The city of love, the city of lights, the most beautiful city in the world… The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées are all iconic places that go hand in hand with the idealistic image of the French capital – but is it really that rosy? From the terrifying guillotine to the serial killers of the capital, here is a look at some of the top morbid places in Paris – it might change your mind!
The guillotine was a machine used for carrying out executions by beheading. It was invented by Antoine Louis, but it is the French doctor Joseph Ignace Guillotin that made it an execution machine in the late 18th century. The last person to have been guillotined in France was in 1977 (the same year as the 1st episode of the Star War Series). It is the symbol of the French Terror during the Revolution between 1790 and 1794, when thousands of people were executed.
1. Place de la Concorde: formally called Place de la Révolution (Revolution Square), this is where 1119 people were guillotined, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. The guillotine was placed between the Champs-Elysées and the center of the square.
2. Place de la Nation: formally called Place du Trône Renversé (Overthrown King Square), 1306 people were executed here.
3. Intersection of Rue de la Croix Faubin and Rue de la Roquette : 5 visible stones embedded in the street mark the exact place where the guillotine was placed, beheading the prisoners of the nearby Prison de la Grande Roquette. Between 1851 and 1899, more than 200 people were executed here. The prison was destroyed in 1900.
Paris’ serial killers have spread fear across the city for centuries. Some cases have never been solved, and even today, some killers still roam free… But two serial killers still send shivers down the spine of most Parisians:
4. Henri Désiré Landru: After WW1, when the number of men had decreased dramatically, Landru seduced widows and assassinated them at 22 Rue de Châteaudun before disposing of the bodies in a Parisian suburb. He was arrested in 1919 and executed in 1922.
5. Marcel Petiot: In 1943, when Paris was occupied by the Nazis, Petiot offered to help people that were tracked by the German Police (Gestapo). He promised to secretly send them to Argentina and asked them to come with their valuables to his home on 21 Rue Lesueur at night. In 1944, when the fire brigade arrived after neighbors complaining about a constant unusual smell, they found skinned corpses ready to be incinerated. A small gas chamber in the basement was found, with a peephole in the door to watch his 27 victims agonize…
Many beautiful places in Paris are tainted by tragic deaths that mark its history, three such places are;
6. Pont des Suicidés: located in the Buttes-Chaumont park, this little stone bridge links the central island to the rest of the park. The name of this bridge says it all: the Suicide Bridge. Many people have tragically ended their lives by jumping off this 22m high bridge since 1867.
7. Square du Vert Galant: This little park located at the tip of Ile de la Cité (Cité island) is where a lot of people now gather for a picnic on warm summer nights. This was not the case in March 1314 when Jacques de Molay, the last of the Templars, was burned at the stake (alive) after being accused of heresy by King Philippe IV.
8. Place des Vosges: on June 30th 1559, after getting a fragment of his lance in his eye during a jousting tournament, King Henri II of France dies in excruciating pain in his royal mansion Hôtel des Tournelles. To forget about the tragic accident, King Henri IV destroys the mansion and builds the Place Royale (Royal Square) in 1612, later changed to Place des Vosges.
Even the most popular monuments have their intrigues and mysteries: the doors of Notre Dame, the black magic of the Louvre, the mystery of Napoleon’s tomb. Here are 2 real haunted places of Paris.
9. The haunted house in Pigalle: At 1 Impasse Frochot is a small neo-gothic house which looks charming… Victor Massé, a French composer, died of multiple sclerosis in this house. A few years later, the owner (a woman) is slain with a poker here and the following owner also dies of multiple sclerosis. No one knows why Sylvie Vartan, a famous French singer, fled the house abruptly leaving everything behind…
10. La Grange aux Belles area: Located in the south west of the Buttes-Chaumont park, the Grange aux Belles area is where the gibbet of Montfaucon used to stand in until the 17th century. It was a large structure with 45 compartments in which people were hanged. Today, it is said that if you listen closely at night, you can still hear the chains and moans of the thousands of victims.
Since the dawn of its existence, Paris has been the theater of many tragic assassinations. Powerful people preferred eliminating their rivals instead of using diplomacy. Poison used in the medieval times (called “succession powder”), made way to guns at a later stage… Here are 2 assassinations that have had an impact on the history of Paris.
11. King Henri IV: Leaving the Louvre in his carriage on his way to see the Duke of Sully in the Marais on Mai 16th 1610, Henri IV’s carriage is stopped by heavy traffic. A stranger in green clothes jumps on the non protected carriage and stabs the king to death. A sign at 10 rue de la Ferronnerie indicates the exact spot of his assassination.
12. the Duke of Orleans: when King Charles VI dies, the battle for power rages. The king’s brother, the Duke of Orleans has the upper hand, which Jean Sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy, cannot accept. Jean Sans Peur therefore decides to assassinate his rival in the street next to today’s Impasse des Arbalétriers, which will result in the start of the 1407-1435 bloody civil war
Image credit: Thomas Claveirole – Flickr
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