Forget haunted hayrides and corn mazes. Halloween is more than a day of imaginary spooks. Discover the truly haunting realm of the dead in a tour of the world’s most mesmerizing catacombs and crypts.
Sometimes the most intriguing stories lie beneath, literally. Stretching from South America into Europe, as well as into the northern reaches of Africa, the world’s most famous catacombs bring the past eerily into focus. Among these intriguing subterranean passageways is the Brno Ossuary in the Czech Republic, which is estimated to hold the remains of more than 50,000 people. The catacombs opened to the public in June 2012, providing visitors with a look at a vast underground world that stretches back to the 17th century.
Call it something like time travel. That’s how you’ll feel as you make your way down a series of tunnels and ladders that lead to the Paris catacombs: With the remains of some 6 million people, it’s the largest underground burial site of its kind in all of Europe. (The Brno Ossuary trails right behind it.)
In many cases, catacombs and crypts were the result of people wanting to be buried on church grounds. When church cemeteries filled to capacity (as in the case of the Capuchin Monastery, on the outskirts of Palermo, Italy) cathedrals began to excavate the grounds beneath their churches. Such was the case of the Capuchin catacombs, which tell a fascinating story of human life spread over more than 400 years, from the very first funeral (of a fellow monk, in 1599) to the last (of a 2-year-old girl, who died of pneumonia in 1920).
Take a look at our picks for the most interesting catacombs and crypts worldwide.
We think they’re creepy, but what do you think: Creepy? Beautiful? Or both?