In Anne Rice’s seminal 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, she introduced the concept of the Théâtre des Vampires, or Theater of the Vampires, a place where ancient immortals would perform Gothic cabaret shows for an unsuspecting Parisian audience, who had no idea they were paying real vampires to do their ghoulish business on stage. One of the inspirations for these theaters was the vampire theater craze that swept Europe in the 19th century, but now photos have surfaced of some other locations that might have inspired Rice back in the day.
In Paris of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, several Gothic-style nightclubs opened up, possibly the most popular of which was the Cabaret de L ’Enfer, or Cabaret of Hell. Le Cabaret de L’Enfer was an underworld-themed café in Paris’ red light district, the same neighborhood as the infamous Moulin Rouge. Although its heyday was seemingly in the 1920s, it seems it was opened up at some point in the late 19th century.
Though it was known to operate for several decades, there seems to be no firm record of when the Cabaret opened or when it closed, or even who owned it. Right next door to the Cabaret de L’Enfer was Cabaret Ciel, or “Cabaret of Heaven”, which included fluffy clouds and angels everywhere. You tell me which one sounds more fun.
Also popular at that time was the Cabaret du Neant, or Cabaret of Nothingness. Opening first during the 1890s, the Cabaret du Néant kind of sounds like the world’s first theme restaurant. After entering the Cabaret, patrons followed a “monk” down a blackened hall to a café with candles on coffin-shaped tables where they could order drinks from waiters in funeral garb, all while bells tolled and a funeral march played, and ghoulish stage acts were performed. This nightclub also vanished, sometime before or shortly after World War II.
I’m not sure what has taken over the locations of these fabulous nightclubs, but I’m terrified to look in case it’s another Starbucks or Sephora. I wish some eccentric millionaire would take it upon themselves to bring back these amazing nightclubs. It would make for the ideal Halloween destination.
You can check out some more amazing vintage photographs of these wild Gothic nightspots in our gallery below.