Sit back and get comfortable because I am about to take you on an incredible journey deep under the streets of Paris. A journey full of mystery, excitement, and even accompanied with a little fear. A group of friends who were fairly new to Paris were invited to do something illegal that they would shortly become addicted to. They would not regret it even with their own safety at risk. This seems like a lot to take in but wait until you see exactly what they did. Paris is a city full of rich history and ancient architecture. Paris is a beautiful tourist destination with one of a kind places to see. Well if you’re adventurous like this group of brave friends, you might be interested in a journey more like the one they undertook rather than the typical tourist sights everyone flocks to in droves. These friends went somewhere not many people dare to go and captured the whole experience on film. Take a look as we dive deep underground into the abandoned catacombs below the famous streets of Paris.
The catacombs beneath the streets of Paris are not to be taken lightly. The famous Paris Catacombs are the bones of over 6 million people.
So what is the Paris Catacombs? An ossuary is a site used as a final resting place for skeletal remains. Sometimes these can be just a box or a room or, as is the case with Paris, an entire underground lair. Down in the Paris Catacombs, you will find skulls and other bones from over six million people.
While it might sound like Paris was under the control of a killer cult for a couple of centuries, the reasons behind the ossuary’s existence are quite practical. They ran out of room at cemeteries. Lack of space is a common problem for any city that sees rapid growth, which is exactly what happened to Paris in the 17th century.
People don’t dare try to navigate them because they are so disorienting and unsafe… and just wrong. But these urban explorers knew a guide who spends a few nights each week in this ancient underground labyrinth and he was willing to show them the ropes.
Their guide had them hide in the shadows while he located the correct manhole. As soon as the coast was clear, the friends rushed to the manhole and scurried down an old steel ladder, stepping on each other’s fingers, in an attempt to not be seen by the citizens above. It was a long climb down but they made it to the bottom quickly thanks to the massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through their veins. They knew that once down in the dark depths below, they would be safe from the law because nobody would dare follow them into these ancient, abandoned mazes.
They were told by their guide to wear tough boots and durable clothes. Their safety would be at risk and where they were going would be less than comfortable but guaranteed to be the experience of a lifetime.
Once below, they had a sense of relief along with a sense of fear. They were relieved to finally have reached the bottom where they could stand. They felt a brand new fear, not from the police above but a fear of the unknown lurking in the cold underworld of Paris.
“Taking in our immediate surroundings; the medieval carvings on the wall left by limestone miners long ago and the graffiti tags left by cataphyles of yesterday,” Mr. X begins to explain his ‘rules’. These are not ‘rules’ as we know them in society above ground, but more like a code of honor to follow during our stay in the underworld– the code of the cataphyles.”
A “cataphyle” is someone who thrives on the excitement of exploring the vast catacombs of the Paris underworld. A cataphyle is someone who pushes their exploration to the limit, throwing safety to the wayside and living by a strict set of rules when underground.
The rules of being a cataphyle are pretty simple but very important.
“In the unlikely event we happen to cross fellow cataphyles on our journey this evening, we’re advised to be friendly, but as a general rule, not to share how or where we entered or how we’ll be exiting.”
“Leave no trace.”
“If we get lost, we stay put and wait (hopefully to be found) and do not attempt to navigate the intricate tunnels ourselves.”
The long underground tunnels go on for miles. Guided by small gas lamps, they ventured further and further into the Paris underground. They had no idea what they were in store for and their excitement could barely be contained.
A few of the tunnels were labeled with street signs to help with your bearings. These signs are pretty rare so they aren’t much help when trying to find your way around the dark tunnels.
After what seemed like forever, ducking and dodging ancient stones and hazards, they came to what looked like a dead end. It was a stone wall blocking the tunnel with a small opening that went through to the other side.
After an exciting journey, the friends were prepared to turn back when all of a sudden, within a few seconds, their guide had disappeared through the seemingly impossible hole.
Just when they were ready to turn around, they saw this happen. I would be terrified to follow at this point. They really must trust this guide, but what other choice did they have?
And just like that, the guide snaked his way through the very small opening in the ancient stone wall.
The guide informs his party that they will be just fine and to follow him through. This is where the rugged clothing came into play.
The guide made it look easy. The friends soon found out that they were a little less graceful but made it safely with only a few scrapes..
After the friends wiggled their way through the tiny opening, they arrived in a sort of grotto. It was the perfect setting to enjoy a light dinner. They had come prepared with some red wine, dry figs, and organic peanut butter.
The guide had plenty of candles which provided the perfect ambiance for such an amazing and unique setting.
The dimly lit area kept a certain wonder in the air and a perfect amount of fear running down the spine in the depths of the Paris catacombs.
After the delicious meal in the underworld, they were ready to continue. A few twists and turns later they ended up in what used to be a giant air raid bunker deep underground.
The area was vast and covered in ancient carvings and modern graffiti. Truly a unique sight. It was time to light the torches for a better view of the underground bunker.
Let’s keep going.
The stairs lead up to a sealed door underneath the post office in Paris. It must be completely hidden or covered over above because there was no sign of disturbance to the historic entrance.
The guide continued on and told the group of friends about an extravagant secret dinner party he had held down in the catacombs when he first started exploring the vast Paris underworld.
He shared a picture of that memorable night. This looks like a dinner party I would love to attend!
This night was a completely different feeling. A feeling of being alone and slightly lost in a dangerous place full of history. A dark and scary place that makes your adrenaline pump through your veins and forces your lungs breathe a little faster. This is the main appeal of becoming a true cataphyle.
A different piece of art would be romantically illuminated by the torches with each step forward grasping your eye. This would tear you away from the deep focus of where you were heading and allowed you to appreciate exactly where you were in that moment of time.
As they entered into a new room and took a second to evaluate their surroundings, they noticed something straight out of a horror movie. They had been so enthralled about their journey, that they hadn’t noticed the walls slowly moving as they stood still. The group of friends did everything they could not to scream and run. They stayed calm and had to overcome their fears. Look a little closer at the walls.
These things were everywhere and seemed to be attracted to the torches, following them as they made their journey. As they stood still, more and more of these creatures of the catacombs came closer and closer.
The little insects moved very quickly, much like spiders, but looked like very large crickets.
The group of friends had been so entranced with the underground Paris catacombs that they had completely lost track of time as well. After checking their watches, they quickly realized that they had lost almost four hours in the underworld. Not a bad start for a few first time cataphyles.
Their guide took them back to the long and arduous climb up into civilization. Back to where things were normal and routine. They hadn’t left yet and were already itching for much more.
“We emerge like deer in the headlights– literally. Headlights of cars driving by on the road are shining in our eyes as we clamber out from the manhole, dazed, relieved but our bodies still pumping with adrenaline. And within seconds, the manhole is put back in place and we disperse into the Parisian night as if the whole thing never happened. Like a dream.”
They had just experienced something incredibly exciting, something illegal and dangerous. They placed their trust in their friend/guide to help them push their boundaries. The reward was next to priceless and the emotions that were experienced are truly unique to this specific occasion. They dove deep into the underworld catacombs of Paris and made it out alive. They went to a place were most people wouldn’t dare follow and emerged only to want more. They were now official cataphyles and are eagerly awaiting their next underground exploration.