Located in Columbus, Ohio, Catacombs nightclub was a delightful pocket of horrors. Opened in August 1940 by the hotelier Albert Pick, the venue was presented as 300 feet underground. Guests entered by an “elevator” which, while not moving at all, was shaken about so as to appear to descend that distance.

The catacombs had a horror theme replete with fake skeletons and mummified bodies in chains. Chains clanked, spider webs hung from the ceiling, the roof dripped, and unseen bodies shrieked and wailed. Catacombs also featured an aptly named “Nut House,” presided over by Marcus the Mad Magician, perpetrating all manner of practical jokes on thrilled patrons.

Shortly after the club opened, LIFE magazine sent photographer Ralph Morse to record a typical evening’s entertainments. According to LIFE, Catacombs success was “instantaneous and immense.”  But that success was short-lived; less than a year later, in July 1941, the club closed. History does not relate why. Catacombs was sealed off for good.

Not all of LIFE’s readers enjoyed the article. One wrote in: “What type of decadent perverted minds, what sort of people, can find pleasure in mocking the bones of those who have died before them? For they too must pass through the dark gates of Death. Bad taste and sordid vulgarity have reached their nadir in Columbus Ohio”.

Here you can see the photos taken by the magazine:

Plaster skulls and skeletons at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A young man, dressed as a skeleton, posing with plaster skulls and skeletons at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The keeper of the tombs sitting near a skeleton wrapped in burlap at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A woman becoming frightened at the sight of skeletons at the Catacombs nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A cigarette girl carrying plaster skulls on her tray at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A lady standing above an underground skeleton at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A woman throwing the crumbs from the tablecloth onto the floor at the Catacombs nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A waitress trhowing peanuts into the face of a customer at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A candle lighting the room filled with plaster skulls at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A woman feeling the skeleton wrapped in tattered burlap at the Catacombs nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A woman looking at a plaster skull in the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A gag waiter cutting the sleeve off a guest's shirt at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A magician pulling a rabbit out of a man's jakcet at the Catacombs Nightclub.  (Photo by Ralph Morse/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Source: Mashable

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