Dark tourism

Dark tourism (also black tourism or grief tourism) has been defined as tourism involving travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy.[1] More recently, it was suggested that the concept should also include reasons tourists visit that site, since the site's attributes alone may not make a visitor a "dark tourist".[2] The main attraction to dark locations is their historical value rather than their associations with death and suffering.[2][3]

Rwandan Genocide Murambi skulls
Murambi Technical School where many of the murders in the Rwandan genocide took place is now a genocide museum.
The Catacombs of Paris have become a popular site for thanatourism, and guided tours are frequently held in small areas of the complex of tunnels and chambers.

Field of study

While there is a long tradition of people visiting recent and ancient settings of death, such as travel to gladiator games in the Roman colosseum, attending public executions by decapitation, and visiting the catacombs, this practice has been studied academically only relatively recently. Travel writers were the first to describe their tourism to deadly places. P. J. O'Rourke called his travel to Warsaw, Managua, and Belfast in 1988 'holidays in hell',[4] or Chris Rojek talking about 'black-spot' tourism in 1993[5] or the 'milking the macabre'.[6]

Academic attention to the subject originated in Glasgow, Scotland: The term 'dark tourism' was coined in 1996 by Lennon and Foley, two faculty members of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure Management at Glasgow Caledonian University,[1] and the term 'thanatourism' was first mentioned by A. V. Seaton in 1996, then Professor of Tourism Marketing at the University of Strathclyde.[7]

As of 2014, there have been many studies on definitions, labels, and subcategorizations, such as Holocaust tourism and slavery-heritage tourism, and the term continues to be molded outside academia by authors of travel literature.[8] There is very little empirical research on the perspective of the dark tourist.[2] Dark tourism has been formally studied from three main perspectives by a variety of different disciplines:

Hospitality and tourism

Scholars in this interdisciplinary field have examined many different aspects. Lennon and Foley expanded their original idea [1] in their first book, deploring that "tact and taste do not prevail over economic considerations” and that the "blame for transgressions cannot lie solely on the shoulders of the proprietors, but also upon those of the tourists, for without their demand there would be no need to supply."[9]


Philip Stone and Richard Sharpley from the Department of Tourism and Leisure Management of the Lancashire Business School at the University of Central Lancashire, UK have looked through the lens of the market place at dark tourism; they have coined the term 'product of dark tourism', and discuss its supply, demand, and consumption by the 'dark tourist'. Stone and Sharpley have published prolifically in this area, although not conducted empirical research, and founded an Institute for Dark Tourism. In 2005 Stone suggested that "within contemporary society people regularly consume death and suffering in touristic form, seemingly in the guise of education and/or entertainment", and sounded a call for research on "Dark Tourism Consumption" to "establish consumer behavior models that incorporate contemporary socio-cultural aspects of death and dying."[10] In a 2006 paper Stone discussed "the dark tourism product range", arguing that "certain suppliers [of dark tourism] may [...] share particular product features, perceptions and characteristics, which can then be loosely translated into various 'shades of darkness'." His typology of death-related tourist sites consists of seven different types, ordered from light to dark: dark fun factories, dark exhibitions, dark dungeons, dark resting places, dark shrines, dark conflict sites and dark camps of genocide.[11]

In 2008 Stone and Sharpley hypothesized, that coming together in places associated with grief and death in dark tourism represents immorality, so that morality may be communicated.[12]


The exploitation of the deceased

Whether a tourist attraction is educational or exploitative is defined by both its operators and its visitors.[13] Tourism operators motivated by greed can "milk the macabre"[6] or reexamine tragedies for a learning experience. Tourists consuming dark tourism products may desecrate a place and case studies are needed to probe who gains and loses.[14]

Thanatourism and slum-tourism have been described as re-interpreting the pastime according to the needs of financial elite.[15]


Chris Hedges described the "Alcatraz narrative as presented by the National Park Service" as "whitewashing", because it "...ignores the savagery and injustice of America's system of mass incarceration". By omitting challenging details, the park service furthers a "Disneyfication", per Hedges.[16]

Example destinations

Destinations of dark tourism include: castles and battlefields such as Culloden in Scotland and Bran Castle and Poienari Castle in Romania; former prisons such as Beaumaris Prison in Anglesey, Wales and the Jack the Ripper exhibition in the London Dungeon; sites of natural disasters or man made disasters, such as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan,[17] Chernobyl in Ukraine[18][19][20] and the commercial activity at Ground Zero in New York one year after September 11, 2001.[21] It also includes sites of human atrocities and genocide, such as the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland,[22] the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in China, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia; the sites of the Jeju Uprising in South Korea[13] and the Spirit Lake Internment Camp Centre near La Ferme, Quebec as an example of Canada's internment operations of 1914–1920.[23]

In Bali "death and funeral rites have become commodified for tourism ..., where enterprising businesses begin arranging tourist vans and sell tickets as soon as they hear someone is dying."[24] In the US, visitors can tour the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. "with an identity card which matches their age and gender with that of a name and photo of a real holocaust victim. Against a backdrop of video interpretation portraying killing squads in action, the pseudo holocaust victim enters a personal ID into monitors as they wander around the attraction to discover how their real-life counterpart is faring."[10]

Launch of Current Issues in Dark Tourism Research

In late 2017, the online journal Current Issues in Dark Tourism Research was launched.[25] The aim of the online journal is to bring affordable 'dark tourism' scholarship direct to students, researchers, and the media. The journal is unique in that it pays royalty fees to authors and, as a result, is a new model for contemporary academic publishing. Authors and scholars may submit their own related research for publication in the journal. A broad range of 'dark tourism and difficult heritage' research will be available in the journal, in the form of articles, case studies, and commentaries. The editor of the journal is Dr Philip Stone.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Foley, Malcolm; J. John Lennon (1996). "JFK and dark tourism: A fascination with assassination". International Journal of Heritage Studies. 2 (4): 198–211. doi:10.1080/13527259608722175.
  2. ^ a b c Rami Khalil Isaac; Erdinç Çakmak (2013). "Understanding visitor's motivation at sites of death and disaster: the case of former transit camp Westerbork, the Netherlands". Current Issues in Tourism. 17 (2): 1–16. doi:10.1080/13683500.2013.776021.
  3. ^ Courtney C. Reed (April 2007). "Shedding Light on Dark Tourism". gonomad.com. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  4. ^ O'Rourke, P. J. (1989). Holidays in Hell. London: Picador. ISBN 978-0330306836.
  5. ^ Rojek, Chris (1993). Ways of Escape: Modern Transformations in Leisure and Travel. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333475782. Retrieved 1 March 2014. (P 142)The leisure forms constructed around black spots certainly give signs of repetition-compulsion and seeking the duplication of experience. (p170) The gravity and solemnity of Black Spots have been reduced by moves to make them more colorful and more spectacular than other sights on the tourist trail. For example, in 1987 the government of Thailand unveiled plans to restore the famous Death Railway …
  6. ^ a b Dann, G (1994). "Tourism the nostalgia industry of the future". In W. Theobald (ed.). Global Tourism: The Next Decade. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann. pp. 55–67.
  7. ^ Seaton, AV (1996). Guided by the dark: from thanatopsis to thanatourism. Int Journal of Heritage Studies. 2. pp. 234–244. doi:10.1080/13527259608722178. ISBN 9781136394966. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  8. ^ Jonathan Skinner, ed. (March 15, 2012). Writings On The Dark Side Of Travel. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-0857453419.
  9. ^ Lennon, J.; Foley, M. (2000). Dark tourism: The attraction of death and disasters. London: Thomson Learning.
  10. ^ a b Stone, P (2005). "Dark Tourism Consumption – A call for research". E-Review of Tourism Research. 2 (5): 109–117. contemporary society with its ...late capitalism broad defining features include an increased commercial ethic and commodification; a de-differentiation of time and space through global technological communication; and an introduction of anxiety and doubt over the project of modernity.
  11. ^ Stone, P (2006). "A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions". Tourism. 54 (2): 145–160.
  12. ^ Stone, P.; Sharpley, R (2008). "Consuming dark-tourism a thanatological perspective". Annals of Tourism Research. 35 (2): 574–595. doi:10.1016/j.annals.2008.02.003.
  13. ^ a b Darryl Coote (2010-06-12). "Exploitation or healthy interest? An analysis of dark tourism". Jeju Weekly. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  14. ^ Richard W. Butler; Douglas G., eds. (1999). Contemporary issues in tourist development. Routledge. p. 122. ISBN 978-1134623600.
  15. ^ Tzanelli R (2016) Thana Tourism and the Cinematic Representation of Risk. Abingdon, Routledge.
  16. ^ Chris Hedges (30 November 2014). "Alcatraz: A Prison as Disneyland". Truthdig.com. Zuade Kaufman. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum website". Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  18. ^ "Chernobylzone". chernobylpripyat.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  19. ^ "Chernobyl Tours". Ukrainianweb.com. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  20. ^ "Chernobyl tour, official provider of Chernobyl exclusion zone". Chernobyl-TOUR. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  21. ^ Jayson Blair (June 29, 2002). "Tragedy turns to tourism at Ground Zero". 2002 The Age Company Ltd. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  22. ^ "Memorial Museum Auschwitz Birkenau". Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oświęcimiu. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  23. ^ "Launch of Quebec Internment Spirit Lake Interpretive Centre". press release. Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. July 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  24. ^ McLaren, Deborah (June 2003). Rethinking Tourism and Ecotravel (2 ed.). Kumarian Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1565491694. Retrieved 1 March 2014. One of the most disturbing phenomena in Bali is the commercialization of cremation ceremonies.
  25. ^ "Shop by". Current Issues in Dark Tourism Research. 1 (1).
  26. ^ "Selected Works of Dr Philip Stone". Bepress. Retrieved 12 May 2018.

External links

Dark Tourist

Dark Tourist (also known as The Grief Tourist) is a 2012 American psychological thriller film directed by Suri Krishnamma, written by Frank John Hughes, and starring Michael Cudlitz, Melanie Griffith, and Pruitt Taylor Vince. Cudlitz plays a bigoted security guard who engages in dark tourism. It premiered at Filmfest München on July 3, 2012, and Phase 4 Films released it theatrically on August 23, 2013.

Dark Tourist (TV series)

Dark Tourist is a Netflix documentary series about the phenomenon of dark tourism. It is presented by journalist David Farrier. The series has eight episodes.

Dead on arrival

Dead on arrival (DOA), also dead in the field and brought in dead (BID), indicates that a patient was found to be already clinically dead upon the arrival of professional medical assistance, often in the form of first responders such as emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or police.

In some jurisdictions, first responders must consult verbally with a physician before officially pronouncing a patient deceased, but once cardiopulmonary resuscitation is initiated, it must be continued until a physician can pronounce the patient dead.

Death messenger

Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.

Death rattle

Terminal respiratory secretions (or simply terminal secretions), known colloquially as a death rattle, are sounds often produced by someone who is near death as a result of fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulating in the throat and upper chest. Those who are dying may lose their ability to swallow and may have increased production of bronchial secretions, resulting in such an accumulation. Usually, two or three days earlier, the symptoms of approaching death can be observed as saliva accumulates in the throat, making it very difficult to take even a spoonful of water. Related symptoms can include shortness of breath and rapid chest movement. While death rattle is a strong indication that someone is near death, it can also be produced by other problems that cause interference with the swallowing reflex, such as brain injuries.It is sometimes misinterpreted as the sound of the person choking to death, or alternatively, that they are gargling.

Dignified death

Dignified death is a somewhat elusive concept often related to suicide. One factor that has been cited as a core component of dignified death is maintaining a sense of control. Another view is that a truly dignified death is an extension of a dignified life. There is some concern that assisted suicide does not guarantee a dignified death, since some patients may experience complications such as nausea and vomiting. There is some concern that age discrimination denies the elderly a dignified death.

Fan death

Fan death is a well-known superstition in Korean culture, where it is thought that running an electric fan in a closed room with unopened or no windows will prove fatal. Despite no concrete evidence to support the concept, belief in fan death persists to this day in Korea, and also to a lesser extent in Japan.

Fascination with death

Fascination with death has occurred throughout human history, characterized by obsessions with death and all things related to death and the afterlife.

In past times, people would form cults around death and figures. Famously, Anubis, Osiris, Hades, and La Santa Muerte have all had large cult followings. La Santa Muerte (Saint Death), or the personification of death, is currently worshiped by many in Mexico and other countries in Central America. Day of the Dead (2 November) is a celebration for the dead.

Holocaust tourism

The Holocaust tourism is a term used by the media in relation to round-trip travel to destinations connected with the extermination of Jews during the Holocaust in World War II, including visits to sites of Jewish martyrology such as former Nazi death camps and concentration camps turned into state museums. It belongs to a category of the so-called 'roots tourism' usually across parts of Central Europe, or more generally, the Western-style dark tourism to sites of death and disaster.The term Holocaust, first used in the late 1950s, was derived from the Greek word holokauston meaning a completely burnt offering to God. It has come to symbolize the systematic extermination of approximately six million European Jews by Nazi Germany in occupied territories from 1933 to 1945. The term can also be applied to mean the estimated five to seven million non-Jewish victims who were murdered by the Nazis in the same time period.

Lazarus sign

The Lazarus sign or Lazarus reflex is a reflex movement in brain-dead or brainstem failure patients, which causes them to briefly raise their arms and drop them crossed on their chests (in a position similar to some Egyptian mummies). The phenomenon is named after the Biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus Christ raised from the dead in the Gospel of John.

Manfred Becker

Manfred Becker (born March 10, 1960) is a German-Canadian documentary independent filmmaker and film editor. His work often explores personal stories behind current or historical issues.

Born and raised in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, Becker moved to Canada in 1983. Since 2001, Becker has been writing and directing documentaries for television, his latest, a look at the phenomenon of tourists seeking out places of conflict and fear entitled Dark Tourism, being the eighth. In the past decade Becker has written and directed eight documentaries for television, earning him numerous nominations and awards. His film Fatherland won the Donald Brittain Gemini Award in 2006 for Best Documentary and was screened at Hot Docs and several other festivals internationally.


Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.


A necronym (from the Greek words νεκρός, nekros, "dead" and ὄνομα ónoma, "name") is a reference to, or name of, a person who has died. Many cultures have taboos and traditions associated with referring to such a person. These vary from the extreme of never again speaking the person's real name, often using some circumlocution instead, to the opposite extreme of commemorating it incessantly by naming other things or people after the deceased.

For instance, in some cultures it is common for a newborn child to receive the name (a necronym) of a relative who has recently died, while in others to reuse such a name would be considered extremely inappropriate or even forbidden. While this varies from culture to culture, the use of necronyms is quite common.


An obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant. In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.

Two types of paid advertisements are related to obituaries. One, known as a death notice, omits most biographical details and may be a legally required public notice under some circumstances. The other type, a paid memorial advertisement, is usually written by family members or friends, perhaps with assistance from a funeral home. Both types of paid advertisements are usually run as classified advertisements.

Pallor mortis

Pallor mortis (Latin: pallor "paleness", mortis "of death"), the first stage of death, is an after-death paleness that occurs in those with light/white skin.

Rigor mortis

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death"), or postmortem rigidity, is the third stage of death. It is one of the recognizable signs of death, characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem. In humans, rigor mortis can occur as soon as four hours after death.


Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism may be international, or within the traveller's country. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes".Tourism can be domestic or international, and international tourism has both incoming and outgoing implications on a country's balance of payments.

Tourism suffered as a result of a strong economic slowdown of the late-2000s recession, between the second half of 2008 and the end of 2009, and the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, but slowly recovered. International tourism receipts (the travel item in the balance of payments) grew to US$1.03 trillion (€740 billion) in 2005, corresponding to an increase in real terms of 3.8% from 2010. International tourist arrivals surpassed the milestone of 1 billion tourists globally for the first time in 2012, emerging markets such as China, Russia, and Brazil had significantly increased their spending over the previous decade. The ITB Berlin is the world's leading tourism trade fair. Global tourism accounts for ca. 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

War tourism

War tourism is recreational travel to active or former war zones for purposes of sightseeing or historical study. War tourist is also a pejorative term to describe thrill seeking in dangerous and forbidden places. In 1988, P. J. O'Rourke applied the pejorative meaning to war correspondents.

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