Dark Tourism

I go to places of death on different occasions due to the fact that I am a military historian but did not realize that this kind of tourism had a name. Dark tourism seems to be a major part of history tours in general from battlefields, prisons, prisoner of war camps, and even sanitariums. The celebration of death is also used in religious and public domains to make money as well as remember heritage. The day of the dead in Mexico is one such event others include frozen dead guy days in Nederland Colorado where the community comes together to raise funds to keep a frozen Norwegian guy frozen each year around March per his wishes. Each major place or event surrounding dark tourism is linked with media. Documentaries or TV specials give insight into these dark places by passing on the story or tragedy of the event or place to the wider public. “There is a close link between the media and dark tourism. I can visit Auschwitz, or I can watch a documentary about it on TV. I can visit First World War battlefields, or I can read a novel about their pity and their pain. I can visit the site of the battle of Culloden, or watch a re-enactment of it in a TV docu-drama.”[1] The dead have a huge impact on our society because much can be learned geologically and archeologically by the remains. Disease or malnourishment can be concluded through testing of remains and historical sites to give the public a glimpse of what life might be like back in those days.

The problem with some of dark tourism is that it can take away from the site due to its draw of being haunted. Haunted tours are big business in the Southern United States in most historical cities such as Savanah, Georgia, St. Augustine, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina. I have been on some of these ghost tours and they give good history mixed with ghost tails. The problem is I am normally more focused on the history and could care less about the ghost parts. I am different when it comes to the majority of people who go on these tours because they are more interested in the ghosts. My question is does the ghost tours make the historical place of death easier for the general public to swallow then just saying it was place of immense death? If treating a prison or pow camp like a Halloween haunted warehouse make the public more accepting of the deaths that occurred there? When I went to Andersonville civil war prison camp that place made emotionally sad and somber. I feel that how it should be going to place like that, I would feel the same way when I go to Auschwitz Birkenau. Dark tourism can be a useful tool to pass on dark horrific history of large amounts of deaths so that the general public can better digest it. I feel some places that is not acceptable and should be uncomfortable and treated more like shrines and cemeteries. They should be respected and should make the public have a sad emotional response. The Holocaust museum is a prime example of this, you should feel sad and even horrified by the actions of peoples and countries exterminating large population of people.


[1]R. Sharpley & P. Stone, eds The Darker Side of Travel: the theory and practice of dark tourism, Bristol: Channel View Publications, 2009.


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