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Copyright: Philip R.Stone – Editor, The Dark Tourism Forum (2005). Managing Dark Tourism Attractions & Exhibitions. Shades of Dark Tourism Exploring the Dark Tourism Product - Part One.

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managing dark tourism attractions exhibitions

Copyright: Philip R.Stone – Editor, The Dark Tourism Forum (2005)

Managing Dark Tourism Attractions & Exhibitions

  • Shades of Dark Tourism
  • Exploring the Dark Tourism Product -
  • Part One

Death, Disaster & the Macabre – Discover more about the ‘darker side’ of tourism by visiting The Dark Tourism Forum at


Shades of Dark Tourism I


  • Briefly examine dark tourism products from ‘yesteryear’.
  • Discuss dark tourism as ‘black spots’ attractions and sites.
  • Evaluate the various ‘shades’ and ‘divisions’ of dark tourism production.

The Dark Side of Tourism Yesterday

  • Allegedly, the first guided tour of England had a ‘dark side’…

‘[The tour] was arranged in 1838 to take people of Wadebridge

by special train to the nearby town of Bodmin. There they

witnessed the hanging of two murderers. Since the Bodmin

gallows were in clear sight of the uncovered station,

excursionists had their fun without even leaving the open

railway carriages.’

Boorstin (1987)


The Dark Side of Tourism Yesterday

  • Other tours in the early 1900’s also had a dark side.
  • Paris tours took in abattoirs and morgues…

‘This final display of working class stiffs illustrates, as well

as any other example, how the display of even a

horrible object normalizes it.’

MacCannell (1989)


The Dark Side of Tourism Today

  • Dark tourism is becoming a pervasive cultural activity within contemporary society…

‘Fatality is a striking feature in the landscape of postmodernism.’

Rojeck (1993)

  • Fatality and the commodification of death raises the notion of ‘black spots’ and ‘milking the macabre’…

Divisions of the Dark

  • Important to begin to categorize dark tourism in order to understand production (& consumption)….

Perilous Places

Houses of Horror

Fields of Fatality

Tours of Torment

Themed Thanatos

Dann (1988)


Perilous Places - Towns of Terror -

  • Towns of terror is about preserving dark ‘place and space’ for the touristic present….

Bodie, California

Tombstone, Arizona

‘..a town of arrested decay..’

‘..ghost stories of Tombstone..’


Perilous Places - Dangerous Destinations -

  • The distinction between ‘adventure tourism & ‘dark tourism’ is becoming increasingly blurred…

The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

‘..gazing upon the underclass’


Houses of Horror - Murder Mecca's -

  • Houses of murder and abuse are becoming increasingly popular as ‘rubbernecking becomes a recreational activity’….

Grief Tourists & the Soham Murders

‘..signs of genuine caring or

conspicuous compassion..?’


Houses of Horror - Dungeons of Death -

  • Tourism can appropriate and alter the use of a building to suit its own purpose….

Alcatraz, Sans Francisco

Robben Island, South Africa


Houses of Horror - Heinous Hotels -

  • Hotels with a ‘past’ often market their dark side for the present…

Intercontinental Resort Berchtesgaden

‘.. this ‘heinous hotel’ provides

guests with an account of Nazi

doctrine in the form of a

‘Deadly Utopia’…


Fields of Fatality - Bloody Battlegrounds -

  • War attractions are key sites within dark tourism, where ‘organised violence is brought back to life’ …

Battlefield Tours

‘.. the smoke, the sound, the smell and the sense of history all combine to make your images of past battles more vivid…”


Fields of Fatality - Hell of Holocaust -

  • Often referred to as ‘Schindler tourism’, the Holocaust offers permanent memorials to scenes of atrocity…



Fields of Fatality - Cemeteries & Celebrities -

  • Cemeteries (& dead Celebrities) are becoming tourist attractions as ‘tombstones are polished for public display’…

Death of a Princess

The Killing Fields

‘.. The dead have become ‘attractive’ for the rest of us left behind..’


Tours of Torment - Mayhem & Murder -

  • Tours with the theme of murder and dark deeds are becoming increasingly popular…

Jack the Ripper Tours

Grave Line Tours


Themed Thanatos - Morbid Museums -

  • Here, concern is less with historical accuracy and more with commercial exploitation…

The Dungeons

Serial Killers at Madame Tussauds


Themed Thanatos - Monuments to Morality -

  • ‘Wages of Sin’ attractions attempt to provide moral commentary upon an ever increasing fragmented & fractious world…

Hell Houses

‘.. ‘customers’ are treated to Fundamentalist images and exhibitions of eternal damnation, complete with moans, groans and gnashing of teeth (just like it says in the Bible)…’


Some Concluding Thoughts…

  • In the words of one event coordinator about dark tourism….

‘…if we started worrying about upsetting people or giving

kids nightmares, we would have to pack up and take up

tiddlywinks…. Let’s face it, 99% of people go to Grand

Prix racing hoping there’s going to be a crash…’

Cited in Dann (1988:11)

  • This raises the notion of ‘consumption’…. (see you next time…)

Seminar Session

Please refer to the Seminar task sheet


Directed Reading

  • Dann G.M.S (1988) The Dark Side of Tourism Serie L, Vol 14, Aix-en-Provence: Centre International de Recherches et d’Etudes Touristiques.
  • Sharpley R (2005) Travels to the edge of darkness: towards a typology of dark tourism in Chris Ryan et al (eds) Taking Tourism to the Limits London: Elsevier (Section Four)