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10 of the spookiest places in Paris

The Local France
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10 of the spookiest places in Paris
A picture shows skulls and bones stacked at the Catacombs of Paris in 2014 (Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP)

There is a dark side to the City of Light, and it's very dark indeed. Here, the experts at Dark Paris have shared the spookiest stories from the French capital.


If you fancy a visit to some sites with a real sense of the macabre or mysterious then read on. But be warned - don't visit them alone at night...

1. Frozen corpses on display 

The Paris morgue was erected 1864 on the Île de la Cité, and was a marvel of science, boasting the ability to freeze solid any corpses that arrived at its doors to protect them from decay and disfiguration. 

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The bodies - or the "macchabées" in 19th Century Parisian slang - were displayed behind glass walls, sometimes for years, waiting for their families to come and identify them. 

However the morgue soon became an attraction for locals and tourists hungry for the unusual. It was closed in the early part of the 20th century before World War I when embalming came into play. 

On the site where the morgue once stood is now the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation - a memorial to the 200,000 people who were deported from France to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.


2. The butcher who sold human flesh

The Rue Chanoinesse near Notre Dame Cathedral boasts a row of very old and charming shops with apartments above. During the Middle Ages, travellers who couldn't afford to get married in the cathedral would come to get married here, with priests welcoming the extra pocket money.

This was the perfect opportunity for a local barber and butcher to kidnap the newcomers, cooking their bodies and selling the meat in patties. 

The stone where they were slaughtered remained until a police station was built in the 20th century. It's believed that this may have been the inspiration for the story of Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  

3. The most beautiful corpse in history

Sometime during the winter of 1880, the body of a young girl was pulled out of the Seine River near the Louvre. She was unscarred and didn't appear to have been harmed at all. In fact, bizarrely, she looked completely at peace. 


When she was taken to the Paris morgue the morticians were so impressed with her beauty that they made a death mask of her. She became an instant sensation among the Parisians who called her the "Mona Lisa of the Seine". 

She was so loved she became the model for the first CPR dummy which remains in use today. Some refer to her as "the most kissed girl in the world" considering how many Parisian firefighters and medics have learned their resuscitation skills with her help.  

4. The ghost of the catacombs

In 1793, a man called Philihert Aspairt ventured into the pitch-black catacombs of Paris to steal some Chartreuse Liquor from the cellar of a local convent. 

His bones were discovered 11 years later, identifiable by the set of keys beside him. It's believed that he got lost when his candle went out. Proof, if it were needed, that you really shouldn't steal from nuns.

It's said his ghost awakens every November 3rd and wanders the catacombs blowing out candles and whispering in the ears of tourists. He is now known as the "Saint of the Cataphiles" referring to the groups of Parisian who frequent the underground network of tunnels. 

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5. Ghost of the Red Man 

The 'Red Man' of the Tuilieries was murdered for spreading propaganda about French queen Catherine de Medici in the 1500s. 


He is said to have risen from the dead and cursed the French Royals who inhabited the Louvre, many of whom died in a string of horrible circumstances.  

Could he still be wondering around the Louvre today, even though the French throne has been vacant for well over 100 years?

6. Off with their heads!

The Place de la Concorde was one of the prime spots where people were guillotined in France. But did you know that the Guillotine was actually introduced to France as a 'humane' device?

Most famous for its work during and after the French Revolution, it remained the number one form of execution in France until well into the Twentieth century.

READ MORE: Reader question: When did the French stop guillotining people?

One of the last of France's guillotines was on show at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris in 2010.


7. The most haunted street in Paris

In the darkest corner of Île de la Cité lies Rue des Chantres, said to be the most haunted street in the city.

During the 1900s, children with consumption (TB) were kept in an annex of the Hotel-Dieu on this street to keep them from infecting the rest of the population.  

One winter the River Seine overflowed into the surrounding streets and the children all drowned, unable to escape their locked rooms. It is said that their spirits still play in the little courtyard at the base of the street and their shadows, screams, and laughter still haunt the dark street.  

8. The Paris gallows

The gibbet (or gallows) of Montfaucon knew death like nowhere else. This construction, which was on the Rue de la Grange-aux-Belles in the 10th arrondissement (the modern Place du Colonel Fabien), was built in the 13th century used for six centuries.  

There, the bodies of the condemned were put on display as they rotted, used as a warning to the public. Archers were on hand, ready to take out any body snatchers or the families trying to reclaim their dead relatives.

The gibbet was finally knocked down in 1760. 

9. The Human Zoo

A human 'zoo' was built in 1907 in the Bois de Vincennes, where half a dozen villages were set up to promote French colonialism. This meant that you could see locals from countries like Madagascar, Sudan, Congo, and Tunisia living in their "natural habitats".

The human zoo remains standing (unoccupied) today, but is overgrown and in limbo, as destroying it may be considered to be a "cover up" by authorities. Nearby the Palais de la Porte Dorée, opened in 1931 to house an exhibition celebrating France's empire, has been repurposed as the extremely fascination Musée de l'histoire de l'immigration.

10. The ghost of the Eiffel Tower

The story goes that in 1925, an American fell in love with a French woman called Sofie after meeting her in the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

After courting her through a series of culture clashes, he proposed to her on the first level of the Eiffel Tower. 

But when he pulled the ring out of his pocket, she screamed, backing up to the edge of the tower where she tripped and fell to her death. Legend has it people still see a girl in 1920s clothing sitting on the railing out of the corner of their eyes. Some say they hear her screams on the anniversary of her death. 

These tips were provided by the folks at Dark Paris (originally called Mysteries of Paris), the most macabre walking tour guides in Paris. The team offers small group and private tours to see the "Dark side of the City of Lights". Find out more about their latest book here.



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