For 41 years, the Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest man-made structure, standing at a proud 324 meters. Even today, it remains Paris's tallest structure, and has attracted more than 250 million visitors since it was built as the entryway to the 1889 World's Fair. Though the French initially hated the Eiffel Tower - a group of 300 artists, sculptors, and architects signed an 1887 petition to halt construction on the “ridiculous tower” - it’s since become one of the world’s most beloved landmarks... even among ghosts.
Paris is haunted by creepy sights and occurrences, from the bones that line its catacombs to the endless giggles of the Eiffel Tower ghost. The iconic edifice has endured its share of tragic events - not to mention global conflicts and more than a few attempts to tear it down.
These unsettling stories about the Eiffel Tower are (mostly) true - from shouting spirits to the accidental demise of a famed parachute inventor.
In 2009, a teenage tourist from Brazil leapt from the Eiffel Tower. According to the Daily Mail, her brother frantically tried to stop her, but she jumped over the railing before he could reach her. She landed on the clear roof of a restaurant 180 feet below.
Unsettling as the event may have been, it apparently wasn't enough to move the packed restaurant's customers, who barely raised an eyebrow.
"The smashing noise was like a bomb going off as the roof cracked, then everyone there very quickly realized what had happened,” a waiter said of the incident. “But the most bizarre thing was, most of the customers just carried on eating. I have no idea why they did that.”
The Eiffel Tower is a classic marriage proposal spot, but for one woman in the 1920s, an unwanted proposal allegedly turned into a nightmare. According to an urban legend, an American man fell in love with the woman, and one day they agreed to meet atop the Parisian landmark - but with very different intentions in mind.
He wanted to propose; she wanted to break up, and thought the gorgeous view might help soften the blow. Before she got the chance to deliver her breakup speech, he got down on one knee and proposed. She rejected the offer and he allegedly pushed her off the side of the tower in a fit of rage.
Some versions of the tale claim the woman backed up and accidentally fell over the edge. Either way, she didn't survive the fall. Today, the woman allegedly haunts the Eiffel Tower. Tourists have reported hearing her nervous giggles - followed by harrowing screams - in an eerie sonic progression that continues in an endless loop.
According to Time magazine, 349 people had taken their own lives at the Eiffel Tower by 1966. Contrary to popular belief, the victims aren't all jumpers - there are at least a few documented cases of hanging. And not all attempts are successful, either; some who have jumped from the first level have survived the fall.
According to Reuters, barriers have been effective in stopping jumpers at the tower in recent years. Leaping from the Eiffel Tower is still allegedly one of the most popular methods of taking one's own life in the city.
Franz Reichelt was a tailor and inventor described by some as a “mad genius.” The Austrian-born Parisian invented an early version of the wingsuit - a wearable parachute with batwing-like swaths of fabric attached. He hoped his invention could eventually be used by airplane pilots in the event of a plane malfunction. It sounds like something out of a James Bond film, but in his case, things went horribly wrong when he finally took his contraption out for a spin.
In 1912, the inventor jumped from the first story of the Eiffel Tower to test his product - a suit with a nine-kilogram, 32-square-meter parachute stitched inside the arms and legs. To activate the parachute, all Reichelt had to do was stretch his extremities into a cross shape.
Police initially gave Reichelt permission to use a dummy to test his wingsuit, but he decided to test it personally. His patent was about to expire, and he needed sponsorship money. The press coverage would have been massive had he been successful. However, the wings never opened when Reichelt jumped, and he perished from the fall. Video footage of the event exists, but watcher be warned - it's pretty graphic.