Jones, Jones, let me borrow your bones

Jones, Jones, let me borrow your bones

 

Oh, I’m so excited to tell everyone about my trip down into the catacombs! As you may well know, the catacombs occupy the prime spot on my list of haunted places to visit before I become a ghost myself. And I got in this morning! It’ll make a great beginning to a new sub-category of posts, “Tales from Abroad” (I figure with all the stories I have to tell, a category was needed for it).

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Well, this morning I woke up early. I’d heard that the lines for the catacombs were insanely long, and I decided to get there early. So I got dressed, ate breakfast, and headed to the Metro. Right across from the exit from my stop, was the entrance to the catacombs, with a small line already forming. I rushed to it and got in before anyone else could. It was about fifty minutes before the catacombs opened at that point, and it was also the time when I made new friends: Andrew and Maria, an engineer and sketch artist from Florida whom I talked to while waiting in line. Subjects ranged from WWII history to our travels to the history of the catacombs themselves to our individual aspirations and dreams. During the tour I often saw them and we took photos of each other at various points along the tour.

When ten o’clock hit, the doors opened and we went in. By that point the line had snaked around the block and out of sight (average wait time is around two hours apparently. So remember kids, if you’re in Paris and plan to tour the catacombs, arrive as early as I did so you can get in quickly). The tour was self-guided (audio guides cost extra, and tour guides are only available to groups), so you basically walked down a circling staircase to a first room that dealt with the history of the catacombs (originally mines and underground quarries, later the home of six million of Paris’s dead as corpses were moved from cemeteries to underground for health reasons) and the geological history of the catacombs. Later you moved into the catacombs proper, a series of passageways and tunnels (only a section available to the public; anything else, you’d have to find a cataphile, a catacomb enthusiast who can access illegal entry points and go down to explore).

Andrew and Maria in the Kingdom of the Dead.

Andrew and Maria in the Kingdom of the Dead.

It was very interesting, being down there. You could see niches where rocks were carved out or where things could be stored, as well as metal gates blocking the way to passageways not open to the public. In two places there were these amazing sculptures of beautiful building that a worker from the original catacomb project in the 18th century had carved from memory, recreating his home in the Balkans. There was a deep well that went even deeper into the ground, and a series of archways and niches set along an incline, as if to let us now we were entering sacred ground.

Can you say new author bio pic?

Can you say new author bio pic?

And then came the best part of all. Over a doorway, written in French and carved with precision was the warning, “Beware, for you are about to enter the Kingdom of the Dead”. And what a kingdom it was! The walls were lined with the bones and skulls of so many dead. And even though we were told by signs not to use flash or touch the bones, many did anyway. I won’t say whether or not I did, but I will admit that I am aware of what bones feel like when you hold them (bones from 300 years ago feel like light, brittle rocks in your hands). Some of the bones were arranged in interesting shapes, such as representations of crosses, men, or churches. Others had been arranged to help support different structures, such as around this column. Or this well, which strangely made me think of a portal to Hell rather than a catch for water. And plenty of coffins, crypts, and tombstones.

The bones went on for ages and ages. Every moment I was in a sort of heaven (so to speak). As you can guess, I am quite the lover of the macabre, so this definitely got me excited. If you look at each of the photos carefully, you’ll see me with such glee and excitement on my face.

But sadly it had to end. And end it did, with the doorway to the land of the living coming all too soon. There were a few more sights to see, including some lovely vaulted ceilings, and then we had to resurface, taking another winding staircase up. All told, I spent about an hour and a half down in the catacombs, twice the normal amount estimated for a tour, and I covered two kilometers and over 200 steps going up and down. And I would do it again if given the opportunity, because it is just a wonderful place to be. At least, for me it is.

Afterwards, I went to the gift shop (yes, they have a gift shop) and got a couple of souvenirs to remember the trip below by (there’s only so much photos can do, and for obvious reasons I couldn’t take the bones with me, even if I was the kind of guy to try to take bones with me). I got a small booklet about the catacombs for easy reference in case of a story (of which I have one or two ideas for), a sticker for my laptop, and a skull ring, something I’ve always wanted for myself as a horror author.

How you like the sticker and the bling-bling?

How you like the sticker and the bling-bling?

I’m not sure if I actually witnessed any ghosts. I certainly don’t remember seeing anything out of the ordinary, except possibly some evidence of cataphiles in a restricted section. But I certainly had a great time down there, and I’ll definitely treasure those memories of that hour and a half for as long as my memory works (though I’m not sure sometimes that it does now). It certainly has become my favorite part of Paris.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll try to upload the rest of the photos of that night when I get the chance. In the meantime, I’ll send Andrew and Maria the photo I took of them as well as the link to this post. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear. I know I will.

BOO!

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Comments
  1. There it is! And those Paris lineups are a real bugger, aren’t they? I was amazed that we got into the Louvre and Notre Dame with less than an hour wait, but I guess our luck was good that day. Now here’s the big question: when you DO become a ghost (God willing, not for another 60 or so years), where will you reside? Will this be a place you’ll want to haunt?

    • I don’t know. I think I’ll be a free-floating spirit who haunts places as I feel it. Or I may travel and protect a ghost hunter whom I admire. We’ll just see where the afterlife takes me.

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