Sunday, March 8, 2009

Are You a Dark Traveler?

Every once in awhile, I think it is a good idea to take a step back and give you all an overview of the types of things you can find over on Dark Destinations. We just recently passed the 825 locations mark and are still climbing, while older articles are being revisited and expanding as well. Many of the articles on the site were written by Tom G. or myself, although we have had quite a few contributions from others as well and a very special thanks to them! While 800+ seems like a lot, we have only scratched the surface of what is out there.

The scope of Dark Destinations is wide and varied. Obviously, we look for locations that fall under the "dark" tag in one way or another. In the tourism world, there is a thing called "dark tourism" (also known black or grief tourism or Thanatourism), which involves traveling to locations associated with death and/or suffering. This can include a wide array of location types, but some good examples would be the Shiloh National Military Park (where around 3,500 men lost their lives in the midst of the Civil War), the London Dungeon and its various European offshoots (a man-made, interactive exhibit that explores the dark history of the cities they're in), Hollywood's Museum of Death (photo above - pretty much self-explanatory), or perhaps most famously, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum - a former concentration camp where over a million people were killed off by Nazi Germany.

While dark tourism is a part of what we cover, it is only a small part. In fact, there are forms of tourism popping up every year. One of the most predominant in recent years has been the spark in so-called "ghost tourism," which has been sparked by recent paranormal-based shows. The sites can vary from a night in the reportedly haunted Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast to ghost tours in various cities (such as the one that explores Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico). In a similar vein, the world of cryptozoology has sparked an interest into traveling to various sites associated with an unknown "monster" in most cases. Tourists that take part in Jersey Devil Hunts are the same types that got Loch Ness, Scotland voted the top tourist destination in Britain in a recent online poll.

Still further examples include the fairly benign movie location tourism, although we naturally aim for those darker moments in celluloid movie history. One of our more popular entries of late has been the house that was used in the 1984 Wes Craven film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The Hollywood biz and celebrities also pop up in the next category - cemetery tourism. Whether it be to visit famous names from pop culture, like Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the "haunted" variety such as New York's infamous Goodleberg Cemetery, or just small-town cemeteries with odd tales like Crystal Valley Cemetery in Colorado, cemetery tourism has seen a bump in popularity, which not surprisingly coincides with the rise of the graveyard photography pastime.

This is just a few of the many types of interests represented on the site. We also cater to the convention crowd, list Halloween haunts from every state in the United States and similar theme attractions, ghost towns, and more. Because there is no overall encompassing definition of someone who travels to some or all of the types covered above, I just label them with the generic "Dark Traveler" tag. For me, the common thread in all of these and the thing that interests me the most can be summed up in one word - history. Tom G. has often called Dark Destinations a history lesson told around a campfire. It is hard for me to disagree. While the type and level of interest in the historical importance of each location may vary, each has played a role in the making of our current society and who we are as people today.

Obviously given the scope and range of what we attempt to cover, some might be interested in some of our content but not others. So I throw it out to all of you - What type of a dark traveler are you? What types of dark locations are you interested in? What is not at all appealing to you? Or even, share some of your tales from the road and the types of reaction you meet when you explain why you went to some attraction that others tend to avoid. Lastly, is there anything we are missing that you believe we should be covering?

-Casey H.

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