“Bienvenue to the bowels of Paris,” reads Airbnb’s advert inviting people to spend Halloween with six million skeletons in the world’s largest grave.
The website has opened a competition for two people to sleep in the Paris catacombs, which have a “real bed” but, perhaps unsurprisingly, no ensuite, television, internet or tea and coffee making facilities.
The winners will get the chance to explore the subterranean labyrinth as well as being served dinner while enjoying a private concert.
“Before bedtime, a storyteller will have you spellbound with fascinating tales from the catacombs, guaranteed to produce nightmares,” Airbnb’s description reads.
“Finally, enjoy dawn with the dead, as you become the only living person ever to wake up in the Paris catacombs.”
Breakfast will be served the next morning and costs of the return trip to Paris will be covered for winners from outside France.
Contestants must write an essay describing why they are brave enough to spend the night in the catacombs before midnight on 20 October, which will be judged on creativity and “spirit”.
But entrants should pay attention to the 2,400 words of terms and conditions, which ask people to “respect the tranquillity of their Parisian neighbours, living and dead”, and remember their toothbrush and pyjamas.
Under-18s are barred from entering, as are residents of Crimea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, and anyone with a medical condition that might “spoil their experience” in the dank tunnels.
Critics accused the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, of “desecrating the catacombs” in exchange for the reported fee of €300,000 (£220,000).
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the head of the right-wing opposition on the city council, wrote a letter saying her group “deplored” the rental to Airbnb and the fact it was not considered by the Council of Paris as a “question of morality”.
The letter cited article 16-1-1 of the French capital’s city code, which stipulates that “the respect due to the human body does not cease with death”.
The mayor responded by saying the fee would be used for renovation works and the preservation of the catacombs, Le Figaro reported.
The eerie attraction, which dates back to the 18th Century when remains were transferred from overflowing and diseased graveyards, is visited by more than 500,000 tourists every year.
The caverns and tunnels stretch for 1.2 miles 20 metres underground, in historical limestone quarries, and were gradually filled with stacks of skeletons and bodies.
A maximum of 200 people are usually allowed to explore at one time.
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