Special police try to keep tourists, indigent people out of miles of Paris’s famous catacombs

By Megan Carpentier
Friday, July 19, 2013 19:03 EDT
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Underneath the city of Paris, there are 170 miles of caves and tunnels, mostly remnants of old stone quarries that date back to the Roman era, but also abandoned sewers and even newer tunnels. Like many urban undergrounds, the catacombs are home to indigent Parisians and attractive to graffiti artists, but they are also home to a special police force known as the cataflics, a who patrol the caves — and to cataphiles, tourists and cave-lovers who attempt to explore the majority of the caves that are barred to any but the cops.

Audrey, one of the cataflics, spends much of her time chasing down cataphiles but is cognizant of the underground society that her patrols disturb. “Society down here is like society up there,” she said. “There are those who break things. There are those who like to mend things. And between them there is us, the police.”

The caves have long been used for underground parties, including raves and the rare more-organized ongoing parties, like those claimed by the Perforating Mexicans (as reported by The Guardian) in 2004. But more and more, Audrey sees foreigners making their way down to the catacombs for tours, spurred on by tips from other cataphiles on the Internet. Those that are caught are fined 60 Euro — far more than 8 Euros more traditional tourists pay for admission to the official Catacombs of Paris, to which access is legal.

Watch video of the cataflics and a few cataphiles, courtesy of AFP, below:

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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