Creepy stories about catacombs abound because these subterranean, often bone-ridden crypts are the epitome of macabre. Yet the scariest part of a catacomb is not the skeletons resting in its hidden lairs but the trapped spirits who call it home. These ghosts are often victims of evil exploitation or unlucky visitors who got lost and never saw sunlight again. Others were dead before they even got there.
Earth-bound souls of the departed are said to grow enraged when their corpses are disturbed. Imagine how they feel when their remains are ripped from their resting place and tossed underground, their bones embedded into stone corridors, and their skulls arranged as crude art for tourists to gawk at. And why must they suffer this eternal disrespect? Because they were poor. At least, that’s the case in the haunted Catacombs of Paris, where visitors report attacks by the angry ghosts of the displaced deceased.
Thrill-seekers known at "cataphiles" enter the dark recesses of catacombs from around the world, but not all of them come back out. What happens to these explorers is often a tragic mystery, as in the case of Masha, a Ukrainian teenager abandoned by her friends in the Odessa Catacombs.
There are underground tunnels and chambers which weren’t meant to be cemeteries but ended up as final resting places all the same. Let’s take a tour of these dank receptacles for the departed, pry up the cold stones, and explore scary ghost stories about catacombs.
The famed Catacombs of Paris are a series of underground tunnels that span more than 200 miles beneath the city streets and house the bones of more than six million former city residents (some dating back 1,200 years to the Merovingian era), relocated to the catacombs from overly full Parisian cemeteries starting in 1786. In early days, visitors entered the catacombs through the official entrance, known as the Barrière d'Enfer ("Gate of Hell"), though now, there is a designated entrance for tourists and only part of the catacombs are open to explorers.
According to legends, those who have dared venture into the catacombs after midnight reportedly hear the walls talking to them. Disembodied voices try to lure adventurers farther into the tunnels, encouraging them to lose their way and suffer a slow and agonizing end. There are rumors of people wandering off into the maze-like tunnels and going mad. In 2010, cave explorers recovered video footage from the 1990s that they claimed showed a man wandering, lost, through the dark corridors until he finally panics, drops the camera, and bolts off into the dark, never to be seen again (though others doubt the authenticity of the recording). The footage is said to have inspired the catacomb horror movie As Above, So Below (2014).
With all this in mind, it's probably best to stick with an official tour group.
The Odessa Catacombs are a network of limestone mines in Ukraine reportedly also used for the execution of captured Nazi soldiers in WWII. They are the largest catacombs in the world. With over 1,500 miles of cold, pitch-black tunnels to navigate, getting lost in these catacombs is almost certainly a death sentence.
According to a widely spread urban legend, a group of Ukrainian teens reportedly entered the catacombs in 2005. It is said that a girl named Masha was somehow separated from the group and likely died of exposure or starvation. Although the exact cause of her supposed death is unknown, cataphiles have long been fascinated by the tragic story of young Masha, and pictures of her supposed corpse are circulated online.
Nor is Masha's the only story of death in the Odessa catacombs. As Vice reports, a man murdered his teenage girlfriend in the catacombs with an ax in 2015. In 2011, the decomposing body of a man who had been killed months earlier was discovered in the catacombs.
During an air raid test in WWII, panic broke out in the streets of London. Afraid they were about to be bombed, a large crowd descended into the London Underground's Bethnal Green Station. Of the 173 people trampled that horrible day, 126 were women and children. Since then, passengers and station workers claim to hear the screams of women and children echoing through the narrow corridors.
Hopefully, the spirits of the trampling victims have crossed over into another realm.
A network of underground tunnels in Savannah were used for several gruesome purposes in the late 19th century. During the final wave of a yellow fever epidemic, it's said victims of the dreaded virus were buried by the thousands in tunnels dug under Candler Hospital and Forsyth Park. Around the same time, traumatized enslaved people, ripped from their families and forced to endure torturous ship conditions, were moved from the harbor through tunnels under River Street.
Some say that a tunnel under a centuries-old tavern was also connected to the harbor. Now a popular restaurant, the Pirate's House used to be a tavern known for its heavy drinking crowd of sailors and other unsavory types. Word has it that unscrupulous captains staffed their ships with men who passed out at the bar, smuggling them through the tunnel and onto ships. These unwilling crew members would wake up and find themselves already miles out to sea. Their hangovers must have been especially intense. It is said that the moans of kidnapped sailors are still heard today in the basement of the Pirate's House.