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Cataphiles are urban explorers who illegally tour the Paris "catacombs", the term popularly used to describe a series of underground tunnels that were formerly a network of stone mines.

Unauthorized visits[edit]

A partially flooded section of rue de la Voie Verte

Entrance to the catacombs is restricted. The portion of the catacombs open to the public is only a small part of an extensive network of underground tunnels, which spans around 280 kilometres (170 mi) in length. The tunnel system is complex, and though some tunnels have plaques indicating the name of the street above, it is easy to get lost. Some passages are low or narrow, and others are partially flooded. There are aging telephone wires, pipes, and such that can hinder progress, and cave-ins, although rare, do occasionally occur. A good guide is indispensable, and many guides occasionally refer to a map. Because of these dangers, accessing the catacombs without official escort has been illegal since 2 November 1955. There is a 60 fine for people caught by the E.R.I.C - the special police who patrol the catacombs.

Secret entrances exist throughout Paris, and it is sometimes possible to enter the catacombs via the sewers, metro, and certain manholes.[1]

Some unofficial visitors hold keys to certain official entrances. On rare occasions people use these access points and illegally enter the catacombs — for example, to meet clandestinely, to hold unusual parties, or simply as urban explorers.

In September 2004, an underground movie theater run by the Mexican Perforation — a French artistic movement that seeks to convey their ideas using underground places — was discovered by the French police.[2]

Cataphiles often descend for a day, a night, or perhaps a week to explore, photograph, paint murals, create maps, clean up rooms and dig chatières (ventilation channels).[3][dead link]


  1. ^ Oved, Marco Chown. "The catacombs of Paris and a journey into the unknown". Radio France Internationale. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  2. ^ "La Mexicaine De Perforation". Urban-Resources. Urban-Resources. Retrieved 2006-06-16. 
  3. ^ "Mommy, what's a cataphile?". Secrets of the City of Light. Retrieved 2009-09-18. 

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