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Catacombs & Ghosts: The Dark Side of Paris

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You can make the claim that supernatural activity is everywhere, but what makes a place truly haunted? It’s about the belief, the mystery, and the culture around the myth. But in France, most natives  don’t even believe in ghosts…so how could someone launch a ghost tour in the City of Lights? After traveling and researching historic and haunted locations, a New York transplant named Father Sebastiaan found himself drawn to the dark side of Paris: “I started traveling around Europe, going to Germany, Prague, Italy, and Paris just caught me. It just grabbed my soul.” Father Sebastiaan recently sat down with Peter Greenberg to discuss the secret histories behind iconic structures in the City of Lights, including those that may just be haunted by ghosts. Check out his complete interview on Peter’s latest Travel Today podcast.

Father Sebastiaan described The Louvre as “the most haunted place in Paris” because of its long, tragic history. While it may be a major tourist attraction, locals believe some paintings were actually made with ink harvested from human hearts. The beginning of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre began at the Louvre, which is considered to be one of the worst religious massacres in history. There have also been sightings of old guards walking through the museum, as well as the Red Man of the Tuileries—a 16th century murderer whose ghost supposedly still lingers at the museum.

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With over 400 counted suicides to date, the Eiffel Tower is said to be one of the top haunted attractions in Paris, according to Father Sebastiaan. While the famous attraction is popular for proposals, for the French, it is the last place for romance, since the majority of suicides were committed by distraught lovers. The famous story is one of a couple who met at the Eiffel Tower: The man was going to propose to her at the top, but she was set on ending the relationship. When he proposed, she said no, and he pushed her off of the tower. It’s believed that her ghost still haunts the Tower, and some even say you can hear her laugh accompanied by her scream.

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Surprisingly, the famous Catacombs de Paris are not haunted. Though the tunnels are filled with bones of people who once lived in the city, there were no actual deaths in the Catacombs, and therefore no ghosts. In the 17th century, due to overflowing and the poor conditions of the graveyards around the city, the government needed a fast solution to get rid of the piles of corpses. Alexandre Lenoir and Thiroux de Crosne came up with the idea to place the bones underground in these tunnels. Later, Louis-Etienne Hericart de Thury saw it as an opportunity to make it a work of art. He arranged the skulls and bones on the walls to create the scene today. It is said that the spirits of the dead haunt the catacombs and have even been caught on tape.

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Travel tidbit: The concept of slasher-horror films originated at the Grand Guignol theater in Paris.

Interested in more macabre tourism? Check out:

By Siena Mazero for PeterGreenberg.com 

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