Catacombs of Paris

Bonjour et bon mercredi Welcome to the Ghost Hunting in New England Podcast !

This episode was recorded in the city of lights! The city of Love! The city of Paris France!

Join Amelia this episode as she finds herself running down 130 stairs into the base of the catacombs by herself to tell you all about what this underground burial site.

In the mid to late 1700s what would become a 200 mile series of underground tunnels began being build under the streets of Paris.  The tunnels are now found underneath all the cities electrical lines and subway systems and follow natural formations within the the rock, which is why they are so low. Now many of you may be aware that modern French society operates within a mixture of capitalism and socialism, with some of the world’s most stringent labor laws including a mandated 5 week paid vacation given to every employee each year, but as many of the people of Paris will be eager to tell you, this is because back in the day people were made to work seven days a week, which allow me to tell you, as someone who’s been doing it for 7 years, it can be a bit taxing on the soul. But now imagine a time before indoor plumbing, before heating and air conditioning units, and you’re a coreyman sent out seven days a week to build these underground tunnels. Now obviously the risk of a tunnel collapsing and burying you alive was a real reality for these men but collapses in the tunnels actually occurred quiet rarely, what was more worrying was running the risk of running out of oxygen, it was also said though out the years that often the last thing a man would see before he died would be a set of green eyes staring at him from a distance, before he would collapse dead inside the tunnels. What was even more common than that however was blindness. Now what would cause a man to go blind you ask? Was it a wink instead of a stare from those green eyes? No, no, no… the blindness was caused from getting to work before the sun rose, spending all day underground, getting out before the sun set, if you work under those conditions for long enough when you inevitably do see the sun again it will, unfortunately burn your retinas leaving you blind.  

But how did all the bodies get inside of the tunnels?!

Well let’s venture back into a time where the best way to get into heaven was to be buried in the house of God. Now obviously, this was during a period in Europe when if you had enough money it seemed as arches of heaven would just open right on up for you. So the Aristocrats paid their way to be buried in crypts in churches, thus ensuring their entry to the kingdom of God.  Peasants on the other hand, were buried in fields with wooden crosses over their graves and a lot of hope that was close enough being a house of God. But then the Middle class comes along and can’t fit in crypts so they start creating cemeteries next to the churches, this practice started on outside of cities to inside the barriers of Paris. Well, now we’re all the way up to the 1300s and big cemetery have filled up, so what does one do with all these bodies and no more room in the cemetery, but people NEED to be buried in the cemetery, so that way they can get to heaven, so a second layer of dirt was added. Now, I’m sure many of you who understand the phrase “six feet under” can have some guesses as to what might happen when you just throw some dirt on top of a cemetery to add more bodies, that is right the bodies start poppin’ up out of the ground, so obviously, no one wanted to see this so they built a massive wall around the cemetery. Now we’re up to the 1500s where things go from not very well thought out to a bit grifty with zero concern consequences, and  false coffins were made. A false coffin is one with a trap door on the bottom, so families would pay for the coffin, and gravediggers would hit the trap door, dump the body in the ground and reuse the coffin for the next SOB to pass away.

 So now we make our way to 1770 with a tale of a pub owner asking his daughter to go into the basement to fetch some wine, when the daughter didn’t come back he went to check on her only to discover the wall had broke and the girl was buried under a mix of dirt and skeletons with the only her hand holding the pitcher of wine above the ground. It was also said at this time that if you touched the walls of the cemetery you would actually get gang green. Not only that but the people of Paris discovered the king had known for YEARS that people in a nearby underground market were having a horrible time as their crops and meats were going bad in a matter of hours and no one had any explanation.  But the explanation was that there were far too many bodies decomposing in the cemetery so all burials inside the city are stopped.  Now, around this time a man named Crosby became the chief of police and was charged with the task of figuring out what to do with this massive cemetery problem at the same time this other man Guirimo (honestly I’m not sure how to spell it) was in charge of the tunnels and the two got together and realized one had a body problem and the other had an empty tunnel problem so the two made a place to get the 6-7 million people buried moved into the catacombs. For some perspective there are currently 2.8m currently in Paris. 

Bones from April 1776 first bones from cemetery of the innocent. Bones come from April-October before the ground would froze.  Now an interesting fact that I didn’t know was that for a human to go from flesh to bones takes approximately 8-10 months with no embalming. Stop burials in 1770, started bring people in 1776 and the move ended around 1780 so by that point they were all just skeletons. So what you have a skeleton the Spine doesn’t stick together, jaw doesn’t stick in. And, as people do, the living began stealing teeth. 

So, for the first 24 years bodies were just dumped down into piles. Arranged by whichever cemetery they came out of, so your body was put together but it would be placed in the same kind of general area. In 1810 a bone architect was hired and the stacking of bones began.  Skulls and femurs were good staking bones which is most of what you will see when you walk around underground that’s most of what you see and all the other bones are thrown behind those skeleton walls. The designs created by the bones in many places, such as hearts or crosses or churches, different line designs, extra were all done by bored bone stackers, Cult of science and reason which was very popular at that time often represented by the obelus which can be found on pillars in between the bones.  

But bones are not all you will find in this section of the catacombs which only runs in about two of the 200 mile area……. To learn more listen to the full episode which can be found anywhere podcasts can be found or by clicking HERE.

It was such a blast getting to take a solo trip to Paris in January 2020, a few weeks later the city would completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a few weeks after that I met my husband so no more solo cross world adventures in the foreseeable future but it was truly a trip I will remember forever!!

Be sure to tell your friends about the show and leave us a 5 star review! Don’t leave less than 5 stars, that’s just rude. 😊

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