Your grimly exciting guide to a chilling Halloween in Paris
If you are tempted by the macabre and happen to be in Paris around Halloween you will positively have a blast exploring our All Saints’-inspired Parisian attractions. Happy haunting!
“Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death”: A Dark Stroll in The Catacombs
This grim underground ossuary, stretching for a couple of kilometers under Paris, holds the remains of 6 million people in what were once Paris’ ex-stone mines. Formed by a series of long, winding tunnels, crammed with bones and skulls excavated from different Paris cemeteries, the catacombs surely are a sight to see! The biggest portion of skulls come from Le Cimetière des Innocents (The Cemetery of the Innocents), which had by the 18th century become extremely overcrowded. With open graves left rotting and corpses sticking out of the ground, it posed a serious health threat for regular citizens and was subsequently closed, all the bones being excavated and transported to the underground sepulture of the catacombs’ tunnels. The exhumation and transfer began in 1786 and finished 2 years later. “Behind a procession of chanting priests, began a parade of black-covered bone-laden horse-drawn wagons that continued for years.” Today, a visit to the catacombs will certainly provide an exciting chill to remember, but whatever you do, don’t get lost there unless you want to share the fate of Philibert Aspairt. The Val-de-Grace hospital doorkeeper vanished in the catacombs in 1793 only to be discovered 11 years later, his tomb still located on the spot where his body was found…
Heads Will Roll: The Gory History of the Guillotine
The National Razor, The Regretful Climb, The Widow, Wooden Justice or The Goncourt Prize for Murderers are just some of the nicknames of one of mankind’s most “humane” killing devices: the guillotine. Created in 1789, this instrument of death had many heads rolling, two of its most famous victims being King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette in 1793. A fixture on the Place de la Concorde during the Revolution, it was later erected at today’s Place de la Nation where more than 30 grisly public executions took place per day. Until 1899, convicts condemned to death were kept in the former Grand Roquette prison, outside which a guillotine was set up. As the street surface was unlevelled, five stone blocks were fixed into the pavement to make an even foundation for the scaffold. Still visible on Rue de la Croix-Faubin at the corner of Rue de la Roquette, these granite blocks depict the gory stigmata of violent times. Anecdotal or not, some medics claim it takes 15 minutes before a chopped head loses completely its eye and hearing senses. As scary as it might sound, guillotine executions in France were public until 1939 and the last person to be guillotined in the country met his gruesome faith as late as 1977.
Rats: Paris’ favourite pets
With four times as many rats as humans in Paris (more than 8 million in total), Paris has become a Rat Heaven of a kind – with the subway, the Seine and the restaurants facilitating the well-being of those furry cosmopolitans. Rats! Paris has always had a love-hate liaison with them. Locals have been loving them, killing them and even eating them! During the siege in the Franco-Prussian War, brown and roof rats were willingly and vastly consumed in Paris. Fortunately, today the Rats à la bordelaise recipe is no longer among the must-try French delicacies. Although after the famous French movie “Ratatouille” rats became popular pets in many Parisian households, the Julien Arouze and Co., a rare pest control shop, has a rather different policy towards those poor vermins. The shop’s storefront gets some customers’ attention by banking on a rather bizarre visual approach: exposing stuffed dead rats hanging in the shop’s store window since 1925. Now this is some daring marketing you don’t see every day! Dealing with pest extermination since 1872, this eccentric shop provides many a gadget for doing away with the furry rodents. They even have a menacing slogan – the line “destruction of harmful animals” marks the entrance of this rare “pet cemetery” of sorts.
3 good plans for a grim Halloween 2013 in Paris
In homage to Halloween, a special themed evening honoring the great gothic legend of Bram Stoker’s Dracula will be held in one of our favourite bookshops, Shakespeare and Co. Monsieur Jacques Sirgent, the creator of Paris’ Vampire Museum, will give a lecture on the grim Romanian count, exploring “contemporary reaction, historical context, modern interpretation and many film adaptations”.
If you feel like a walking tour through the macabre maze of Paris, The Mysteries of Paris Ghost Tour will initiate you to another side of the city which comes to life after dark. This 90-minute English language stroll through the dark heart of the City of Light will take you along old streets and winding lanes to explore the Vampires, Ghosts, Haunted Stories, Mysteries and Legends of Paris, all part of the lesser-known history of this bewitching city. Witchcraft, sorcery and necromancy, the ghost of Marie Antoinette, the mysteries of the Notre Dame and the story of the tragic lovers of the Eiffel Tower will keep you entertained and slightly anxious during the tour.
Explore the creepy hideout of the phantom of the Opera. Be tempted by the delicacies of the actual bloody baker. Escape the knife of Catherine de Medici’s hired assassin. Enter “Le Manoir de Paris” to discover Paris in a whole new light. In this creepy yet unique mansion, the history, mysteries and legends of Paris come to life. A new concept in France, Le Manoir de Paris unlocks the mysteries of the capital through 13 chilling legends, among which The Crocodile in the Paris sewers, the Vampire’s Wine Cellar, the Ghost of the Tuileries Garden and many more…
For more on the grim face of Paris, please read our stories “The Street of the Fishing Cat” and “You Can Keep your Head on Or The Astonishing Story of Saint Denis”