Over this last summer, my family and I drove from one end of the continent to another. Along the way we stopped at the Little Big Horn, where some of my children (and Lacey) had no idea as to what had happened there. It added 16 hours to our trip.
While driving across Missouri I detoured us two hours out of the way to drive through the small speck of a town called Centralia. Why did I subject my family to another two hours on the road when they had already been in the car for twice that long? Because I had written a paper on the event, and I wanted to see the landscape for myself.
And that is what I think is the difference between the various kinds of dark tourism. If you go to gawk at the death and mutilation, the horror and the death, then you’re a terrible person, and you probably deserve to have bad things happen to you. The same goes for tourist companies who promote that sort of ghoulish entertainment (like the people who say “come to Tombstone and watch the gunfight at the O.K. Corral”). But if you are interested in an event, or the history of a place, or any of those other “good” reasons Walter mentioned in his article (information, remembrance, education, memento mori) then it is my belief that visiting the place is, in some ways, the same as any other primary source.