What may have seemed like an innocent exploration turned into a dangerous maze of frightful bones and dark hallways. Two boys, 16 and 17, slipped unnoticed into the Paris Catacombs over the weekend.
Authorities are unsure of their reason for being there or who initially alerted the police, but it can be speculated that they were intent on observing the dark ruins out of the watchful eye of the officials. Only a few of the tunnels are open to the public as many parts of the burial site have collapsed or flooded over the years.
Created over 200 years ago, after the common cemeteries had maxed their capacity, the catacombs contain around 6 million skeletons. Buried beneath the illustrious city of lights, it is a far cry from the posh beauty that heralds the epicenter.
The police were alerted early Wednesday morning that the boys were missing. Using search teams and rescue dogs, they were able to locate the juveniles in just four hours. They were taken to the hospital where they were found to be suffering from mild hypothermia. The average temperature in the damp hallways is 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Urban explorers of the catacombs are known as cataphiles in French, and they have an extensive list of entry sites and maps that allow them to roam freely, far from those who stand guard.
The police carefully monitor manhole covers, a favored entry point, and quickly seal them if they are illegally accessed.
Many have made their way into the forbidden passages, from artists, errant school children, to those seeking the thrill of a hidden party. The bones have long held an aura of mystery, reverence, and fright to those who have sought their hallowed halls.
Beneath the bustle of cafes, shops, and traffic, two boys wandered in the dark. Perhaps it was a dare, a feat of bravado that must be met to pass a test. Since the closure of the catacombs to the public in 1955, they have drawn the rebellious to explore outside the two kilometers available to the public.
With thousands of miles of unmapped tunnels, getting lost is to be expected and perhaps desired. It is an uncharted territory, filled with history and folklore.
[Featured Image by Francois Mori/AP Images]