Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

Posts tagged ‘travel’

THEY’RE ALL DEAD, DAVE – WELCOME TO THE PARIS CATACOMBS

I’ve promised myself that from now on I’m going to try and write a little bit of weirdness every day, which will hopefully culminate in at least one large piece of weirdness by the end of the week so I have something to post on my blog. There’s a whole world of strangeness out there that needs to be discussed and it’s no good if it’s all just living inside my head – I’m afraid I must inflict it on you all. So…

Some Assemblies Needed…

( Image: flickr user Tiago Ribeiro)

Ah, gay Paris (it’s not quite the same when you can’t hear the accent), what secrets lurk beneath your brightly lit cafes and restaurants? Well, apparently a rather huge secret is busy lurking under it, one that the authorities would rather everyone forgot all about…

The other day, whilst plundering the internet for information on all things weird and unusual, I came across a YouTube video about the Paris Catacombs, a vast, seemingly endless rabbit warren of tunnels and rooms that house the long moldering bones of countless former Paris residents. The video was a curious thing to watch. It was a short film about a video recorder that was discovered in the catacombs. It showed footage of someone’s visit to the Parisian underworld. Whoever it was seemed to start off on their investigations happily enough but, after a while, they begin to panic. Are they lost (highly likely)? Do they fear they are being followed by one of the terrifying gangs rumoured to haunt the gigantic underground cemetery? Whatever the person is experiencing, it’s enough to make them start running until they finally drop the camera and just keep running, never to be seen again. Perhaps it is just someone’s idea of a (rather questionable) joke. Or perhaps whoever it is is still down there in the endless miles of tunnels and has never…made…it…out.

Either way, here is the link which I’m sure will pique your wonderfully macabre interest as much as it did mine:

Part 1

and

Part 2

I suppose the first question is, how did Paris come to have a giant bone yard below its streets? The catacombs began life as the quarries which gave birth to the sparkling metropolis we know as Paris. Paris, being the thriving, bustling metropolis that it is, is obviously going to need graveyards to bury the residents who have become… somewhat not quite as thriving and bustling, i.e. dead.

File:Saints Innocents 1550 Hoffbauer.jpg

Where Did You Say You Buried The Car Keys Son?

Saints Innocents Cemetery Circa 1550

Image: Wikipedia

One such place was Saints Innocents Cemetery, which was once the oldest and largest cemetery in Paris.  By 1780, the cemetery was awash with the many corpses that had been buried in its vast mass graves and it was decided burials within the cemetery could not go on!  The cemetery was closed to all further burials. In 1786, the deep pits that had been filled to the brim with the dead were cleared out and the bones were transported to the catacombs. Numerous cemeteries within Paris suffered the same fate, and it wasn’t too long before the ossuaries beneath Paris were stuffed with more bones than you can shake a femur at.

Umm… Insert Tab A Into Tab B and… Erm…

Image Source: Mail Online

There are various reports on the internet as to just how vast the Paris Catacombs are. Some report there being 170 miles of tunnels and I’ve read other estimates of up to 300 miles! Perhaps some people have just got more lost than others.

Police have done their best to stop people going down into the catacombs since they were closed to the public in 1955 – they seal up manhole covers and they apparently also patrol the tunnels looking for the living who are determined to party with the dead. If you know where to go, you will come across the ossuaries – rooms and rooms of bones belonging to some of the 6 million or so ex-Parisians.

It’s a risky business venturing into the catacombs. If you get lost, there is a chance you won’t get out again. You can only imagine how terrifying it would be to be lost underground with a diminishing supply of food and a torch that’s seriously considering how much fun it would be to leave you in the clutches of total darkness. A chap called Philibert Aspairt who went for a nose around the catacombs in 1793 wasn’t found again until 1804. Sadly, when Philibert was discovered there wasn’t much left of him other than a skeleton clutching a set of keys but perhaps the saddest part is he wasn’t far from an exit when he died. His tomb can now be found down in the tunnels that claimed his life.

I enjoy investigating abandoned places as much as the next…um…person with curiously morbid interests, but even I would think twice about heading off into the miles of catacombs looking for the infamous ossuaries. I once ventured into the catacombs at Kensal Green cemetery in London (I’d highly recommend the tour for this as, on certain days of the month, they take you down into the crypt/catacombs below the chapel and… I’ll tell you about that in another post.

The catacombs have been and are still used for many curious things, some of which are described in this very readable National Geographic article:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/travel/paris.html

You can go and see part of the Paris Catacombs for yourself – of course, there will always be those whose curiosity will lead them down into the depths of dead Paris by more unorthodox routes, but most of us will prefer to visit the bits that have been safely left open to the public and can rest safe in the knowledge that we will definitely make it out alive! Unless we really upset the tour guide…

And as much as I love to ramble on about these incredible places, the best way to appreciate just how amazing they really are, other than going there for yourself,is to read the articles written by people who actually HAVE been there and seen it for themselves, and seeing as I can’t see my little boy enjoying a jolly with mummy to deepest, darkest underground Paris just yet, let me provide you with a further link to someone else’s experience of the Parisian Underworld:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/27/world/main645876.shtml

If you are interested in dropping by the catacombs on your next visit to paris, here’s a link to the crypt front door…

http://www.catacombes-de-paris.fr/tarifs-english.htm

If you have been to the Paris Catacombs, or any other catacombs or crypts, I’d love to hear your stories.

Nicola
weirdworld@hotmail.co.uk

©Nicola Kirk and http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2012

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Bring Out Your Dead – Plague Pits And Nasty Discoveries

We all love a bit of morbidity, don’t we?  Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not just me anyway.  A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Edinburgh.  Just off the Royal Mile there is a well known street that goes by the name of Mary King’s Close.  Everyone who’s remotely interested in ghosts has usually heard of this mysterious Close due to the myth that in 1645 the tenants became infected by the plague and were bricked up inside and left to die.  Their terrible plague ridden ghosts are said to haunt the close with great abandon… In reality it would seem that this horrific event didn’t actually happen, but paranormal tours don’t try too hard to enlighten their customers.  Well, where’s the fun in that?  Anyway, it got me thinking – what happened to all the plague victims in London?

According to Daniel Defoe’s, A Journal of the Plague Year:

”Tis certain they died by heaps and were buried by heaps; that is to say, without account.’

The Bills of Mortality list 68,576 plague victims in the capital but it would appear that the true figure is probably nearer 100,000.  That’s an awful lot of people.  So where did these poor souls end up?  There certainly aren’t enough individual graves littered around to account for them.

Well, the answer is that most of them were unceremoniously dumped into huge plague pits sprinkled in and around London.  One of the earliest plague pits was dug in 1348 at Charterhouse Square for victims of the Black Death.  The Black Death gained its nickname because the skin of victims turned black. Lovely.  Tens of thousands of bodies were buried at Charterhouse Square.  There was another great pit at Aldgate and also one at Finsbury Fields.

Whilst listing these pits of despair, we mustn’t forget the plague pit from the 17th century at Green Park which proved quite troublesome when the Underground network was being constructed in 1960 and construction workers managed to bore straight through the middle of it.  What a shock that must have been.  Another plague pit received unwanted attention when it was discovered in the London Depot on the Bakerloo Line.  Although no paranormal activity as such has been reported, few staff are willing to go down to the tunnels, especially at night.  Some people have no sense of adventure.

If you happen to be loitering around Bishopsgate during your lunch hour, you may notice that some office blocks do not occupy the full building plots, leaving some small areas empty.  This is because these innocent little parcels of land are plague pit sites.  Still hungry?

Recently, under the Surrey side of London Bridge, workers were horrified to discover the 17th century remains of suspected plague victims – although some skulls were found to have rather suspicious holes in them leading some to believe that their owners’ endings may have been rather more questionable.    Builders working in the vaults aren’t best pleased about working there anymore because of the unexplained noises they hear and the mysterious figures glimpsed out of the corner of the eye.

Of course, there will always be someone who actively seeks out encounters with the plague ridden dead.  And no, it’s not always me.  Here we see a group of people called the Londonists doing what they do best – creeping around in the plague pit found under London Bridge:

Some people have all the fun.

Nicola

Weirdworld@hotmail.co.uk

©Nicola Kirk and http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2010

Dead Central – Ghosts On London Underground’s Central Line

Travelling on London’s Underground is not unlike being in a rugby scrum.  You start off clean and tidy but as soon as you step through those carriage doors you’re ruthlessly tackled for the single remaining seat (covered in something unidentifiable, so actually you’re welcome to it, mate), and then you’re squashed, shoved and elbowed until you stagger out of the carriage at the end of your journey looking like you’ve been mugged.  Twice.  Welcome to London.

But one thing that may help take your mind off the journey (and even appreciate the company of your fellow rugby players) is the thought of the ghosts that may be watching you as you go about your travels.

At 46 miles long the Central Line is the longest line on the London Underground.  That’s plenty of track to haunt.

When you next pass through Bethnal Green Tube Station, spare a thought for one poor station master who, in 1981, was busy working away in his office late one night when he began to hear the sound of children crying.  You can only imagine how he must have felt when the sounds of crying were then accompanied by the shrieks of terrified women.  The station master fled his office in terror.  173 people died in 1943 in Bethnal Green Underground Station in a terrible accident.  Most of them had been women and children.

As the train trundles on to Bank Station and you find yourself desperately trying to avoid the person in front’s rucksack from smacking you in the face every time they move, you may be lucky (or unlucky) enough to see the ghost known as ‘Sarah’ or ‘the Black Nun’ as she is sometimes called.  Sarah’s brother, Phillip Whitehead, was a cashier at the bank but the story goes that he was executed for forgery in 1811.  Sarah was grief stricken and, unable to accept that her brother was dead, insisted on waiting for him outside the bank every evening for the next 40 years.  Apparently she waits for him still, but her wanderings have taken her down into Bank Station itself where, from time to time, she creeps along the platforms instead.  Travellers and workers alike have experienced feelings of sadness and hopelessness (and not just because of the tube service).  Also, reports of an unexplainable terrible stench have been reported and there are rumours that the station was dug through one of London’s forgotten plague pits.

Finally, one of my favourite tales of hauntings on the Underground.  Liverpool Street Station was built on the site of the first Hospital of the Star of Bethlehem, an asylum for the insane.  But the ghost I want to tell you about is not one of the old asylum inmates, although I’m sure they may well haunt the station, too.

2am should be a quiet time at Liverpool Street Station, but in 2000 a Line Controller who was keeping an eye on the deserted platforms via CCTV caught sight of something rather peculiar just outside the entrance of the Central Line eastbound tunnel.  The station was closed for the night and no maintenance works had been scheduled, so the sight of a man dressed in white overalls caused the Line Controller some concern.  The Line Controller rang the Station Supervisor and asked him to investigate.

The Station Supervisor could find no trace of the man in white overalls and rang  the Line Controller back to tell him so.  The Line Controller was mystified, telling the Supervisor that the man in white had been standing right next to him, how could he have missed him?  A second search was carried out, to no avail, but the Line Controller insisted that the mysterious man had been so close to the Supervisor during his second search that he could have touched him…

I’ve heard the above tale on a couple of occasions and I still can’t help peering out of the tube windows on my way home via Liverpool Street Station, just in case I catch sight of the strange man in white overalls silently watching unwary travellers from the shadows.

Nicola

Weirdworld@hotmail.co.uk

©Nicola Kirk and http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2010

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