“Wanna see something REALLY scary?”
To horror fans who came of age in the 1980s, the line above instantly evokes memories of Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the opening scene from Twilight Zone: The Movie. Now, on a bi-monthly basis, I’ll be asking, “Wanna see something REALLY scary?” with the goal of shocking you with chilling footage plumbed from the darkest corners of YouTube.
After hours of frantically crawling through darkness in a desperate bid for survival, a camera is dropped, recording the final images of an intrepid explorer who was never seen or heard from again. We’re not talking about the last scene of The Blair Witch Project; this is a description of actual footage found in the depths of the Paris Catacombs, a.k.a. “The Empire of the Dead”.
Beginning in the early 1800s in response to a lack of cemetery space, the residents of Paris began relocating their dead to former mining tunnels beneath the city. Today, the remains of over 6 million people can be found in a labyrinth covering over 200 miles, most of it over 100 feet below the city streets. This nightmare world has become the domain of sightseers with the taste for the macabre, and areas of the maze are opened for tour groups. But he Catacombs also attract illegal trespassers, drawn to the darkest cavers with the hopes of discovering bizarre and terrifying mysteries.
Wanna see something REALLY scary?
In the early 2000s, explorers discovered a camera, caked in dirt and mold; the footage, estimated to have been recorded in the 1990s, shows the final moments of an unknown man who, after getting lost in the catacombs, becomes visibly distraught before abandoning his only source of light and scrambling into the darkness—presumably to his death. Check it out:
Detractors claim it must be a hoax, as the original footage isn’t available in any form. What we’ve just seen was culled from a docu-series, The Scariest Place on Earth, and was provided by documentarian Francis Freedland. While it does, in many ways, seem too scary to be true (not to mention playing out like an unofficial prequel to the found footage creeper As Above, So Below released in 2014), the only reason to perpetrate a fraud would be for money. Freedland was no doubt compensated by Scariest Places on Earth, the documentary is not available for purchase, eliminating a financial incentive. And considering Freedland himself hasn’t achieved the level of fame the footage has, the idea of a self-serving deception seems even less likely.
Decide for yourself by viewing the documentary in its entirety below. Even if you end up falling on the side of skepticism, the claustrophobic intensity and immensity of the labyrinth is a thing of wonder and terror in equal measure.
Got an idea for a future installment of “Wanna See Something REALLY Scary?” Hit me up on Twitter @josh_millican!