard Photography 
The Paris catacombs are very old, and claimed at least one victim during the French Revolution. His name was Philibert Apsairt, who was a doorman at the Val-de-Grâce hospital. In November of 1793, he entered the catacombs and never came out, lost in the dark of the tombs.

7. His ghastly remains were discovered years later

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Years later, a group of people studying the catacombs found Philibert Apsairt's body, and it became clear he had perished in the catacombs. More tragic still, his remains were only a few moments walk from one of the entrances. He was so close to escape, but perished all the same.

8. It's said his ghost haunts the tunnels

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Legend has it his ghost, angry about his near escape and untimely demise, still roams the catacombs. Now personally this is enough to put me off ever visiting after dark, but we're warned to be especially careful on the night of November 3rd, the anniversary of his horrible death.

9. Police found a PA system playing pre-recorded dog barking

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In 2004, a group of French police were exploring the restricted area of the catacombs and made a mysterious discovery. In an area normally inaccessible to the public, they found a PA system playing pre recorded sounds of vicious dogs barking. It seemed someone was pretending there was a guard dog, but guarding what...?

10. 3,000 square feet of galleries, wired for phones using pirated electricity

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When the police explored further, they found the fake guard dog wasn't the only scary thing down there. They found three thousand square feet of room that were wired up for telephones, using electricity pirated from the main grid above. Just who had been hiding down there?

11. They also found a viewing room with carved seats

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It only got spookier. Following the wires, they found what appeared to be some kind of cinema/viewing room. Seats were carved out of the rock, in a theatre formation. Maybe I've listened to too many True Crime podcasts, but this is giving me serious cult vibes.

12. And cameras that were recording them!

Image Source: NBC News 
That was when the police noticed that all the time, there had been hidden security cameras filming them all! Understandably, they decided it was time to head back to the surface and get backup, supplies etc. before continuing. This is the kind of logic we need more horror film heroines to employ!

13. But when they returned it had all vanished

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And now for the creepy cherry on the terrifying cake! They came back, ready to take evidence of what we can only presume was, at best, trespassing and, at worst, some kind of cult lair. But it had all vanished: the PA, the wired, the cameras, were all gone.

14. There was nothing but a blood-chilling note

Image Source: The Not So Innocents Abroad 
There was one new piece of evidence, that an investigator found left for them. A hand written note, saying simply "Ne cherchez pas". In English, this translates to a blood-chilling warning, "Don't search". To this day, the mystery of this lair has never been solved.

15. Also Hiding place for resistance in WW2

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That's not the end of the history in the Paris catacombs however, far from it. During World War Two, Paris was occupied by Hitler's Nazi forces. There was a Resistance movement, and they took to the catacombs to strategise amongst the bones, hidden from the Nazi soldiers.

16. Rumours of secret societies

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Although these things are hard to pin down, there have been persistent myths through the decades that other secret societies have used the morbid tunnels as a secret meeting place. Where better for an underground meeting than, literally, underground?

17. There's scary art everywhere

Image Source: National Geographic
I know what you're thinking: millions of bones, rumours of cults, multiple deaths, what this place needs is an intensely creepy statue. Well, you're in luck! The catacombs have plenty! Check out this lady, looming ominously out of a wall at you with her dead, hollow eyes. Just the ticket!

18. The passer through walls

Image Source: Reddit 
This nightmare-fuel is known at the 'Passe Muraille'. This was inspired by a French fairy tale, and depicts a man who could walk through walls. In the story he abuses his power, using it to seduce women and steal things. As a result, he loses his power mid transition, and gets stuck!

19. You might find 'cataphiles' hiding in the shadows

Image Source: Daily Mail 
Everyone has to have a hobby, right? Something to do with their time, bring them some joy- trying new recipes, knitting or crafting, or even just curling up with a good book. But some people in Paris like to hide out in the forbidden parts of the catacombs for kicks. They're referred to as cataphiles- rather them than me!

20. Teenagers went missing from three days in 2017

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There are plenty of tales of folk wandering into the catacombs in the olden days, never to be seen again- some fact, some fiction, and some mysteriously in between. But even as recently as 2017, a group of teenagers got lost in the maze. They were missing for a horrifying three days before they escaped. Once they did, they had to be treated in hospital for severe hypothermia.

21. The walls are lined with skulls

Image Source: Cosmopolitan 
You'd be forgiven for assuming that in the catacombs, they dead bodies are hidden away neatly in the walls, buried and out of sight. Well, plenty are, but in lots of spots the walls are also literally lined with skulls. This photo shows just one such place, near the Place Denfert Rochereau. It's a bold interior design choice for sure!

22. If you visit, you'll descend to a depth of twenty metres

Image Source: Reddit 
If, after all this, you're still fancying a visit to the Paris catacombs (rather than, say, having a delicious croissant on the surface in the sun like a sensible person) you should know that on entrance you'll likely descend around 130 steps, to a depth of twenty metres below street level.

23. In the Odessa catacombs, you'll find a bomb shelter

Image Source: CNN  Travel 
The Parisian catacombs aren't the only ones with chilling secrets, though. If you venture to the catacombs of Odessa, in Ukraine, you'll find a soviet era surprise in the depths. This bomb shelter was designed as a hiding place in the cold war, in case of nuclear attack.

24. A guide found a corpse down there that he couldn't get rid of!

Image Source: CNN Travel 
One local tour guide, Andriy Dembitskyi, is still passionate about the catacombs- even after he made a grizzly discovering. In one unexplored passage, he stumbled on the remains of a man thought to be a WW2 casualty. When he took him to the surface the police refused to take the body, and so did the museum- Dembitskyi was left driving it around town trying to offload it!

25. In 2015, there may have been a axe murderer on the loose

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In 2015, a man was sentenced to 13 years for committing a murder in the very same catacombs. Sources report that a group of teenagers had been drinking nearby, and that one got into an argument with a 15 year old girl. He lured her to the catacombs supposedly to continue talking it out, but instead is said to have murdered her with an axe.

26. Palermo's catacombs are filled with mummies

Image Source: NBC News 
In Palermo, Italy, it's not just plain old skulls and bones that you'll find. Here, a lot of bodies were mummified and dressed in their finest, favourite clothes. It's the largest collection of mummified remains in Europe, with around1,284 of those creepy guys!

27. They bodies are posed to look like they're still alive

Image Source: The Sun 
Imagine walking down this corridor, lined with mummified bodies, posed so they look like a line up at a wedding! Wouldn't you be worried a bony hand could reach out at any moment and grab you? It's another very bold decorating choice that we hope doesn't catch on anytime soon!

28. Some of the skeletons are children

Image Source: NBC News 
To make it all the worse, a lot of the mummies here are the skeletons of children. Coming in at the top of the terrifying charts is Rosalia Lombardo, who died of pneumonia at the age of two in 1920. She was one of the last people to be interred at the catacombs, and is also now the most recent addition to the cast of my personal nightmares.

29.  A girl called Masha lost her life after a party

Image Source: Reddit 
Local lore has it that in 2005, a group of teenagers used the catacombs for a secret New Years Eve party. According to the legend, a girl called Masha stumbled further into the tombs than she intended and got lost. Apparently, she was never seen alive again- and she wasn't confirmed dead until her body was found two years later.

30. The catacombs of Rome are said to hide the holy grail!

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The Vatican have given this theory a profound thumbs down, but plenty of archaeologists have theorised that the Holy Grail never left its home in Rome, and that a secret entrance to its hiding place could be found down in the depths of the catacombs. Grab your whip and your hat- it's Indianna Jones time!

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