For Halloween, Airbnb, the home rental website is offering brave travelers a night in the sprawling tunnels filled with skulls and bones that is one of Paris's most popular -- and ghoulish -- attractions.
No one has ever woken up alive in Airbnb's latest rental offer, but then again, no one has ever spent the night alongside six million dead Parisians in the city's Catacombs. The competition launched on the website offers two people a night in the Catacombs on October 31, with a "real bed", dinner with private concert and breakfast.
"Before bedtime, a storyteller will have you spellbound with fascinating tales from the catacombs, guaranteed to produce nightmares. Finally, enjoy dawn with the dead, as you become the only living person ever to wake up in the Paris catacombs," reads the listing.
Town hall sources said Monday the California-based Airbnb paid up to 350,000 euros to privatize the tunnels.
The transfer of human remains from Parisian cemeteries to the tunnels began towards the end of the 18th century when authorities realized that the decomposition of bodies in the city's cemeteries was not particularly good for public health.
"It was said that the wine was turning bad and the milk was curdling," Sylvie Robin, the site's curator, told AFP in an interview last year. Among the bones lining the walls of the two-kilometer (1.2-mile) long tunnels -- only a small part of a network of abandoned underground quarries -- are pictures and quotes about mortality.
"Think in the morning that you might not survive until the evening, and in the evening that you might survive until the morning," reads one. The House Rules section on Airbnb, which allows property dwellers and owners to rent a room or entire home, warns guests to "respect the Catacombs as you would your own grave".
The Catacombs, some 20 meters under the sewers and metro system, lures some 500,000 visitors a year. It has already been rented out to film crews and for fashion shows. Writers like Victor Hugo, Gaston Leroux and Anne Rice have all drawn inspiration from the spooky network of tunnels.
Airbnb, which was launched in 2008 and now has some 40 million users worldwide, recently agreed to pay a tourist tax to Paris from each of its bookings in the city.
The website has raised the ire of traditional hotel chains who see it as a rival that flouts tax laws. The Paris town hall said the privatization of the Catacombs would "boost capital by finding new sources of revenue (and allow for) the preservation of this heritage site."