The Dark Side of the City of Light: Top 10 Creepy Places in Paris
Creepy is a mind-set. You hone in on the macabre and bizarre even in the most lovely and pleasant of places (that would be Paris). Lucky for us, violent and bloody history in the City of Light goes back so far that all of the historic buildings and sites are chock-a-block with ghosts and unsettling vibes. Start with these:
Pere Lachaise Cemetery - 20th Arrondissement.
Awesome, soot-blackened tombs and headstones pack this huge, goth cemetery full of historical celebrities, not to mention living, English-speaking tourists stumbling around looking for Jim Morrison’s grave (but pretending they’re not). Over one million bodies rest here including those of Molière, Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Proust, and Édith Piaf.
Tombs at the Basilica of St. Denis - North of Paris a tad, but reachable by métro.
Beneath this early Gothic cathedral lie most of the kings and queens of France who reigned between the 10th and 18th centuries, plus the mummified heart of the boy Dauphin who would have been Louis XVII. The remains of St. Denis, the patron saint of France, are also here. Legend says he was decapitated in town and then he walked to this site carrying his head. Gotta love that.
Catacombs of Paris - Entrance in the 14th Arrondissement.
Hundreds of miles of old mines and labyrinthine tunnels connecting them are stacked with the bones of about six million corpses. During WWII the French Resistance used the catacombs to get around the occupying Germans. Go with a group and be sure to stay with them. Now open some evenings until 8:00 p.m.
Maison Aurouze - On Rue des Halles in the 1st Arrondissement.
This is Paris’s one-stop shopping for pest control. The proprietors have been selling traps and poison for rats, mice, pigeons, fleas, and other pests since 1872. The clincher is that they display captured, expired rodents and other vermin in the front window.
The Eiffel Tower - Hard to miss in the 7th Arrondissement.
Over 400 people have leapt to their death from la Tour Eiffel, although not lately as it’s almost impossible. Ascend at night, when the weather is bad and the wind is whistling through the metal fencing meant to keep you from jumping.
The Conciergerie - On the Île de la Cité.
In the reign of terror (1793-94) during France’s bloody revolution, the Conciergerie was a prison known as the “antechamber to the guillotine.” Tens of thousands of French citizens passed through here before losing their heads. Peer into Marie Antoinette’s cell and contemplate the cries of la foule (a mob, or in this case angry revolutionaries) screaming for your death from outside.
The Louvre - In the 1st Arrondissement, is by all accounts full of ghosts.
Go late on a Wednesday night as they start turning out the lights. Stroll through the Egyptian section, away from other people and pay attention to what you feel and almost see. Actually, any deserted long corridor will do.
Picpus Cemetery - In the 12th and private, but open to the public at certain times.
After they were guillotined, over a thousand corpses of nobles, commoners, and nuns—and presumably their heads—were taken to what was then a mass grave, and is now Picpus Cemetery. The 1,306 names are engraved on a marble plaque. Cool, not-creepy bonus: The Marquis de Lafayette, friend of George Washington and revolutionary America, had family end up in that mass grave. Lafayette and his wife requested burial there later alongside. The Paris chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) tends their grave and the Stars and Stripes fly perpetually above it.
Museum of Natural History - In the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th Arrondissement.
Make a beeline for the Gallery of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology where you’ll find a huge, musty hall of skeletons of creatures large and small, modern and ancient, marching to... who knows? If that’s not creepy enough, go find the tiny, heartbreaking skeletons of human fetuses.
The Musée Grévin - On the Grands Boulevards in the 9th Arrondissement.
In this old wax museum you will find realistic wax renditions—blood and all—of guillotine beheadings, as well as Charlotte Corday stabbing Jean-Paul Marat with the supposed actual knife in the actual bathtub. It’s dim and other celebrity wax dummies stand around looking cryogenic.