On our fourth day in London, we took an early train to Paris. Although we would only have one day there, it was definitely a memorable one! We tried to make sure we had something for everyone in the family on this trip, and the one thing I insisted on, as an author of ghost stories and a fan of haunted places, was to visit the Catacombs of Paris. I first learned of these ossuary tunnels when I did a blog post on graveyards for a Halloween blog hop, and I found the story of the Catacombs both eerie and fascinating. Apparently I’m not the only one, as the line to get in was very, very long. But I had booked a guided tour in advance, so after lunch we met our guide outside the entrance.
|One of the incredibly detailed limestone carvings done by|
Decur from 1777 - 1782 - A Palace in Minorca
The way down is via a very narrow spiral staircase that leads 64 feet below the ground. We were treated to some of the initial history of the network of 187 miles of tunnels beneath the city: how they were created initially to excavate lime, how the city was built from what was mined, and how eventually, in the 1700s, Paris was in danger of sinking into the earth due to the collapsing tunnels. Workers were sent down to reinforce the mines. During this time, a quarry inspector named Decur carved this Palace in Minorca from his memory of being held captive in a fort across from it. He did this (and other carvings) from 1777-1782 and eventually died down there in a cave-in.
|"Stop! This is the land of the dead."|
The sign above the entrance to the
ossuary areas in the Catacombs.
Around this time, Paris was experiencing another crisis—the overcrowding of cemeteries was endangering public health. Bodies were literally overflowing, disease was spreading, and there was no room for new burials. Moving the bones became a priority, and there was plenty of room in the newly repaired tunnels. Over six million bodies were moved, the product of 1,000 years of burials (often in mass graves) in Paris. This effort took two years.
It’s difficult to describe the sheer volume of bones down there…it goes on and on and on through the tunnels, and while some walls are displayed artistically, the bones stretch back from there in deep piles. Obviously it was impossible to keep bodies together or add much in the way of identification, but sometimes headstones were brought down to add to the designs, and there are a few signs indicating which cemetery the remains are from.
|A monument added to the design.|
After two hours down there (and one medical emergency involving a member of our group—especially scary down in the dark, surrounded by bones, with no emergency exits or even normal staircases…it took medics a long time to get to us), we climbed another spiral staircase and emerged above ground. Even since, my mind has been spinning with ideas for a new story! I came up with the idea for my upcoming release HAUNTED SOULS after a ghost tour in historic Barnstable Village, so we’ll see if the Catacombs can inspire a new plotline!
A quick snack and then we went in the other direction, up above the city, the entire 921 feet to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We had a gorgeous day and beautiful views.
It wasn’t long before we had to make our way back to the train station and head back to London, but we had more adventures to look forward to. London Tower is coming up in the next post, and if you want to see Days 1 and 2 (Soccer and Stonehenge) or Day 3 (London Eye, London Dungeon, and Churchill War Rooms), I’ve linked those posts in this paragraph as well (colored titles). Thanks for stopping by, and check out my books for some spooky ghost stories mixed with steamy romance! HAUNTED SOULS releases June 1, 2016, but it’s available for Pre-Order on Kindle and Nook, and both SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR are currently available in the meantime. And if you want to see some more pictures of the Catacombs, visit my Pinterest board!
|Obligatory Eiffel Tower selfie with |
the Seine River below!