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'Dark Tourism' - visiting sites of death, disaster and tragedy

Questions relating to the subject area of 'dark tourism' - visiting sites of death, disaster and tragedy.
13 years ago, August 7th 2007 No: 1 Msg: #17385  
N Posts: 5
I am studing a post graduate masters degree in Tourism and I am currently working on my thesis. For this I have decided to focus my study on the area of dark tourism. I would like to be able to post a short online survey for people who travel to answer to help me with my studies. If anyone wishes to take part and help me out, i would love to hear from you. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 13th 2007 No: 2 Msg: #17917  
I recently went to Lake Tahoe and saw the damage done the the recent forest fire there. Though that wasn't the point of my trip, but since I was there, I wanted to see. Very bizarre. Some houses were completely spared in the middle of utter devastation, otherwise the landscape was completely burned up for acres. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 14th 2007 No: 3 Msg: #17944  
When I was in Amsterdam I went to Anne Frank's house. It was really depressing, I had tears running down my face the whole time and it took me and my friend a couple of hours to feel back to normal afterwards. And although it was interesting and I'm glad I went, now that I know how intense the experience could be, I don't think I could ever bring myself to visit concentration camps.

I understand that there are many harsh truths out there and I don't mean to bury my head in the sand, but I don't know that I necessarily need to go out of my way to see places where tragedies happened. I guess it's just a personal thing to decide what you want to get out of travelling. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 15th 2007 No: 4 Msg: #17995  
B Posts: 5,195
Nicole: You'll get loads of interesting replies here - why not ask some questions publicly? encourage a bit of debate...

Once you have some ideas you can make a more focussed survey and post a link. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 16th 2007 No: 5 Msg: #18050  
On a recent trip to New York City my wife and I visited Ground Zero to pay our respects. Again, this was not our reason for visiting the city, but we felt very moved by the experience. Since our return home I've been intrieged by the whole 9-11 ordeal...visiting the sight has opened new doors in our minds...particulary on the 9-11 truth movement.

This past spring during our honeymoon in Italy we spent the day in Pompeii. Talk about your disaster tourism...thousands of people flock here every day! Reply to this

13 years ago, August 16th 2007 No: 6 Msg: #18067  
Although I’m usually one for much lighter tourism, three of the darkest sites I’ve visited over the years have been:

The Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem - a tribute to the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust. I defy anyone to have dry eyes after visiting it.

Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris - home to the dead great and glorious - like Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Strangely interesting, architecturally and historically. The only cemetery I've been to where you need a map.

The Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary (better known as the Catacombs) beneath the streets of Paris - containing the bizarre, artistically-arranged bones of seven million Parisians.

And you don’t even have to visit any of them in person these days - there are virtual tours on the websites!

The most beautiful, but still a tomb with a tragic history, is of course India’s most-visited tourist site - the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Good luck with the thesis - I'd love to have a ghoulish read when it's finished. Keep smiling! Reply to this

13 years ago, August 16th 2007 No: 7 Msg: #18098  
I think seeing the darker side of life can only benefit a person, personally. It causes the viewer to think, ponder, and consider their own moral values. It's not as fun as other vacation outings and it should be done with respect and a good heaping of enjoyable activities surrounding it, but overall I think its a good thing.

When my husband and I planned our first trip to New York, 9/11 happened soon afterwards. The trip was to take place in mid-October, when the smoke was still clearing. We decided to go ahead and take the trip. We went to the ground zero site and it was the most bizarre, unforgettable feeling I have ever had. There was still dust and debris everywhere, some people were walking around in gas masks but decked out in their business suits, the shadows of the WTC framework and the buildings that looked like someone ripped the front wall off... I will never forget it. I will also never forget the feeling of respect everyone had for the officers who were working crowd control around the site. This was still so early in the game that New Yorkers could not understand why tourists were coming to the site and there were "NO PHOTOS" signs everywhere. I don't even have an explanation for why I went, other than just to make sure that the event was real (up until then I can say that it was more surreal than real to me) and to pay my respects. I don't use the word "lucky" but I am grateful that I did have the opportunity to see the site as it was shortly after and I was able to experience that unique point in American history.

I plan to visit Aushwitz when I make it to Poland. That won't be a picnic either, but it's a dark part of human history and I think it is important to pay respects and understand what so many people went through.

I am hoping to start dissertation work next year, but my area is archaeology. Good luck with your thesis!

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13 years ago, August 18th 2007 No: 8 Msg: #18163  
B Posts: 13
Hi Nickyfine, sounds like an interesting thesis. Through travel people end up seeing places, meeting people & experiencing events that they would never normally expect to be confronted by - invariably they aren't the purpose of a trip but just happen to fall into place along the way. A great example is a few of the places in SE Asia like the Killing Fields & S21 torture centre in Cambodia & the War Crimes museum in Saigon. I've been to both a few times & am always fascinated by the mix of people visiting them. In addition to these I've been to one of Saddam Hussein's former torture centres in Iraq, seen a number of bomb sites is Lebanon (some recent, some not) and a few other interesting places along the way - none were part of the masterplan, they all just happened to be on the path we travelled. Although it's hard not to be moved by them all, the more you see, the more you realise that such tragic places are scattered far & wide & and that all manner of strocities are still being committed today....

I would be happy to help with your studies. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 19th 2007 No: 9 Msg: #18199  
A tremendous area of study Nicole. I think that in order to understand all aspects of human nature, once should attempt to see the whole scope of activity from the peak of creativity in art and music, through to acts of inhumanity such as wars. Abraham Malsow in his studies did identify that people could take any action, regardless of the effect on other people, if they ceded responsibility for their behaviour to someone in authority. This is where the intrigue of places like Auschwitz comes in - ordinary family people who preformed absolutely horrendous acts because they were directed to do so.

Yes, I have been to Auschwitz, and it is a very sobering experience - but one that people need to consider. I've also visited many sites of famous military battles, and some of these places have a rather sinister air about them. Next year will see me visit the genocide museum in Rwanda, which proves that these events are not part of history, but are very much in the present.

People are not just good or evil - we are not as black and white as that - but we have varying shades of grey. Being confronted with the horrors of places like Auschwitz and Birkenau, in addition to a myriad of whitewashed tombs in military cemeteries - makes one reflect on their own values and attitudes and in doing so, one may find something lurking within them that is not palatable. These places are not just about investigating the human condition, but also looking deep within oneself with such questions as “What would I have done if I was a guard in Auschwitz?”

The more you look at this topic, the more there will be to discover - and therefore, your topic is a great area to research. I too would be happy to assist in your studies.
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13 years ago, August 20th 2007 No: 10 Msg: #18250  
B Posts: 102
It's pretty simple for me...I love things that stir up my emotions. I love movies about war, racism, etc. And for the same reason, I really "enjoy" (not quite the right word) going to places that are beyond the realm of simply being interesting or scenic. I've just completed a 10 day trip to Cambodia where I saw the best (Temples of Angkor) and worst (Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng Prison, Land Mine Museum) of humanity. The dark aspects of the trip were brutal, but an amazing experience. I've felt the same way in the past about places such as Dachau, Holocaust Museum (Washington DC), Anne Frank's house, etc.

Places like these stir up a mix of anger, sadness, introspection, and a general need to think at least a little deeper about life and the dark aspects that exist. Not always fun, but it's certainly significant.

The Heart of an Immense Darkness Reply to this

13 years ago, August 21st 2007 No: 11 Msg: #18298  
The battlefields of Verdun (first world war 1916) in northeast of France I find also very interesting. In the "Ossuaire de Douamont" you can see the bones of thousands of anonymous soldiers which were found on the former battlefields. In the surrounding forrests you can still see many trenches and bombcraters from the war. It is a nice place to spend a few days in the city centre and beautifull forests.
The world is a strange corrupt crazy place, but still it is beautifull and interesting. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 22nd 2007 No: 12 Msg: #18323  
I am currently in Japan and have been travelling around for the last 2 weeks. I went to Hiroshima last week - like everyone else I didn't make this trip to look at the devastating effects of the a-Bomb, but more to have a feel of the city and how it recovered from the explosion 62 years after. It was one of the best places I have visited in Japan. The city is absolutely fantastic and is thriving with the usual Japanese lifestyle (neon lights, huge tv screens, music in the street...).
I visited the Peace Memorial Museum and I have to say that although it was extremely interesteing, I felt so so sad and some parts of the museum actually nearly made me sick. It really made me think about life and how it can be destroyed in just a second...
Hiroshima is a beautiful, welcoming and fantastic city and I recommend it to anyone who is visiting Japan (spare a couple of days there). Reply to this

13 years ago, August 26th 2007 No: 13 Msg: #18486  
N Posts: 5
Hi All, thank you so much for all your replys. Sorry for only getting a chance to leave this message now, been very busy researching for my thesis. I will post some questions tommorow which I would love to get your thoughts and opinions on. Thank you so much for all your responses. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 27th 2007 No: 14 Msg: #18529  
I am currently staying in Rwanda and I have visited the Kigali Memorial Center as well as many other genocide memorials. I have also talked to many people about the occurrences of summer 1994, and I have heard many moving, disturbing and scary stories. It is really sad when you hear about some of the things that happened, and when you think that it all happened in 100 days. One of the places I visited was the site of a church in Kigali that was bulldozed at the order of the priest who presided over the church, when it had hundreds of his parishioners in it. There are many other stories like this, and the more you hear them, the more you wonder how it is possible for humans to do these things to each other. I agree with Shane that things aren't just black and white, but there sure are some really dark shades of grey. Reply to this

13 years ago, August 31st 2007 No: 15 Msg: #18770  
N Posts: 5
Hi everyone, thanks for you help with this, your thoughts, opinons and stories are much much appreciated.

The first question I would like to ask to you all is:

'Why go to these dark places?',
'Why visit sites associated with death and disaster?',
'What was the appeal or the thought process behind visiting?',
'What motivated you?'


Nicole Reply to this

13 years ago, September 4th 2007 No: 16 Msg: #18909  
Hi, not massively into "dark tourism" but when in Cambodia we went to the Toll Sleng (dodgy spelling it's been a while) in Phnom Phen. It's were the Khamer Roughe imprisoned SO many people for SO little reason.
Why? To better understand the hardship the Cambodians had suffered by the hand of their own ruler
To appreciate what we have in modern/western societies
I don't think it "appealed" to me, I just felt I should Reply to this

13 years ago, September 5th 2007 No: 17 Msg: #18948  
I have never really thought about 'dark tourism' so many of the places people travel have dark connotations (war memorials, battlegrounds etc.) During my recent Contiki tour, I realized for the first time the meaning of dark tourism. We were able to visit Dachau concentration camp. I have visited many historical/tragic places but this was the first time the time frame of the event coincided with my generation. This place was the eeriest place I have ever been. I was very much stunned at the reality of being there. Our Contiki tour manager handed me a pebble from the gravel in the yard of Dachau, he said 'when life is tough, and you think you can't make it, remember that there are people who have come before you and who come after you that have it much worse'. Every time I see that stone I think of my day at Dachau and I remember that no matter what is going on, it could always be worse. Reply to this

13 years ago, September 11th 2007 No: 18 Msg: #19246  
We pretty much sum up our reasons for experiencing 'dark tourism' in the following blog...
Hope it helps
Reply to this

13 years ago, October 8th 2007 No: 19 Msg: #20582  
Hello Nicole 😊

I dont know if I am what u are interested in, or not.
Feel free to ask me questions, if u want.
Here is my list of black tourism
I was travelling behind the iron curtain in 1989, a couple of months before the revolution.
I will be going to Iran, this month. I suppose that could be considered black tourism, because so many are disatisified with the government.
I visited some indiginuous indian villages in Mexico, a few weeks after the Mexican army slaughtered many of the village people.
I visit a British prisoner in Bangwang prison, whenever I am in Bangkok.
When I am in Bangkok, I also visit a slum, to give my daughters secondhand clothes to a charity there.
I was in Taillinn, while the Russians were rioting, last April.
I was in Egypt around 10 years ago, while there was a danger of terrorists attacking tourists.
I also visit war museums, concentration camps or anything to do with aspects of history I am interested in.
As soon as Burma has a democracy I plan to to there.
Well, I think that is my black list completed. Everyplace else I visited was more cheerful.

'Why go to these dark places?',
'Why visit sites associated with death and disaster?',
'What was the appeal or the thought process behind visiting?',
'What motivated you?'
I want to become a more compassionate person.

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12 years ago, November 6th 2008 No: 20 Msg: #53717  

From New York's ground zero to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, tourists are flocking to sites of suffering - and even into war zones. Laszlo Buhasz explores our desire to pay tribute and look death in the face

From: Travelling to the dark side

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