79. The Living Dead in Paris during 1800-1900 CE
OCT. 19, 2023
Embrace the eerie as we venture into a special Halloween episode of HHE Podcast. Join Ryan as he transports you to 19th-century Paris, where you'll discover the chilling mystery of people who think they are dead, endure the tragic tale of a man lost in a bone-filled maze, and step into a theatre made infamous for its blood-curdling on-stage horrors. Spooky spooky spooky!
In this week’s spooky episode of HHE, we’re taking a Gaul-lish trip to the grand city of gastronomy and guillotines!
Nestled in the heart of the country that gave the world baguettes and berets, Paris is located in the north-central region of France. You’ll find it straddling the River Seine – arranged into 20 districts (called arrondissements), which spiral out clockwise from the centre and are home to over 14 million people.
Paris is not just the capital and most populous city in France, but also the cultural epicentre - and one of the most visited cities on Earth. And it's a relatively small city, spanning just 105 sq km, or 41 sq miles – which is roughly 6,000 Parises to a France.
Known for its iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum - it has two international airports, six major train stations, and a metro system that boasts 308 stations along 140 miles of track – which means that no matter where you are in Paris there is a metro station within just 500 meters.
French is the language, Christianity the religion, and the flag is divided equally with two vertical stripes of blue and red, in the middle of which is the city's coat of arms - a silver ship floating on the waves of the sea.
Paris doesn’t have its own official anthem, but if it were to have one, you could probably do no better than "La Vie en Rose" which echoes the cities spirit of love. Written and sung by Parisian-born Edith Piaf in 1945, it became a huge hit, selling over 30 million copies - one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Translated it means ‘Life is pink’, and is about the joy of living and the beauty of love. It is said that Piaf was inspired to write it after the sudden death of her partner, Marcel Cerdan, a French boxer who was killed in a plane crash. She recorded it in just one sitting and her emotional performance is said to be the reason for its success.
HALLOWEEN IN PARIS FACTS!
There is no ‘trick or treat’ in Paris. Paris, like much of France, doesn’t really celebrate Halloween , it’s generally seen as an overly commercial American event.
Instead, they celebrate La Toussaint, or All Saints Day, a day later on Nov 1st. But that doesn’t mean that Halloween is non-existent, and a few costumed kids will be knocking on doors, but they won’t be saying “trick-or-treat”, instead they say “des bonbons ou un sort!”, which means “candies or a spell!”
Watch out for vampires, clowns, and pirates!
The most popular Halloween costume sold and worn in Paris is the witch costume, followed by Spider-Man, fairies, rabbit ears, and ‘sexy cheerleader’
But there are some costumes that you ought to keep an eye out for. For example, in Paris, on Halloween, in 2012, a man dressed as a vampire approached a couple of tourists and stabbed them before running off.
Then in 2017, a man wearing a clown costume also attacked several local people with a knife.
And in 2019, a man dressed as a pirate left several people injured when he hit them with a sword, including a 13-year-old girl who was stabbed thru the arm.
You’ll be pleased to know that both the vampire and the pirate were caught and prosecuted - but you should keep an eye out for clowns - because this one was never caught and is still considered to be at large - so keep your eyes peeled in Paris this Halloween!
If you find yourself in Paris this Halloween, some of the best events are at Disneyland Paris or Parc Astérix, the theme park based on the world of the comic book gauls, Asterix and Obelix.
But if you want to do something a little different, then you might want to head to Père Lachaise Cemetery, which is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Paris, and the most visited cemetery in the world.
In fact, over 3.5 million visitors go every year – that’s half the amount that visit the Eiffel Tower. They go to see the winding cobblestone lanes and beautiful memorials, but most go on a pilgrimage to see a number of celebrities who are buried there.
People like Jim Morrison – lead singer of The Doors, Oscar Wilde – the Irish poet, playwright, and novelist, and of course Alan Rickman – the English actor perhaps most commonly known for his performances as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies.
Alternatively, if cemeteries are not your thing, you could make a visit to Le Musée des Vampires, a self-proclaimed ‘cabinet of curiosities’ dedicated to all things vampires.
And more relevant to this episode, if you head down to La Défense district you can take part in an outdoor zombie-themed game called ‘Zomb’in the Dark’ where teams of ‘Survivors’ try to avoid a team of ‘Zombies’ who lurk in the shadows trying to frighten the survivors for points!
History of Paris
After the last Ice Age, sometime around 10,000 years ago, a bunch of hunter-gatherers arrive in the region and do their thing, hunting and gathering.
Not much happens for thousands of years until the Iron Age rolls around, and a Celtic tribe known as the Parisii move into the area around 250 BCE.
They settle on the banks of the River Seine, build themselves a fishing village, and call it ‘Lutetia’.
A couple hundred years later, in 52 BCE, the Romans appear, and that does not go well for the Parisii, who are quickly conquered, and the area falls under the control of Julius Caesar.
Under Roman rule, the town is renamed ‘Lutecia Parisiorum’ and becomes an important centre of trade.
Eventually the Roman empire fades, and in the 6th century, Frankish king Clovis I, takes over the area, making it his capital city and officially naming it ‘Paris’. This marks the beginning of the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings who base themselves in Paris and rule over much of modern-day France and parts of Germany.
300 years later, in the 9th century, Vikings arrive, continuously attacking Paris until eventually they succeed in establishing settlements there.
In the 10th century, a guy called Hugh Capet is crowned the first King of France, and this starts the Capetian Dynasty which goes on to rule France for the next 800 years. During that period, Paris undergoes a significant facelift, and we see buildings like the Notre Dame Cathedral being built.
The Renaissance arrives in the 15th and 16th centuries, and Paris grows into a centre of art and learning.
Over the next couple of centuries, Paris is transformed yet again, most notably when King Louis XIV moves the royal court out of the city to a new home in Versailles.
By this time, everyday folk have grown tired of the disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor, and mob violence turns into organised warfare, culminating in the successful storming of La Bastille fortress on 14th July, 1789.
This officially kick-starts a wider French Revolution, which ends with the removal of the monarchy, and a new direction for France as a semi-presidential republic.
The 19th century (our time period), sees Paris undergo further significant changes, as Napoleon III sets his mind on reshaping the city to have grand monuments, like the Arc de Triomophe, and broad sweeping avenues like the Champs-Elysee.
But it’s not just city-planning that changed – because during the 1800s, Paris evolves into a centre for modern arts – with the development of avant-garde movements like Symbolism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau changing the artistic landscape.
Unfortunately, Paris suffers a lot of damage during the First World War, reviving itself only just in time for occupation by the Nazis during World War II.
Post-war, Paris finds it feet again, and by embracing it’s culture, promotes itself on the international stage as the capital city of romance, and tourists flock in from around the world to looking to chain lovelocks to the railings of bridges, propose to loved ones, and take sunset boat cruises along the river.
And that brings us to today, where we find Paris as a thriving city with a diverse and multicultural population. It is one of the world's most beloved and iconic metropolises, considered the global centre for art, culture, fashion, and cuisine.
And in 2024, all eyes will be on Paris when they play home to the Olympic Games, which is said to bring over 15 million spectators to the city, and an estimated 3.5 billion people watching on television.
The Living Dead
What do we mean by The Living Dead?
Today, it’s a phrase that has come to mean ‘zombies’ – those reanimated corpses that burst of graves, and shuffle around, mindlessly driven by an insatiable hunger for the living.
That’s the general understanding, but broadly speaking, the living dead actually refers to any deceased creature that returns back to life. So, yes, zombies are one of those, of course, but technically - so are vampires, mummies, ghosts, ghouls and Frankenstein’s monster, that sort of thing.
Basically, it refers to anything which is physically dead but is still able to move around like it’s alive.
And it’s not a new concept, the idea of corpses and spirits rising from the grave has been a part of folklore and mythology for thousands of years, with one of the earliest known versions appearing in the Mesopotamian novel ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, where a goddess uses magic to resurrect her deceased husband.
In medieval Europe, we see stories of demons possessing corpses and bringing the dead back to haunt the living. Then in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the industrial revolution introduces startling new advances in technology, we find novels like Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ using science as the method for reanimating the dead.
But, as explorers started to travel the world, they started to meet exotic new peoples in faraway places like Haiti and West Africa who appeared to bring back corpses through magic and voodoo.
These stories made their way into pulp magazines, comic books, and monster movies of the 1930s, 40s and 50s – before gradually evolving away from voodoo to more contemporary things, like radiation, or the spread of a virus.
And this all culminated in the 1968 movie ‘Night of the Living Dead’ by director George A. Romero which released to huge success, and has largely shaped the modern archetype of the zombie that we’re familiar with today – reanimated corpses that are driven by primal hunger, lack intelligence, and can only be killed by shooting or stabbing them in the head.
Sequels and spin-offs have since driven the zombie legend into the mainstream, culminating in the huge success of The Walking Dead franchise, which has so far seen a comic-book run that lasted from 2003 to 2019, a tv series which ran for 11 seasons, five spin-off shows, as well video games, novels, and webisodes.
In fact, one of the spin-off shows called ’The Walking Dead: Darryl Dixon’ is relevant for this episode, because it is set in Paris with French zombies for the hero to kill.
But for today’s episode, while I’d like to bring you tales of 19th century Parisian citizens stabbing zombies in the head with stale baguettes – sadly, no such events occurred, and as such, I have had to think laterally, and will instead bring you some terrifying stories that related to ‘The Living Dead’.
Our first case of The Living Dead in Paris during the 19th century, starts in 2008 in the Philippines!
A 53-year-old woman, known only as Ms L., is admitted to hospital after her family drop her off, telling a doctor there that she’s not behaving normally, refusing to eat and drink.
The doctor asks Ms L why she’s not eating or drinking and she simply tells them that there’s no point in her eating or drinking anymore because, as a dead person, she doesn’t need to do that anymore.
Confused, the doctor asks how she knows that she is dead, and Ms L tells them that she can smell her body decomposing – and so, would like to be taken to the morgue so she can be with other dead people.
And so, the doctor investigated the dead woman’s case, and found that Ms L’s history of depression and anxiety had triggered a condition known as Cotard's Delusion.
She was given a course of therapy and medication and eventually recovered to the point where she finally agreed she wasn’t dead and was sent back home.
Now, the story of Ms L might seem unusual, but this kind of extreme delusion - where people think they are genuinely dead - is not unique to her. In fact, Cotard’s Delusion is known to affect an estimated 1 in 200,000 people and it only came to light thanks to a French doctor called, Jules Cotard, who at a meeting of the Medical-Psychological Society in Paris on the 28th June 1880, first described the condition, which he called, "Le délire des negations" or "the delirium of negation".
Basically, it described a mental state whereby those affected had false beliefs and delusions about themselves and their body, specifically, the denial of one’s own existence.
To highlight his findings, Cotard described the case of a 43-year-old Parisian woman who came to him believing that she had no brain, nerves or chest - and in fact was made up only entirely of skin and bone.
He said that the onset of her delusions came from a “sudden kind of internal creaking in her back that affected her head”, after which she believed she was dead, and would live forever on Earth as an eternal being.
It was through examining this woman, that he was able to outline the condition, suggesting that any patient who presented with symptoms including a denial of their bodily organs, having the feeling of immortality or denial of the reality of the world’s existence would likely have ‘Delirium of Negation’.
He said that it affects women more commonly than men, usually between the ages of 30 to 50, and that cases would most often be found in patients with psychotic disorders, especially those that have a preoccupation with guilt, despair and death.
He said that some hear voices telling them they're dead, while others just believe that parts of their body are missing, and some think that nothing exists at all.
All of them, he said, are at severe risk of harming themselves.
He did point out however that while the symptoms are extreme, most people get better with treatment, with most cases responding better to electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) than any drugs or medication.
Following this presentation, which was said to have been received with ‘stunned silence’, the condition started to be used by doctors across France to diagnose patients. And by the time it appeared in the book, ‘Brain and Mental Diseases’, which was published after his death in 1891, the syndrome soon became internationally recognised as Cotard’s Delusion or ‘Walking Corpse Syndrome’.
When Julius Caesar and his Roman army conquered Paris in 52 BCE, they immediately started to transform it into a classic Roman city, with forums, baths, temples, and arenas all linked by paved roads.
But this required a lot of building materials, so rather than importing vast amounts of stone, they decided to dig out the most common material in the area – limestone. And they did this on a vast scale – digging out a quarried network of tunnels underneath the city that were so vast they spread out like a maze over literally hundreds of miles.
But eventually the Roman Empire ended and the quarries were abandoned.
Years later, in the 18th century, the city was now a bustling metropolis, with half a million people living and working on top of the ancient quarries.
But Paris faced a problem.. well, two problems. The cemeteries were full, literally they were overflowing with corpses, the result of which was outbreaks of disease that just added to the cemetery problem. Also, sime of the old Roman tunnels were starting to collapse, causing buildings to fall in which of course endangered lives and added to the cemetery problem.
A solution was sought to solve both problems – and soon a clever plan was devised to move the contents of the cemeteries into the empty tunnels under the city, the thinking being that this would free up space in the cemeteries and give a reason to reinforce the tunnels.
And so, starting in 1786, nightly processions of wagons began to transfer the remains from nearly all of Paris' cemeteries (roughly 7 million people’s bones) into the tunnels under the city.
Originally, the skulls and bones were just left in piles, but later on people started to organize them into vast walls of bones that ran in all directions throughout the tunnels. And thus, the old Roman quarries were renamed ‘the catacombs’ - but known to the citizens of Paris as "The Empire of the Dead".
These Catacombs are still there today, just feet under the surface of the city. Sections of them are open to the public and if you visit Paris, you might want to become one of the 500,000 tourists who go on a guided tour every year.
But otherwise, the incredible danger of wandering around in the catacombs means that, outside of organised visits, they’re officially out of bounds – with the entrances locked, blocked and just generally off limits to people going in.
But that doesn’t stop some determined folks who still go down there for thrills and insta-opportunities. In fact, they’ve gained something of a hot-spot reputation as a popular hang-out place for edgy teenagers and thrill seekers who like to go exploring in unusual places.
It’s an incredibly dangerous place to visit though - and a number of unlucky souls have found themselves essentially buried alive – trapped underground and facing their demise.
A type of horror which actually inspired the earliest use of the phrase "the living dead". Written in 1843, by American poet and novelist, Edgar Allen Poe, the short story ‘The Premature Burial’, features a narrator who finds himself buried alive, unable to escape, suffocated, hopeless, and surrounded by the spirits of the damned.
“A thick darkness enveloped me, and I could hear nothing save the beating of my own heart. I tried to move my limbs, but they were stiff and powerless—a cold sweat stood upon my brow—and I felt that the blood had congealed in my veins. I was buried in the grave, and in the agonies of the living dead.”
And with that horrible thought in mind, I’m now going to tell you the true story of a man who was forced to face this torture, a man who is considered to be the first known person to have died in the Parisian catacombs.
It is a story of skin-crawling terror – and you have been warned!
It’s 1793, and that means we are in the middle of the French Revolution. It’s the year which has seen the execution of King Louis 16th by guillotine, and the dawn of a new French Republic.
The fighting is not yet over though, and that means wounded and dying soldiers needing medical attention.
One of the more notable military hospitals in Paris is an old converted abbey called the Val-de-Grâce, and one of the hospital’s employees at this time is 61-year old Philibert Aspairt.
He’s a doorkeeper, responsible for controlling access to the hospital, opening and closing gates - generally ensuring security by allowing authorised personnel on-site.
We don’t know anything about his earlier life, but we do know that on the 3rd November, Philibert decided to go down into the catacombs, and that he never returned.
We don’t really know exactly what happened to Philibert during his time in the catacombs, but armed with some facts that I could find, I sought out some expert advice.
I gave all the information to a retired detective and a medical pathologist (who asked to remain anonymous), and together they’ve been able to recreate a hypothetical view of what might have happened in his final days… and so, we begin…
It’s early November in the Val-de-Grace hospital. Philibert overhears a conversation about a rumour of hidden booze being stored in the catacombs beneath a nearby convent.
As the days pass, Philibert obsesses about this hidden treasure of illicit alcohol and starts thinking about going down into the catacombs to steal it.
That brings us to Day 1:
It’s a cold November evening and Philibert is working alone on the night shift. It’s a particularly busy night, and he’s stressed and exhausted. Suddenly there’s a lull at the hospital, and Philibert takes the decision to make his move.
He heads to the hospital courtyard where he knows there is an entrance to the catacombs. He uses his key to open the gate, and not wanting to get caught, he covers his tracks by closing the gate behind him and locking it tightly.
He takes out a candle, lights it, and begins his journey down a flight of steps into the dark. As he makes his way through the labyrinthine tunnels the promise of booze pushes him further, and with every corner, he convinces himself that he is getting closer.
Hours pass, and eventually Philibert realises that the winding corridors are all starting to look the same – the dim light from his candle casting eerie shadows on walls lined with bones.
More time passes, and as the wax of his candle slowly drips away, Philibert begins to consider that he needs to get back above ground before it goes out.
So, he turns around and heads back down the tunnels he came through, picking up pace as the candle gets lower.
Eventually, the candle now just a small nub between his fingers, starts to sputter, and the realisation hits him like a brick that he’s about to be plunged into darkness and has no clue which direction to go.
Anxiety spikes, and he starts to breathe rapidly as his heart rate thumps. He rushes through the tunnels, turning left and right at random, desperately trying to find anything which looks familiar - but at every turn the catacombs seem identical, with walls of bones and chambers of skulls welcoming him to their Empire of the Dead.
And then.. to his horror.. the candle goes out..
Now encased in utter darkness, hours pass by like days. Philibert stumbles forward, walking with his hands in front of him, groping the walls to try and find anything which might lead to an exit.
As he presses his hands against one wall he feels water seeping down from the ceiling, and desperately thirsty, he presses his lips to the wall and sips at the thin layer of moisture to quench his thirst.
Having drunk the water, he feels renewed energy and continues on down the tunnels with confidence – after all, the exit must be around here somewhere, right?
But by the evening, bacteria from the water reaches his intestines and he winces at the first signs of stomach cramps. Shock and exhaustion sets in and he decides to rest, slumping down, with his back against a limestone wall.
His stomach growls and nausea has set in, so sleep is hard to find. This is made worse by the fact that the human internal biological clock is regulated in part by exposure to light, and without light cues, Philibert's sleep cycle is now horribly disrupted.
He eventually manages only several hours of light sleep before insomnia kicks in and he is just sitting there in the dark full of dreadful thoughts.
So, he decides to press on, but not before he is hit by explosive vomitting and diarrhoea, as his body rejects the tainted wall water.
With shaking hands, he cleans himself up as best he can, and stumbles on into the dark. But several hours of leaning against a cold limestone wall has caused Philibert to start shivering, and early hypothermia has set in.
Further bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea throughout the day add to his woes, and as the oppressive darkness truly sinks in, he is pushed to despair, falling to his knees, yelling, sobbing and begging for help.
As night falls on the third day, Philibert again tries to rest, but his sleep is disturbed by the unmistakable sound of rats. They keep their distance, but the rats, a constant need to go to the toilet, and the ever-present cold, stops him from truly falling asleep and for the second night in a row he manages just a few short bouts of fitful sleep
Days 4 and 5:
Philibert wakes to hunger pains, and a migraine-level headache thanks to dehydration, as he walks along the tunnels he finds more seeping water and his incredible thirst makes him drink more.
But this just aggravates his already explosive issues, and with the cold now reaching his body core, Philibert's energy levels plummet. He finds it hard to keep his arms raised as he stumbles forward in the dark, his feet become heavy and he trips and falls constantly - on more than one occasion finding the wall with his face on the way down.
Eventually he slumps to the floor and passes out.
The rats, sensing weakness, start to come closer.
Philibert spends the next few hours in unconsciousness, and wakes to find himself surrounded by several rats.. he shoos them away and gets to his feet.
Day 6 and 7:
All of Philibert’s diarrhoea and vomiting has now caused him extreme dehydration, and along with the prolonged exposure to darkness, Philibert’s brain, deprived of visual stimuli, starts generating images of its own, leading Philibert to hallucinate shapes and shadows, possibly of skeletons shuffling around him.
With what energy he has left, Philibert lays on the ground sobbing.
And as he lays there in a semi-conscious state, the rats grow bolder, nipping at his exposed skin.
The pain and fear generates a rush of adrenaline and with a burst of anger he bellows into the dark, swinging his arms and legs at the rats all around him.
Day 8 to 10:
Hunger, dehydration, and hypothermia have now completely taken over and Philibert's condition deteriorates rapidly.
No longer able to move beyond pitifully dragging himself along the floor, the rats sense their opportunity and become more aggressive, biting small chunks out of his body.
Weakness prevents him from fighting back, and as Philibert closes his eyes for the final time, blood seeps out of the bites and he slowly loses consciousness.
And that brings us to our time period, 11 years later, in 1804
Several servicemen enter the catacombs in Gennevilliers, a suburb just outside of Paris.
As they step down into the tunnel, about 15 foot from the entrance, their lamps fall on a bundle of rags on the floor.
Not much of Philibert was left, in fact he was only identified by the buttons on his jacket and a key ring on his belt. In his time within the catacombs he had walked over seven miles from the Val-de-Grace hospital to his final resting place in Gennevilliers.
A decision was taken to bury him where he was found, and a stone marker was placed over his grave. It reads:
“In the memory of Philibert Aspairt, lost in this excavation on 3 November 1793; found eleven years later and buried at the same place on 30 April 1804”
And if you wish to pay your respects, you can visit his tomb today, it’s located in the catacombs under the rue Henri Barbusse, next to the boulevard Saint-Michel.
But just don’t go in alone - because you don't want to end up like Philibert - lost and confused, a dead man walking in the Empire of the Dead!
THEATRE DU GRAND GUIGNOL
Born in Tours, France, on the 1st March, 1859, Oscar Méténier spent much of his early years reading and writing.
After moving to Paris in his early twenties, he quickly gravitated to the world of literature and drama, writing a series of well-received (but not necessarily ground--breaking) plays and novels.
But that all changed as he started to develop a darker sensibility, choosing to write less about the aristocracy and more about people on the fringes of society instead – outcasts like prostitutes, criminals and street urchins.
Unsurprisingly, the darker tone of these plays about the Parisian underbelly were received warmly by people who were interested to see what life was like at the bottom of the social ladder – but for others, the plays were seen as too provocative and controversial, and as a result many of his new plays faced censorship or even being banned altogether.
This obviously frustrated Oscar, and so, determined to have the freedom to produce work without the interference of others, he decided to start his own theatre.
And so, he set out and bought himself a former chapel in the Pigalle district, and turned it into a venue that could showcase his work.
The theatre was small, the smallest in Paris in fact, with a maximum capacity of just under 300 people, but this was perfect for Oscar, because he thought it brought audiences closer to the action on stage.
And so, in 1897, the Theatre du Grand Guignol opened its doors.
The name "Grand-Guignol" referring to Guignol, a French puppet character, who was recognised as a symbol of outrageous entertainment. And this was certainly prescient.. because his darker plays about death and murder, quickly garnered the theatre a reputation as the only place in Paris to see shocking and disturbing plays.
Unsurprisingly, people flocked to come see them, selling the venue out almost every night.
But as time went on, and people grew accustomed to the shocking material, Oscar found himself having to write increasingly explicit and gruesome plays.
The themes of the plays shifted away from prostitutes and urchins, and focused instead on narratives about insanity and the supernatural, each with more explicit and extreme violence.
And to maintain a sense of reality to the performances, Oscar invested heavily in elaborate special effects that could realistically show gore and violence on stage, with audiences being shocked by eye-gouging, dismemberment, torture, and live "dissections" .
In fact, after only a year, Oscar felt the theatre had strayed so far from his initial ideas that he hired another director, a man called Max Maurey to take over from him.
And this was a shift which saw the theatre move even deeper into the production of horror – with Max saying that the success of each performance could only be measured by the number of audience members who passed out from shock; the minimum for each performance, being two.
And audiences really couldn’t believe their eyes, rumours started to circulate that the violence on-stage was actually real, a type of ‘snuff-play’ where actors were truly being tortured or murdered and that their ghosts now haunt the building!
All of which contributed to making the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol hugely popular, with audiences desperate to endure the disturbing but thrilling performances. One reviewer of the time described a performance like this:
“On the tiny stage, dislocated bodies, torn limbs, madmen escaped from the asylum, and bloodthirsty hystericals, play with the nerves of the audience who are fascinated and disgusted at the same time”
In fact, the horror shows were so intense that Max had to introduce what he called "hot and cold showers", where short comedy plays would have to be performed between the horror plays to provide the audience with a moment of respite.
And it wasn’t just the horror that got people going either, some plays were considered so sexually arousing that it wasn’t uncommon for actors to break character mid-scene to yell at lusty audience members to stop servicing themselves and their partners!
Anyway, the Grand-Guignol Theatre continued producing plays until the 1960s when eventually it closed, but during it’s time it produced over 1,500 plays. Plays like A Crime in a Madhouse, where two women in an asylum become jealous of another prettier inmate and use scissors to cut out her eyes, The Horrible Passion, about a nanny who strangles the children in her care, The Laboratory of Hallucinations, which features a doctor who finds his wife's lover in his operating room, and decides to perform brain surgery on him, rendering him a zombie, but who then gets his revenge by hammering a chisel into the doctor's brain and of course, finally, to round out our Halloween special.. in 1898, the Grand Guignol theatre produced a play written by André de Lorde, called: ‘Les Morts-Vivants’ – or, in English.. ‘The Living Dead’.
And so there we go.. ‘The Living Dead’ really was a thing in Paris during the 19th Century!