In modern times, you can find a stray cabaret or goth club in most modern metropolitan areas. But back in the late 19th century, your options were limited, albeit merrily deranged.

Paris of the 1890s had several supernatural nightlife options, each of them with marvelously outlandish gimmicks. In the 1899 book Bohemian Paris of To-Day by William Chambers Morrow and Édouard Cucuel, the authors visit several of the City of Lights darker drinking destinations, such as the Cabaret du Néant ("The Cabaret of Nothingness") in the neighborhood of Montmartre.

At this gothic nightspot, visitors pondered their own mortality as they drank on coffins and were served libations (named after diseases) by monks and funeral attendees. Recalls Morrow:

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Large, heavy, wooden coffins, resting on biers, were ranged about the room in an order suggesting the recent happening of a frightful catastrophe. The walls were decorated with skulls and bones, skeletons in grotesque attitudes, battle-pictures, and guillotines in action. Death, carnage, assassination were the dominant note, set in black hangings and illuminated with mottoes on death [...] Bishop said that he would be pleased with a lowly bock. Mr. Thompkins chose cherries a l'eau-de-vie, and I, une menthe.

"Drink, Macchabees!" he wailed: "drink these noxious potions, which contain thvilest and deadliest poisons!"

After slugging a few back in the Salle d'Intoxication, patrons moved on to the other rooms, where the hosts used the Pepper's Ghost illusion to make revelers melt away into skeletons. Sadly, this haunt didn't survive past World War II.


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But Cabaret du Néant wasn't the only creepy nightspot in Paris. Later in Bohemian Paris of To-day, Morrow described his evening at the Cabaret de l'Enfer ("The Cabaret of the Inferno"), a Satanically themed nightclub in Montmartre that abutted another cabaret. And according to the author's account, it was perhaps the trippiest hangout of La Belle Époque:

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Crevices in the walls of this room ran with streams of molten gold and silver, and here and there were caverns lit up by smouldering fires from which thick smoke issued, and vapors emitting the odors of a volcano. Flames would suddenly burst from clefts in the rocks, and thunder rolled through the caverns. Red imps were everywhere, darting about noiselessly, some carrying beverages for the thirsty lost souls, others stirring the fires or turning somersaults. Everything was in a high state of motion.

Once inside, the revelers witnessed a snake transform into a devil, were heckled by Satan, and were warned repeatedly of the scalding temperature. (To quote Morrow, "In spite of the half-molten condition of the rock-walls, the room was disagreeably chilly.")

Even though this venue isn't open today, it stuck around a while — that final photo depicts a police man standing outside the cabaret in 1952.

And right next door to the Cabaret de l'Enfer was Cabaret du Ciel ("The Cabaret of the Sky"), a divinely themed bar where Dante and Father Time greeted visitors and comely ladies dressed as angels pranced around teasing patrons. As Morrow recalled, the evening's entertainment was presided over by St. Peter himself, who anointed the boozy crowd:

None of these clubs are around nowadays, but you can read Bohemian Paris of To-Day at Archive.org. For a weird tippling spot of the modern day, see the Giger Bar, which is half-saloon, half-cocoon.

Via Silent Horror, Voyages Extraordinaires, Andreas Praefcke, Nicolar, Cool Things in Paris, Morbid Anatomy, Buttes Chaumont, and Long Forgotten.