Hang Out at the Morgue

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That Time when Parisians Used to Hang Out at the Morgue for Fun

 

Some thirty thousand people visit the Notre Dame de Paris everyday, but little-known to tourists or even to the Parisians that pass by it on their daily commute, there was once a much more popular yet sinister attraction that shared a backyard with the historic cathedral, capable of luring up to 40,000 visitors in a single day. That attraction was the Paris Morgue.

 

 

There aren’t many other ways to describe the Paris Morgue during the 19th century other than as a place of entertainment, for Parisians and tourists alike. Conveniently located behind the Notre Dame on the southern tip of the Ile de la Cité, built in 1864, the original purpose of the morgue was of course not to attract tourism but to identify unknown bodies found in the city; many that had been fished out of the Seine or suicides that no one had reported missing. Their unfortunate remains were displayed on slanted marble tables behind glass, inviting friends and families to claim the deceased. Word of the morbid (and free) exhibition of dead bodies quickly spread, and soon the morgue became a fixture on the Parisian social circuit, enticing the curiosity of men, women, even children from all social backgrounds, who would visit regularly, filing past the grisly display, providing themselves with at least a week’s worth of fresh gossip on the possible identities of the corpses and causes of death.

 

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