Skulls, bones, and a suffocating odor that smells distinctly like death. These are possibly the first things that come to mind when one thinks of crypts and catacombs, and rightly so. Located mostly under churches and cathedrals, catacombs are underground tunnels and channels that are used to bury the dead, while crypts are stone chambers within catacombs that hold the caskets of the deceased. Throughout centuries, crypts and catacombs have acted as the burial ground mostly for cities whose cemeteries have overflowed with dead bodies. Many significant families such as the royal have also opted to bury their dead members in vast crypts reserved for them specifically. If one wanders into the underground passageways of sacrilege churches in cities such as London, Paris and many more, they will come across a significant part of the world’s archaeology, along with strange scriptures on walls, remnants of old rituals and an energy that can leave one shaken.
Listed below are three of the scariest crypts and catacombs of the world, each having their distinct history and uniqueness to them. Since most of these are open to the general public, one can go and see for themselves if these places are indeed scary or just a hoax. However, as always, it’s better to be safe, than sorry.
Paris Crypts and Catacombs
By the 17th century, Paris was facing a huge problem relating to its deceased—cemeteries were overflowing as corpses increased in numbers more than could be managed. In fact, the situation was so bad that some corpses were even becoming uncovered. Many people complained about the pungent stench that was coming from these cemeteries, and after a particularly bad rain that made the state even worse, the church allowed the bodies to be moved from the cemeteries to the open underground spaces in Paris. And so, bones and skulls and whatever were left of these old bodies were moved to a vast space that ran through below Paris. Today, these crypts and catacombs hold remnants of people who lived hundreds of years ago, giving the place a very eerie feeling. There are crosses hung on the walls of this world underground that is also called The Empire of Death. With dark lighting and constant, cold temperature, the Paris Catacombs seem like something right out of old horror movies. It doesn’t just hold an important part of their history, but also acts as a major tourist attraction, with many people visiting the catacombs each day.
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Many people, both local and tourists, believe that there are more than just dead bodies that reside in these tunnels. Folklore says that many years ago, an adventurer named Philibert Aspairt wandered into these tunnels but forgot the way out and died there itself. Till this day, people admit to hearing him calling them out, but Parisian tour guides forbid tourists from following him because he still has not found the right way out. With stories such as these, the catacombs fall in the 5 most haunted places in Paris and come first in the list.
St. Paul’s Catacombs
Much older than the ones in Paris, St. Paul’s crypts and catacombs located in the Roman city of Melite have been burying dead people in the underground since the 3rd to 6th centuries. These catacombs house more than 1000 crypts and cover a vast space in the underground tunnels of Rome. In the 7th century, these tombs and crypts were abandoned and reopened only about 200 years later. Since then, these catacombs have been a space for religious pilgrimages and rituals.
One story that makes this catacomb particularly scarier than the rest is its history of exorcism. Many people believed that restless spirits who were not provided proper burial lurked within the lemures found in these catacombs, and numerous Romans and paranormal enthusiasts set out to exorcise these spirits.
Catacombe dei Cappuccini
Located in the island of Palermo in Southern Italy, the Catacombe dei Cappuccini too started creating crypts to hold the deceased in the 16th century when their cemeteries became overstuffed. However, in the beginning, only people from distinguished families were allowed to be buried there. The bodies were very well preserved, following rituals of washing and dehydrating. Monks were even kept preserved in their preferred article of clothing which they mentioned in their wills, along with what possession they would want to be buried with them. In the following centuries, more people were allowed to be buried there as long as their relatives gave donations to the catacomb. If the donations stopped, the body would be put aside in a shelf from its previous position.
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Here comes the uniqueness in this particular catacomb. Catatombe dei Capuccini does not only hold corpses in tombs but has many of them mummied, and many others put up in different poses. The walls of this place hold many well-preserved dead bodies, wearing clothes and standing in various postures that make them look like life-size dolls. There are the bodies of two children seated in a rocking chair, an old couple holding hands, etc. This idea of decoration is all well and good until one remembers that these are actual dead bodies of people who were alive centuries ago. A walk through this catacomb surely wouldn’t be easy, because one would be met with the eyes (or what remains of the eyes, anyway) of thousands of corpses.