Cool Stuff in Paris. By Manning Leonard Krull.

Mysteries of Paris — The Paris Ghost Tour

I enjoyed a cool Autumn evening last night wandering Paris' spookiest sites with the Mysteries of Paris Ghost Tour. I was happily surprised to discover this tour existed while doing research for my article on Halloween in Paris; there's not much to do here for Halloween, and I'm thrilled to find anything new to try that might satisfy my Halloween cravings at least a bit. As I'd mentioned in my Halloween article, I was a bit skeptical about the tour, because as a lifelong fan of ghost stories and urban legends and an amateur French history buff, I've done quite a bit of research into hauntings and eerie happenings in Paris and the rest of France, and what I've consistently found is that there just aren't many here, compared to places like the UK and the US, where there are ghost stories to be found practically everywhere. Skimming the Mysteries of Paris website, I noticed that most of the topics that would be covered on the tour were gruesome and violent chapters in Paris history, with little emphasis on the supernatural, making the term "ghost tour" a bit questionable. But I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by the tour, and the relative lack of ghosts and goblins was made up for by a ton of great, and mostly true, sping-tingling tales, not to mention lots of beautiful sights and quite a bit of good ol' straight-up history. And there were indeed a few honest-to-goodness Parisian ghost stories I'd never heard.

The tour meets up on Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm at O'Sullivans Rebel Bar, at 10, Rue des Lombards, in the 4th arrondissement, situated in the Châtelet – Les Halles neighborhood. I made the five-minute walk from my apartment to the bar and met up with fellow Parisian blogger, Courtney Traub of About.com, and her friend Damien, an English blogger for About's Spain site who happened to be visiting Paris for the week. We had a pint of cheap French beer and waited, and right around 8, our tour guide, a friendly young American named Adam, approached us to check if we were there for the tour. We were herded along with about eight other ghost seekers into the bar's basement to listen to an overview of the tour from Adam, and to fork over our €20 admission fee (€15 for students with ID). Our party was made up of mostly of Americans, with a couple Canadians and Australians, not to mention another guide-in-training, a French guy named Thomas who was wearing realistic vampire fangs!

Adam was funny, friendly, and engaging, and he advised us that the tour would involve shocking and explicit tales — possibily with adult language; gasp! ha — and he also encouraged us to drink as much before and during the tour as we desired, and in fact the first stop on the tour is a small epicerie for anyone who wants to buy a bottle of something to keep the Autumn chill at bay, and most members of our group indulged, which I think is a great idea and lends to the fun, informal vibe of the tour. Wandering around Paris with a bottle of wine and some friends is already a great way to spend an evening, and it's all the more fun when paired with a dozen or so blood-curdling tales at historic Parisian sites. (By the way, I can never seem to find an official answer as to whether drinking on the streets is truly legal in Paris, but it's certainly tolerated, and it's a very common activity, so go for it!)

The tour covers everything you'd want out of a Halloween stroll through Paris' darker history: murder, executions, torture, assassination, cannibalism, serial killings, Satanism, and a few ghost stories and unexplained phenomena to boot. All the good stuff, and all right under your nose in central Paris.

I was curious how I'd feel about the tour as a fan of all things spooky who's lived in Paris for a few years, when the scary stories and historical info would certainly be designed mostly for tourists; I wondered if I'd be bored and just hear the same stories I've read and heard a million times while living here. This turned out to not be the case! On the contrary, I was really pleased — shocked even — by how many things I learned about my own city and even my own neighborhood; I won't spoil the details, but just as an example, Adam pointed out two fascinating things on the Île de la Cité which I'd never seen before, and they're directly on the path that I jog a few times a week! I'll definitely notice them every time from now on.

The path of the tour winds its way from the Châtelet – Les Halles area, over the bridge to the Île de la Cité and Notre Dame, and then back to Les Halles again, wrapping up near the Fontaine des Innocents, with an invitation from the guides to join them for a drink back at the Rebel Bar for anyone who's up for it. From start to finish our tour ran nearly three hours, which definitely makes it feel like you're getting your Euros' worth, and everyone in our group seemed to have a wonderful, fun, somewhat silly time. The wine helps!

As an expat stranded in a country that doesn't really celebrate Halloween, the Paris Ghost Tour really hit the spot! If you're a fan of the macabre and happen to be in Paris during the Halloween season you'll definitely get a kick out of it.

Mysteries of Paris — The Paris Ghost Tour
Meets at O'Sullivans Rebel Bar, 10, Rue des Lombards, 75004 Paris
Check website for dates and times: www.mysteriesofparis.com
Phone: 06 12 67 66 80

Happy haunting!