Europeans see our glorious holiday of binge drinking and candy eating as an American export, and only observe it if they're under the age of 11. But you can't really blame them when you realize they have enough creepy shit to last all year round. Here are five European ossuaries that will simultaneously satisfy your hunger for Halloween fun and take away your appetite for candy.
The Catacombs, Paris
This massive tunnel system under the streets of Paris is the granddaddy of all tombs. This beast of a burrow contains more than 6 million bodies and has over 200 miles of twisting passageways! The crazy thing is that no one really knows what's down there beyond a few miles. The tunnels are unmapped territory, a dark and mysterious "Empire of the Dead" under the city of light. If you take the tour, you'll be introduced to some of Paris's oldest residents who have been morbidly stacked along the long corridors, their skulls peering out at you from every corner. It's hard to comprehend the amount of bodies you see, but the mind-blowing part is that the tour covers only about a mile of the gigantic ossuary. Some brave travellers like to venture further, finding secret entrances around the city. But before you put on your Indiana Jones hat and attempt something this fucking CRAZY, remember that some who go in, never come out, and at 60 feet below the city, you won't have the reception to send that frantic final tweet.
Bone Church, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
This creepy little gem, about an hour away from Prague and a short jaunt outside of Kutna Hora, is home to between 40 and 70 thousand residents, all dead, of course. The fun thing about this place is that the bones aren't just stacked, they've been arranged into various decorations and sculptures for your viewing pleasure. Apparently when the designer, Frantisek Rint, was told by his employers to clean the place up and put the bones in order, he decided to get weird with it. Some of the wonders he created were four huge skull pyramids, a bone chalice, and a chandelier made using at least one of every bone in the human body. To top it all off, the guy even signed his name at the end—in bone.
Capuchin Crypt, Rome
Monks have a lot of time on their hands, and while they should be payin' mad props to the man upstairs 24/7, they're only human and their minds occasionally wander towards more earthly pleasures. Now, the Bible is pretty strict about which bone they're NOT allowed to play with, but the 206 other ones are basically fair game. The Capuchin crypt in Rome is elaborately decorated with over 3,500 skeletons of Capuchin monks, put together by Capuchin monks (a FUBU of sorts). One room is devoted to skulls, another to the leg and thigh bones, and a third to the pelvis. There's also a supremely creepy room which contains three skeletons, all decked out in monks' robes. If you look up, you'll see a monk nailed to the wall, holding a sickle and scales, with a message written above reminding you that "what you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be…" Cue the wind blowing the window open and a huge clap of thunder. Creepy shit.
Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal
Out-creepin' the dudes in Rome, the Portuguese monks in Evora went from creepy fun to downright horrifying with their Chapel of Bones. They start by greeting you at the entrance with a kind salutation: "We, the bones that are here, await yours." Inside you'll see the bones of over 5000 Portuguese people cemented to the walls in various designs, and more fun messages scrawled across the ceiling, like "Better is the day of death than the day of birth." But the frosting on this decrepit cake, and the part that makes it truly terrifying, are the corpses of a man and an infant child hanging from the ceiling by chains. They are thought to be an adulterous man and his young son, but all we know for sure is that Portuguese monks are pretty fucked up.
Skull Chapel, Czermna, Poland
The priest, Waclaw Tomaszek, who designed the Skull Chapel may have thought he was doing the Lord's work by filling the space with over 3000 corpses, or he may have just wanted to build the most badass place in the world to display his own noggin, once that fateful day came. He and his unlikely compatriot, a gravedigger, worked for 17 years digging up, cleaning, and arranging the skulls in the chapel, making sure to save a space front and center for their own. The bones make up the entire room, save for an altar in the center. The ceiling of the chapel is especially impressive. It's made of skulls (obviously) and bones in a criss-crossed pattern that make you feel like you're under a ghastly grape arbor. So, what's so creepy about this place? Well, besides the 3000 dead you can see, the disturbing duo also thought it necessary to pack the basement full of 21,000 more. And these aren't the kind of corpses that appreciate tourists walking over their graves, either. They're almost all victims of grisly deaths, whether by starvation, cholera, or brutal warfare that ravaged the region for centuries. Crack open a bottle of Polish vodka and pour one out for your decomposing homies, or you might leave with a travel buddy you didn't bargain for.
Bones are creepy. But while walking into a room filled with thousands of dead people can give you the heebie-jeebies, it's also really awesome. All those dusty skulls staring at you were the people who built the incredible places where we like to get drunk and stumble around as we travel through this amazing continent. That's a pretty cool connection, make no bones about it.