Dungeoneering In the Catacombs of Paris

Michael O. Varhola

Over the years I have made a number of visits to the Paris catacombs, and the photos that appear here are from an expedition I made into them in 1990, as part of a story I was working on for The Planet, the student newspaper of the American University of Paris. Some of the photos include captions that I or someone else typed on their backs and when available I have included these in quotes. 


"Journalist Mike Varhola." This is what appears to be the sole picture of me taken during the "12 Hours Beneath the Streets of Paris," as my story was titled. 


This is the crew that I accompanied, which called themselves the Rock Eaters. None of them wanted their real names used in print but used nommes de guerre or had nicknames assigned to them by me for purposes of the story. The girl went by Pitou and she was the leader of the group. Her boyfriend and second-in-command is the kid with the sword. 


Above left: "'American Bull Terrier' examining the bone-filled passageway." One of the areas we passed through, dubbed the "Dragon's Throat," was half-filled with bones and skulls, forcing us to crawl through it. Anyone having issues with confined spaces or human remains would have had especial difficulty in this area. Above right: "A night at 'the beach.' From the left are the Dwarf, Pitou, and 'American Bull Terrier.'" (So named for the slogan on his jacket.)


"The shrine to the cataphile lost during the Terror. Tristan on the right (and the Dwarf on the left)." 


Above left: Surely not a stairway to heaven in such a place as this ... Today these steps lead nowhere and have at their head a capstone that appears to support the ceiling. On it, however, is listed the spot located some 43 feet above us, and originally this might have been part of a now-closed route to the surface. Above right: This shaft and the ladder set in it, which we did not follow, probably did lead up to the surface, likely via a manhole in a street. 



More to come! Have got another dozen or so photos I am going to scan and add and will see if I can find the story I wrote for the paper so that I can scan and post it.