Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Earlier today, Brussels was hit by a wave of terrorist attacks. An airport and a metro station were hit by explosions that killed thirty and injured one-hundred and thirty more. ISIS has claimed responsibility, making this the second attack in Europe the group has perpetrated in the past year. And once again, we are reeling from the horrors caused by these monsters, and coming together to stand firm against them.

In these troubled times, it is good that we come together. ISIS and those who think like them hope that there actions will cow the Western world, fill us with fear and make our governments and our societies collapse. Instead, the Western world comes together in support of our fallen and wounded, vowing to stand against and increase our efforts to destroy vicious cancers like these terrorist groups.

However, at times like these it is tempting, even in our solidarity against terrorism, to give into fear and turn on those whom we should stand with because of a misplaced association. Already in the wake of Brussels, increased calls to monitor Muslims have been sounded from all sectors, including from presidential candidates here in the United States. On social media, the hashtag #StopIslam has been trending, associating Islam with terrorism. And although this hashtag has been condemned by both social media companies and users, the outcry has seemingly only grown the trend. Once again, it seems a lot of people feel that Islam and Muslims are to blame for what happened in Brussels today.

I have met and made friends with plenty of Muslims in my time. I’ve studied the religion, out of curiosity and for my own education. And as many of you know, my first novel featured very prominently a main character who is Muslim. And I’ve maintained for years that the people who commit these horrible acts of barbarism, no matter what they may believe or claim, are not Muslims. Or if they are, they are very poor examples of Muslims, like Westboro Baptist is a poor example of a Christian church, or the man who murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is a poor example of a Jew.

And yet it saddens me that so many people disagree, and that the world is slowly beginning to look like the fictional landscape of my novel Reborn City.

In these times, it is important to not turn on each other and look for scapegoats. The only people to blame are the actual members of ISIS, the terrorists who set off the explosions and the people who funded them and helped to coordinate their attacks. Not the people who worship in peace, who go to work every day and bring home money for their families and want only to live a good life, and condemn every act of terrorism that is done by these monsters. We must remember this as we move in the coming months to prevent further attacks and to beat back this menace. Only together can we truly stand together in solidarity and win this war.

So in the future to come, let us not give into fear or hate. Let us not blame people who have never done an aggressive act in their lives or just want to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors. Let us not listen to those in power who make it seem acceptable or even smart to give into this hate and fear. Instead, let us come together. because only together are we strong enough. Let us embrace love, unity and kindness, and say to those who dislike our way of life, “You shall not tear us down! We are working together, we are embracing our neighbors, and because of that you shall not win!”

Because only together, only through love and through reaching out and not giving into fear can we beat back this evil and make tomorrow safer. If we give into our fears, we’ll only divide, and victimize, and maybe feed the phenomena we are trying so hard to destroy.

And that cannot happen. We cannot let it happen.

So let us come together. Let us stand together. And let us come out of this so much stronger than we did coming in.

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pray for paris

This past weekend in Paris, a city I’ve visited and which I’ve often thought about returning to, was attacked by terrorists affiliated with ISIS. They attacked six different locations throughout the City of Light, including a concert hall, the Stade de France, and two restaurants. At last count, nearly a hundred and thirty people are dead, including seven of the terrorists, and over three-hundred and fifty wounded. The terror threat is apparently still high, and the search for the remaining perpetrators are still ongoing.

And in the midst of the death and horrors, people have come together from around the world for Paris. Through the power of globalization and connection, human beings have shouted out, in tweets and status updates, in blog posts and videos, through television broadcasts and press conferences, through offers of help and condemnations of the terrorists, to stand by France as she works to bring the rest of the terrorists to justice, to take on the sickness that is ISIS, and to heal her wounds after such a horrific series of events.

Still, there’s a dark underbelly to this show of solidarity. My mother and I were discussing this underbelly in the car after dinner last night. Barely two days after the attacks, some people have been condemning Muslims and the refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East for the attack (despite the fact that most of the terrorists appear to be European and only one is confirmed to be from Syria). People of all sorts, from members of France’s far-right political party the National Front, including its leader Marine La Pen and US representatives, to bloggers and common people from all over the world. In the need to blame someone for this attack, some are turning to two very large, and lately very popular, scapegoats: those who follow the teachings of Muhammad, and those who left their homes with very little, if anything, just to escape violence and fear.

RC cover

My mom then turned to me and said, “Kind of reminds me of Reborn City. There are people who see a woman with a hijab and feel afraid. Zahara gave that up and even dyed her hair blond to avoid that fear.” That surprised me, but then I realized she had a point. In a small way, the world is beginning to resemble the world of Reborn City.

If you’re not familiar with RC, Islamaphobia is a big theme in the novel. The war on terror devolved into a huge, worldwide conflict, so that by the time of the story most of the world is suspicious of Muslims. Zahara Bakur and her family take measures so that they will be at the very least tolerated by a population that is suspicious of them. Still, it doesn’t always work, and there is still a lot of discrimination in that world that goes unchecked.

While the real world is not at the level that the world of RC is, there are places that have made it difficult to be a Muslim. Angola and Tajikistan actively shut down mosques all the time, and certain European countries have banned burqas and hijabs. France’s Interior Minister has discussed the possibility of shutting down mosques perceived to be preaching dangerous interpretations of Islam. Here in the States,  Donald Trump has said that if elected President he may pursue that course of action.

And because many of the Syrian refugees are Muslim and one of the terrorists was from Syria, some are reacting against refugees. Poland has already said they will not be accepting new refugees, and several US states are now refusing to take in any. Some in the US now wish to screen refugees based on a religious test.

The refugees are not the people we should be lashing out against.

You can’t judge an entire group based on the actions of a few. I don’t judge all Christians based on the actions of Westboro Baptist Church, nor do I judge all football players because a few have been charged and sometimes convicted for violent crimes. But so many people insist on judging Muslims and the Syrian refugees that way. And based on my own experience with Muslims, that isn’t right. That’s nonsensical.

Zahara’s experiences in the book reflect that. Early on she becomes aware that people don’t like her because she’s a Muslim, that they’re afraid of her for things that occurred in her parents’ and grandparents’ generations. She takes steps to be accepted by society by changing her appearance and taking part in “normal” interests and hobbies, but no matter what she tires, people see her as different. They see her as dangerous without even getting to know her. And it’s how people see her that spurs Zahara throughout RC (and its sequel, Video Rage, and probably the final book too) to show people that she is not what people think of her. To show them that she can be kind, and brave. And even good.

In the wake of Paris, we all want to fight back against the evil that caused the attacks. But the evil isn’t the refugees, nor is it Islam and its adherents. No, the evil is ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the other terrorist organizations, wearing Islam like a Halloween costume, scary but not the real thing. The real Muslims are standing up to these fakers, standing in solidarity with Paris and showing their disdain towards these inhuman monsters hijacking a respected religion. The last thing we want to do is turn our backs on them, punish them for being who they are.

Instead, we should be thanking them for being allies we can count on for support in hard times, like Zahara is for her friends in the Hydras. Because after all, if we show them the love they deserve, they may return the favor and, like Zahara does, surprise us in all the best ways.

Last year I made a list of haunted places I wanted to visit before I died and became a ghost (and yes, I plan on becoming a ghost. If you don’t buy at least one of my books and leave a review, I WILL haunt you!). Since I made that list (and visited the location I most wanted to see), I’ve come across a few more haunted places I’d like to visit. So I did what any good horror writer with a blog who believes in ghosts would do: I wrote a list and now I’m transcribing it down here.

This list isn’t in any particular order, and they span all over the United States, Mexico and even parts of Europe (parts I’m nowhere near at the moment, unfortunately). I hope you enjoy it, and that if this list or the previous one influences your travel plans in any way, shape or form, it’s in a positive way.

BOO!

1. Island of the Dolls

Location: Xochimilico, Mexico

Located in Xochimilico’s extensive canal network is La Isla de la Munecas, or the Island of the Dolls. According to the history of the place, a hermit named Julian Santana Barrera lived on one of the chinampas, or artificial islands, in the canals. One day, Barrera found the body of a girl who drowned in the canals, and was reportedly hit very hard by it (some locals believe a water spirit was responsible for the girl’s death). Not too long after that, Barrera started finding dolls around the island, and hanging them up all over the place, on tree branches and in his own hut. He said it was because the dead girl hung around, so he was giving her a whole playground of friends, and to keep evil spirits away as well (the water spirit, perhaps?). Over the years hundreds of dolls were hung up, leading to the island’s nickname. Even after Barrera died in 2001, the dolls still hang about, some of which are purported to talk or walk around on their own. The place has been investigated by ghost hunters with some interesting results.

If I ever get to Mexico, I’m heading there. Ghosts and spirits and creepy dolls? Sounds like fun.

2. The Villisca Ax Murder House

Location: Villisca, Iowa

Properly known as the Josiah B. and Sara Moore House, this charming little house was the spot of a brutal ax murder in 1912 on eight people, the Moores, their four children, and two young friends of the children. Several suspects were considered for the murder, and one was even tried and let off twice, but so far the murders remain unsolved. Since then, there have been several reported hauntings of the place, including seeing shadows of a man wielding an ax, children crying, and other freaky stuff. One family reportedly left the house screaming one night and never returned. Since 1994, the house has been a museum dedicated to its dark history, and several ghost-hunting crews, including the Ghost Adventures Crew, have investigated the house, finding some very interesting evidence. This is definitely a place I’d like to visit.

Villisca also happens to be the town where my friend and colleague Joleene Naylor lives. So Joleene, if I ever make it out to Villisca, I hope you wouldn’t mind showing me around for a day. It’ll be a spooktacular good time.

3. Sedlec Ossuary

Location: Sedlec, Czech Republic

What looks like the Paris catacombs but is above ground and is part of a working church? The Sedlec Ossuary, located beneath the titular town’s Cemetary Church of All Saints. In the 13th century the abbot of the local monastery visited the Holy Land and brought back with him some dirt he’d picked up while over there and sprinkled it around the abbey cemetery. This made it a premiere spot to get buried and, along with the number of people dying of the Black Plague, caused the cemetery to be expanded several times. Of course, there was no way to keep up with that many bodies, and in the 16th century bodies were exhumed and their bones stacked inside the cathedral that had grown up around the spot. In the 19th century a woodcarver was hired to take the bones, roughly 40,000 to 70,000 bones’ worth of skeletons, in order, which he did, creating several macabre furnishings, decorations, and religious objects out of human remains. As you can imagine, this place has become quite the tourist destination, and ghost sightings or photos are not unheard of.

Sounds like my kind of furniture-shopping destination.

4. Leap Castle, Massy Woods, Montpelier Hill, The Stewards House, and Loftus Hall

Location: All over Ireland

I couldn’t leave these off the list, and they’re all in Ireland, so I figured, why not just group them as one big entry/tour of the nation? Leap Castle has a history of dark and mysterious deaths, almost like something out of a Shakespeare tragedy, and is also reportedly the home of an elemental spirit that hides in a pit deep in the castle. Montpelier Hill is the home of the Irish counterpart of the Hellfire Club, which supposedly did some very strange rituals, possibly Satanic ones. There’s even a story of the devil actually visiting the premises one evening.

Down the road from the Hellfire Club Lodge is the Massy Woods, which supposedly have several different kinds of spirits within, including a banshee, and the Steward’s House, which is said to be frequented by a demonic cat. If you look at a painting of the cat the wrong way, or if you hang it up wrong, you might bring something malevolent upon yourself.

And Loftus Hall is supposedly the most haunted house in all of Ireland. As the story goes, in the 18th century the Loftus family went on vacation, and the Tottenham family, consisting of a father, a mother, and a daughter, came to take care of the place. During their stay a ship broke on the coast nearby and a man from the ship came to stay at the mansion. During this time the man and the Tottenham daughter Anne became quite close. One night, during a game of cards in the aptly named Card Room, Anne dropped a card under the table. When she went to retrieve it, she discovered their guest had a cloven hoof. When she pointed this out in alarm, the man supposedly flew through the ceiling, leaving a nasty hole where he went, and was never seen from again. To this day people claim that the devil stayed at Loftus Hall, and that the hole he left through has never properly been repaired, that part of the ceiling is different from the rest.

Anne herself later went mad and was confined in the Tapestry room, where she died some time later. Years later a child’s skeleton was found in a hole in the Tapestry Room, leading to speculation that Anne had a baby while in confinement and that it was killed because it was a bastard and the possibly the devil’s spawn. Since these strange events, the house has been the site of poltergeist activity and visions of Anne walking down hallways looking for her lover. There have been several exorcisms performed on site over the years, which have only done so much to quell the spirits in this haunted place.

In any case, I’d like to make a trip to see these places!

5. Grand Canyon Caverns

Location: Peach Springs, Arizona

In the 1920’s, Walter Peck (not the actor) discovered a deep hole that went underground for quite a distance, in both depth and length, and discovered some skeletons down there while he was at it. He quickly turned the cavern into a tourist attraction, saying the bones he’d found there (and which were removed for scientific study) were of cavemen. Turns out they were Native American, but that never stopped the tourism industry.

Today, the caverns are a popular tourist spot with a restaurant, hotel, and museum. You can even tour the caverns and even stay overnight down there in an equipped hotel suite if you wish. Just be aware that you might be sharing the caverns with some Native American spirits who are upset about having their burial grounds disturbed by tourists. They may throw rocks at you.

When can I make my reservation?

6. The Bell Witch Cave

Location: Adams, Tennessee

This is one of those locations where people, even ghost hunters, are on the fence about the veracity of the reported hauntings. According to the legends, the Bell family lived in the area in the early 19th century and came under attack by a witch (though the events described sound more like a poltergeist or a malevolent spirit). Supposedly the witch did everything from tapping on walls, pinching people and other harmless stuff to full-on assaulting family members and even appearing as a creature that was half-dog, half-rabbit and all black. She makes a certain cave her home and will attack anyone who takes rocks or shows disrespect in her cave, hence the name “Bell Witch Cave.”

The thing about this legend is that all sources about the witch come several years after the Bells are supposed to have lived in the area. Even secondhand witnesses would’ve died out by the time the earliest known sources of the legend were published. Regardless, there have been reports of people being attacked by spirits after visiting and occasionally taking rocks from the cave, and there are rumors that the cave may have held some spiritual significance to local Native Americans. And a few paranomrla groups have investigated the cave with interesting results.

Whatever the case may be, this is definitely a place where I would like to visit and maybe see for myself if there’s any truth to the stories. Just as long as it doesn’t come home with me, I don’t think the witch would like Ohio winters.

7. Bannack Ghost Town

Location: Bannack, Montana

Ghost towns. There’s something about a town that’s totally been abandoned, something so…enchanting. So is the case with Bannack, which was founded in the 1860’s during a gold rush, but died out in the 1970’s. Today, the town is mostly a tourist attraction, once a year being revitalized for a festival called Bannack Days that recalls the time when it was a boom town and the seat of the county.

The rest of the year though, the town is populated by spirits. Some say that the sheriff ran a gang that killed anyone who looked at them the wrong way, making for a rather lawless town and for the events that would cause several hauntings. There is also reports of the ghost of a drowned girl being sighted, and even following people home.

Sounds like a good excuse to visit Montana, if you ask me. It even inspired a scary story I’d like to write someday. Better get some firsthand experience, right?

8. Linda Vista Hospital

Location: Los Angeles, California

Originally a hospital for railroad workers, the hospital saw a definite decline as the railroad industry and the neighborhood changed. The number of deaths increased, mainly ones associated with gang violence. With most of their patients being uninsured or under-insured, the hospital was forced to close its doors in 1991. Today, part of the hospital has been renovated into an assisted living facility, while the rest is a frequent set for movies and TV shows and a historic landmark.

However, some patients are said to have never left the building, and there have been multiple investigations into the hospital’s paranormal residents. To which I say, “Nurse, I’ve got a bad case of ghost obsession! Can I stay overnight for monitoring?”

Also influenced an idea for a story I had a while back. Hope I get to write that too.

9. Targoviste and Hundeora Castles

Location: Romania

These were the castles where Dracula lived. The former is where he impaled over two-thousand of his enemies, while the latter was where he was imprisoned for seven years of his life. It’s said at one of these that some Satanists did a ritual and ever since weird stuff has happened. Don’t know if that’s true, but it’s Dracula, so I have to check it out.

And then I will have some blood! Mwa ha ha!

10. Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Location: Paris, France

I did not know about this cemetery when I visited Paris last year, or I would have made an effort to visit it. One of Paris’s most famous cemeteries, it has flowers, graves and mausoleums that look like little houses or very interesting sculptures, and its fair share of famous folk, from Oscar Wilde to Jim Morrison. There’s actually a waiting list to be buried there, and if your family doesn’t renew the lease on your burial plot every thirty years or so, they dig you up and put someone else in your place.

Over the years, plenty of ghosts have been reported around the graveyard, including famous folks, Morrison himself, and even a few wandering lovers. As someone who visited the Paris catacombs and loved it, this seems like my sort of place. Vive le cemeteries francais!

Have you been to any of these places? What were your experiences like?

Be very afraid.

AAAAAH! That was the reaction of several people in the audience at various points during the movie. Ever since I heard of As Above, So Below, I’ve been dying to see it, and that desire only increased after visiting the Paris catacombs themselves. So when my friend Ramsey, who went on the study abroad trip with me back in May, suggested we go see a movie this weekend, I had just the movie in mind.

Written and directed by Drew and John Erick Dowdle and starring Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman, As Above, So Below follows urban archaeologist who finds a clue to an old mystery during a covert trip to Iran. Heading then to Paris with a documentary student and teaming up with an old flame of hers, she ends up realizing that what she is looking for may be more than just a legend, and goes into the Paris catacombs themselves to find t. But in the process, she finds so, so much more and in her search for the truth, she may just find her death.

Apparently taking a lot of work to film and bring together, the Dowdle brothers can be assured their hard work was worth it. The film’s slow build up of suspense, couple with the claustrophobic feelings of being in dark, underground tunnels (and watching it in a dark movie theater), lends to a creepy atmosphere that only gets heightened in the last act of the film, where monstrous visions and creatures appear one after another, eliciting those screams from the audience that I mentioned. The brother also know how to insert a twist into their script, by taking the last couple minutes of the movie in a direction that other directors might not have gone down, and completely subverting the rules of found footage films (for more on those rules, check out my article on them). And Weeks and Feldman as the film’s leads manage to portray a romance that doesn’t seem contrived or sappy at all.

My one criticism of the film is that at times, things move a little too slowly so that the terror and suspense dies down a little. Luckily at the drop of a hat it can be ramped up again, but I think terror throughout would’ve done more for the film. Still, it was a good horror film, and later over drinks Ramsey, two friends of his that he’d brought along, and I enjoyed a good hour or so of dissecting the film and looking at all the aspects of it, whether symbolical, plot-wise, or what terrified us in our seats.

Grading this film was hard, and I’m still not sure I was able to give it a good grade. Nevertheless, a grade must be given, so I’m going to go with a 4.4 out of 5. Great film, plenty of scares, and no bad sequel. If you like scares, you shouldn’t be disappointed with As Above, So Below. I know I wasn’t.

The entrance to the Louvre, surrounding by many fountains.

The entrance to the Louvre, surrounding by many fountains.

The other night, I was watching the classic Doctor Who serial City of Death (one of these days I will have to write an article on Classic Who from a writer’s perspective, because it deserves one), and I found myself freaking out because the serial takes place mainly in Paris, about thirty-five years before I myself was there. (Fun fact: City of Death was the first Doctor Who serial to be filmed abroad, filming between April and May of 1979. So yeah, 35 years before I would visit the city itself).

It was delightful for me to see all those sights in the actual episode, because I’d been to those places and I remembered what it was like to be there. I found myself reliving riding the Metro after a long day, trying to navigate my way back out onto the street after taking a twenty-minute train ride, because those stations can sometimes be little mazes in themselves. Or walking along the river Seine during a leisurely stroll and then sitting in a café near the Champs Elyesees and having a crepe and Orangina (I miss that brand of soda, by the way. It’s so hard to find here in the States).

The Eiffel Tower at night.

The Eiffel Tower at night.

The serial also had scenes set at the Eiffel Tower and in the Louvre. Both those places hold a lot of memories for me. For the Eiffel Tower, it was one of the very first places I visited when I was in Paris. My friend Ramsey Hardin and I decided we go on a late-night jaunt to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and we ended up somehow climbing all the way to the second level (not the top, because that was closed that late at night). It was an amazing view. From every angle you could see Paris at night, a lovely city of lights and mystery. There are hardly any skyscrapers in Paris, mostly due to the French’s distaste for them, so we had a clear view of the city at night. The tower itself starts having a light show with flashing bulbs bright enough to give people seizures about every hour or so, and that was fun to watch. While there we also had the opportunity to talk to a family from the States who were there for a special birthday celebration (the mother’s) and a group from a technical school in Texas that were there for their own study-abroad trip. If the Tower hadn’t had to close, I’m sure we would’ve spent another hour or two there talking to people and enjoying the views.

Ramsey and I at the Eiffel Tower.

Ramsey and I at the Eiffel Tower.

The Louvre has an altogether different feeling. There is more nudity depicted in that museum than in the world’s biggest strip club, and yet there’s just as much religious iconography and scenes to rival the Vatican. And through it all is an air of strange reverence, as if everyone is aware that they are in a temple as holy as any shrine. Even as people take photos of the Mona Lisa or Madonna on the Rocks or paintings so big they take up an entire wall or ones small enough to fit on a cramped bookshelf, there’s a subdued air, as if people are paying their respects to the products of old history and culture. It’s very strange, and you can only really get a sense of it by actually going to the museum itself.

My most artistic selfie.

My most artistic selfie.

But compared to Notre Dame, the Louvre might be a funhouse. I went there after the Louvre, and it’s a very amazing place. From the moment you arrive, you are struck by the very detail of the building. The entrances have so many figures carved into them that you could spend an hour just looking at them and guessing who they are. And once inside, it is very dark and quiet, with people looking around or praying. You can’t help but feel a strange holiness to the place, a sense of godliness no matter what your religious beliefs (or lack of them) are. I even met a couple of OSU alumni there (we’re everywhere!) and they agreed with me on that. I might’v spent more time there if I didn’t have to be back to the hotel by a certain time to meet up for dinner.

See any hunchbacks behind me?

See any hunchbacks behind me?

What does all this rambling have to do with anything? Well, I guess it’s the power of memory. Although sometimes very fallible, the power of memory can transport you through time and space, landing you in a totally different age and location. Just watching that Doctor Who serial was enough to bring me all the way back to France and those five or six lovely, idyllic days of study and learning and wonder and fun, faster than even the TARDIS, even. And I was so happy to return too, because it’s an experience I’ll never be able to relive again, and the memories and photos are what keep the memories alive.

And I hope they stay alive for a long, long time.

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).

CIMG2795

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!