Bohemians at Large in Paris!

The Crime of Backwards Vandalism

How dare they trespass on public property and fix things!

The Paris Pantheon is a sacred monument for the heritage and history of France, a resting place of it’s greatest heroes and most brilliant academic minds. Recently it was also the scene of a crime, at least according to the assistant administer at the time.

I’d be edgy too if someone put me in charge of this thing. It looks very expensive and easy to break.

Back in 2006 the Pantheon’s administrator and his assistant were confronted by a group of ruffians who called themselves Untergunther. The group brashly admitted to invading this national treasure after hours, squatting within it’s confines, and secretly tampering with one of the priceless relics it contained – namely a vintage clock that had been silent for fifty years.

They claimed to have restored the annoying thing which would now require winding and regular maintenance . . . With an already stretched budget, methinks management was not in a position to spend any resources on a thing not even worth mentioning on the tours.

and to your right . . . oh nevermind that’s nothing.

The Administrator was reportedly thrilled, hearing of how these intrepid rogues hid in the building until closing time, and let themselves out through some carelessly unlocked doors. Doors that would grant them passage night after night, until they got a hold of copied keys.

They explored the place from top to bottom – going where no visitors were allowed and no doubt touching things with their unwashed peasant hands.

They soon laid claim to a forgotten chamber just above the ceiling of the pantheon’s famous dome. Here they set up shop, creating a hideout worthy of childhood fantasies. Complete with electricity and internet access, this secret workshop housed a library, and easy chairs that could be folded into unassuming crates should suspicious eyes gaze in.

Also smuggled into this annex was an expert who specialized in antique clocks. He soon discovered why the unrenowned Wagner Clock had stopped functioning.

Apparently someone had taken a crow-bar to its escapement wheel back in the sixties – perhaps a former employee. An electric mechanism had replaced the damaged gears, but that too was deliberately sabotaged. Clearly some one had it in for this hapless time piece.

After dismantling and washing out the rusted works one part at a time, and repairing the damaged wheel, the group removed all evidence of their presence in the building. The only proof being their story, and the newly restored clock.

Naturally the authorities feared for the Pantheon’s security should it’s extreme ineffectiveness became common knowledge. Not surprisingly the current administrator was soon replaced by his more level-headed  assistant, who had a better grasp of law’s letter – if not it’s spirit.

Weeks went by as the group smugly awaited a demonstration of it’s achievement. Fearing their work was for naught they sneaked in once more, on one of the few days the building was closed.

Bells that had not rang in decades chimed on Christmas morning, filling the deserted interior of the neoclassical cathedral.

To the newly promoted assistant, arriving after his vacation, this tick-tocking present was less welcome than a pair of moldy socks. It meant the backwards vandals had struck again.

An expert was hired to return the clock to it’s deteriorating state and Untergunther was taken to court.

Attempts to Sue them however, proved that they hadn’t technically broken any laws – though changes have been made since. It also turns out that trespassing on public property and fixing things is a hard case to sell to a Judge.

The clock itself was only carefully disconnected. The escapement wheel removed. The expert hired to unfix the thing probably never had a request like that in his life and was understandably confused.

You want me to do what now? Break it? couldn’t you just do that yourself?

Unterguther claims it has successfully stolen the wheel from the administrator’s office and plans to try it’s little caper again. Rumor has it they are still going about their business literally over the heads of the Paris Pantheon’s appointed staff.

 Images courtesy of Wikipedia and this flicker account –

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23339804@N00/6014140483/

 

There is also a lot more to the Untergunther story. Dig deeper here –

http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2011/04/unlocking-the-mystery-of-paris-most-secret-underground-society/

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Bohemians at Large in Paris!

  1. Thomas says:

    You can also read this article from Wired Magazine
    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/01/ff_ux/all/1

    And see others in english and french on the Untergunther press site
    http://ugwk.org

  2. What a most interesting Story Rastelly, Its obvious though they have never seen the Movie “Pay it Forward!” or they wouldn’t have looked a Gift horse in the mouth and Kicked it in the teeth…
    It is amazing to me how those who hold such positions cannot make judgements based on good intent.. and see Their Building as THEIR property and not belonging to the Public… Is it any wonder this world is as it is…. We even distrust Good Intent.. and make it against the law to do good..
    One Day… One Day my friend, the world will have to open its eyes.. And see what it has become!… no longer do we Share…. We Hold onto everything with Greed saying this is ours, Mine, and is it any wonder when we Fear so much .. That then that fear comes into being, and it is taken.. We manifest our very thoughts into being…
    If we could all Pay it forward, and give…. just a little back what a different world we would then create.

    Wishing you a Good Weekend R… with Love……. ~Sue xx
    Excellent post by the way and enjoyed the read……… xxx

    • rastelly says:

      I think it bothered them that just anyone could have gotten in.
      A terrorist might have planted bombs in the building as easily
      as they were able to get in – however this is more a testiment
      to the pantheon’s own lack of viligence. As well as secretly
      helping them, this group also proved how ill-prepared the
      pantheon’s security was to prevent a potential catastrophe
      – and clearly little has been done to remidy this – perhaps the
      funds simply are not there – perhaps these cultural guerillas
      are also telling an unplesent truth. Lets hope their continued
      presence in the building helps prevent less well intentioned
      groups from following in their footsteps – after all – protecting
      their heritige by cutting through red tape seems to be their
      mission statment.

      perhaps now the building will be kept safer because of their
      antics.

  3. munchow says:

    What a strange little story this is. And the end, even stranger, if it ends with the authorities actually disconnecting the clock again. Or maybe Untergunther really gives it a second try. That they were able to set up shop in the pantheon is quite remarkable. Thanks for sharing the story.

    • rastelly says:

      Your welcome. I’m always on the lookout for more of these.
      There are so many interesting stories like this all over the
      net. I’m hopeing to collect them all in one place and post
      links.

  4. this was just amazing rebecca! loved it. how could they manage it day after day?

  5. rastelly says:

    They also supposedly built a movie theater in the catacombs below paris. The athorities investigated the rumers and found only a large empty room and a note with the words “Do not search.”

    The group is rumered to contain people as old as ninety and
    children as young as eleven. They associate with an all female
    “Infilteration unit” called “Mouse House.”

    Most of their projects involve restoring decomishioned bomb shelters and forgotten subway stations in the tunnels below paris – they want
    to preserve their cities’ hidden history.

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