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 –


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