Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

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We can call it morbidity. What makes everybody gather when an accident occurs? What makes the tourists visit the aftermath of disasters and devastation wherever they strike?


Some want to help. Some others just hear the news and rush to find out more. Some run away in fear and disgust… but almost all become just a little bit curious. To be clear, the question isn't are you dark, the question is: how dark are you?

People are fascinated with death and disaster. From ground zero in New York and Katrinas destructive force in New Orleans to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and the Killing Fields in Cambodia or the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, witnessing places where death and destruction had their way has become an experience and has put some cities on the map of travel. Such places becomes a form of "secular pilgrimage", with people feeling they need to visit them.

But if dark tourism sounds shocking when you hear about it, at its mildest its plain harmless – a Sunday stroll around Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris to see the graves of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison – for some it’s just a cultural act, full of mystery and the stroll can even be romantic.

If people have always been mysteriously attracted by what is supposed to be a bad thing to them – doomsday for example – they keep watching SF movies or documentaries related to horror events that keep them in a very high state of interest and adrenaline.

There is even academic now interested in dark tourism and undertaking research. University of Central Lancashire, UK has a dedicated centre for it (since 2005) http://www.dark-tourism.org.uk/, its mission being to “advance knowledge about the act of visitation to tourist sites of death, disaster or the seemingly macabre”.

We present you 6 dark tourism spots that aren’t so frightful or on the verge of infringing many ethics laws, we thought of giving even this controversial subject a milder connotation.

Here are our suggestions

1. Perè Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

It’s the largest cemetery in Paris, reputed to be the world's most visited cemetery, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those great people (of different nationalities) who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years: Honoré de Balzac, Maria Callas, George Enescu, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Proust, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein..

With its rolling hills, thousands of trees, winding paths with carefully plotted "street" names, and elaborate sepulchers and tombs, its easy to see why Pere-Lachaise is considered Paris most hauntingly beautiful place of rest.

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2. The Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Italy

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Over 8000 bodies (not caskets, but bodies) were wedged-in here between the 16th and early 20th centuries. Although somewhat morbid of an attraction, the neatly stacked skeletal remains are a popular visit for many tourists.

If you are afraid, you can just see it from outside and listen to the stories.

Rosalia Lombardo died in 1920 of pneumonia, her father, General Lombardo, was sorely grieved upon her death and approached and embalmer to preserve her.

This is how she looked in 1995 and the body is famous for being the best preserved until today. She looks so pure and peaceful as if she sleeps.

3. The town of Pompeii, Italy

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Discover Pompeii and Vesuvius, the still-active volcano that brought the bustling Roman city to its terrible end.

Pompeii was partially destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

4. Titanic Museum, Belfast, Ireland

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Opened to coincide with the centenary of the Titanic disaster, the Titanic Belfast Museum is located on the slipways where RMS Titanic was built and tells the story from her construction to her end, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

5. Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial contests and public shows such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. It is in fact a huge elliptical amphitheatre the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, built of concrete and stone and considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering.

6. La Isla de la Munecas, Mexico

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

Dark Tourism - Between Fear and Curiosity

In the last of the Aztec canals that once covered all of Mexico City, is a small patch of land called "La Isla de las Munecas". The island is a place steeped in legend and is covered with dolls in various states of disintegration which hang from trees on the banks. Three girls once visited here, and one drowned. As a result, her spirit has haunted the island ever since.

Would you go to any of these places? What is it about dark tourism that attracts you most?

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