I had a “Blair Witch Project” moment when I was in Paris this past summer. I thought with Halloween this week, it would be an appropriate story to share.
I had friends tell me that I should go and see the catacombs while in Paris. “It’s a must see.” Okay, great! I made it a point to fit it in one day. I went myself. That was a mistake.
So for those that don’t know, the catacombs of Paris is an underground ossuary. An ossuary is a final resting place for human remains. Ew, even me just saying that makes me wonder why I decided that it was a good idea to check it out. The power of a friend’s recommendation is a crazy thing.
Only 200 people can be in the catacombs at any given time. That’s not a lot of people, hence the two and a half hour lineup I was in to reach the entrance.
I was the 864th person to enter the catacombs that day. Once paying the entrance fee, I descended 19 metres down a narrow spiral staircase. The 130 steps down was dizzying. Once at the bottom, there was an exhibit describing the history of the catacombs and once through that, the tunnel towards the ossuary started. I entered the tunnel and started to walk. Where were the people in front of me? And I could no longer see anything or anyone behind me except for the pathway. Oh no. Not good.
There was a lonely, bone-chilling silence. I could not hear anything. What happened to the other people? I started getting worried that I took a wrong turn and that I was going to be lost in Paris’ underground forever. After all, there is said to be about 300 km of tunnels underneath the City of Lights. For anyone that knows me, I should have been in a state of sheer panic at this point. And I’ll admit that I could feel it rumbling inside of me. Fear.
I started to walk faster. My breath started to get shorter, not from the cardio-workout of speed walking but from the panic that was growing inside of me. I could hear my heart beating faster. Where was everyone that waited in line with me?!
It was dark. Dim lights lit the way. It was a long, twisting path with stone walls closing in on either side. Where was the ossuary? And more importantly, where were the 200 people who should be down here with me??
The temperature reminded me that I was far below the Paris streets. My hands were cold and clammy. “Bone juice” dripped from the low ceilings that created a mucky, wet ground that would squish with each step I took. Why did I come here by myself?
I decided to take a video of me walking in my state of panic. A distraction to calm the nerves. I don’t say anything in the video but I think the silence and darkness gives you a sense of my Blair Witch Project moment.
After, I don’t know how many minutes, I could finally hear faint voices in the distance. A deep sigh of relief was taken as I hurried ahead and found people. They were at the entrance of the ossuary. I stuck close to them as we wandered past all the intricately piled bones that lined the walls. Human bones of approximately 6 million humans. It was an eerie sadness that I felt.
I still don’t know how I ended up all alone at the start. I had walked for 1.5 km by myself in the dark Paris tunnels. And I survived!