The Undead of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

Informant Data:

The informant is a 19-year old American student who was born in Santa Monica, California in 1996. She’s lived in Los Angeles County all her life with the exception of when she lived in Paris between late August 2014 and mid December 2014. Her father’s ancestry is American as far as back as the founding of the Plymouth Colony in 1621 (but before that, the family is originally from England), and her mother’s ancestry is Romanian. She is a freshman at the University of Southern California and thus currently resides in Los Angeles, California.


Contextual Data:

Over lunch, I was talking to my informant about her experiences in Paris for the first semester of the school year. My informant eventually began talking about a strange ballet teacher she had in Paris, and when I asked what was so strange about the teacher, she told me about one of the teacher’s belief in a legend about the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. She also mentioned how the teacher freaked her out so much that for some time my informant believed the teacher.

I asked my informant why she thought the legend impacted her and she responded that there is something about she supposes that there’s just something about cemeteries that makes it feel creepy enough that something like the dead coming alive at the Père Lachaise Cemetery could happen.



(Audio recording transcribed)

“Somebody told me that the Père Lachaise Cemetery is haunted by all the dead writers that rest there. And if you go there at night on Halloween, weird stuff happens like their ghosts come and talk to you and then try to kill you. They’re evil…well, only on Halloween they’re evil. And they’re always alive at night, but they’re only evil on Halloween.”



This folk belief would likely be one that only those who live in Paris or have visited Paris would only know about. There seems to be a sort of underlying sense that the people who believe in this folk belief want to keep the dead famous writers who lived in Paris alive in their memory, which seems to speak to a desire to honor the writers in albeit a strange way. Also tied to this belief is the idea that Halloween is a night of the dead coming alive, which brings to mind how this belief might have perhaps come from other traditions in the world like the Celtic tradition of Winter’s Eve, a day on which it was believed the dead would come back to Earth to kill people and take over their bodies.