“Sometimes when you’re in dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.”

-Christine Caine

They say that diamonds can only be found in the dark places of the earth so the truth can only be found in the depth of the thoughts. Sometimes we go so far away to find things we believe they belong to us but that is only a  seek for the invisible elements of our souls, the missing parts of our hearts, when we simply  go to find ourselves. It doesn’t surprise the claims of psychologist that each journey is journey of life, the way we develop ourselves because that  is the only thing we keep  after we lose everything, our memories of places we have visited and people we have met.

Why people make holidays?They do not want only break from work but the possibility to do things they haven’t done or seeing the place they have never been before. At the end of the day, life is so short and has one cruel  paradox. When you have time, you do not have financial background to make the trip for remembering and when you have a lot of money, you need to work for money keep coming so the life journeys will be just a dream. Matching those two happens but does not allow full capacity of choices and usually the holidaymakers follow already  traced paths. However, recently, there is one new generation of tourists, explorers and wanderers who come out with the specific fetish in traveling and they have started writing a book of dark tourism.

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What is the meaning of dark tourism ? All we should know is that this branch of tourism is on the rise lately and that according to the World Tourism Organization, slightly over 1.1 billion tourists traveled internationally and the number of those who traveled on the places connected with tragedy, war, atrocities, disasters and dystopia is going up.Academics are fascinated with this new phenomena of dark tourism because they believe such a kind of manner has  always been linked to the pilgrim journeys but nowadays, this is not anymore religious tourism but typical dark tourism in all its attributes:”Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme. This is not a new phenomenon. For many years now dark tourism has been part of our fascination, dating back to the pilgrims. Now however we seek it for very different reasons.”


Some shy beginnings of the dark tourism lead us to America, and collapsed Twin Towers and Ground Zero but the second target was also New Orleans and the tourists hungry for capturing disasters on the field jumped into the bus with the symbolic advertizing “Hurricane Katrina Tour – America’s Greatest Catastrophe” and irritated local people by their questions, ask for souvenirs and selfies. That was a parade of shame for tourism, the lack of any compassion but also the new age for tourism industry.

The dark tourism has many forms itself. The grief tourism has been part of any group travel  or family trip to the scenes of historically tragic events but has not been recognized as the category of dark tourism.Just to mention Dachau concentration camp in Germany as must seen  of any Munich tour. The disaster tourism collects those who are interested to follow the natural disasters and places hit by them.  We all know that many went to Southeast Asia in 2004, regarding the tsunami horror. What about poverty tourism? That is something up to travelers personally when they are offered to visit slum suburbs or towns infected with high level of poor population. It is almost an ambivalent feeling over there. On one side, the people visiting such places are curious to see how other(poor) people live and on the other side, they are thankful they do not have such lives. Food for our eccentric souls. Then we come to the suicide tourism, whether people travel to some famous landmark to commit suicide or they just want to find countries where they can end their life formally. This applies mostly on patients with complicated  diseases who chose some land of Europe (  Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland) where euthanasia is not forbidden. The doomsday tourism says for itself. One must hurry up visiting all sites that could be destroyed due to the environmental threats or the threats from terrorism.


Each country has something to offer on the menu of dark tourism. Believe we or not, every place on our planet is marked with tragedy and blood and for new tourists and 21st travelers with no fear, the sinister and agony, the pain and the tears are more attractive than any other form of leisure . The new moto of those army of people without empathy is:“Give me something enough terrible so I can tweet  and post intrigant photos about, so I can be popular” It doesn’t matter if that tourist must crawl into the dangerous zone of  Islamic State or pretending he is a journalist and try to get to the serial killer in mental hospital,he or she will make it and will be considered as a dark tourist.

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For years back, the visiting of haunted towns or houses have been taken as a part of tourist folklore but if we look objectively, that is also the part of dark tourism, the need to search for  and potentially disturb  souls without peace. The haunting tourism is, based on my own opinion, something which helps town’s budget without many efforts. Let’s look on the Moundsville Penitentiary in West Virginia:“…was one of America’s most violent correctional facilities and the final stop for almost 1,000 criminals. The prisoners lived in cramped quarters, which led to riots. Many men were hanged or killed in the electric chair, while others were murdered by other prisoners. The prison closed in 1995, but according to some, the tortured spirits are still behind bars and in the bowels of the prison and may be seen or heard on a tour.” You simply must go there, if not alone and then for sure with adequate local tourist logistic.

Bigger problem for tourism today is not obsessive go out for ghosts but impressions with conflicts and war, that have motivated people  to go on the war zones and to try feeling like they share the destiny of the battles.That’s happening very often on Golan Heights—Kobi Marom, the Syrian-Israeli border fence:“’People come here every day to see the show’, says Marom, 54, a retired Israel Defense Forces colonel who now works in the tourism industry and regularly brings groups to this point to gaze down on Syria’s bloodletting. ‘For people visiting the area, it’s interesting. They feel that they are a part of it. They can go home and tell their friends, ‘I was on the border and I saw a battle.’ ‘I’ll have tourists sitting at a wonderful lunch one mile from the border, and I tell them that al-Qaeda is looking at them, and they go crazy with it. They say, ‘Are you sure?’ To them, it’s like something from the moon, and they want to see.'” This is not only tourist curiosity or demand for adrenaline, this is more like finding morbid pleasure in human suffering and other people’s pain. I would almost call this like a personality disorder masqueraded with globetrotting spirit. How many sociopaths and psychopaths are hiding themselves behind the line of dark tourism?  Obviously, it must be something between mental problems and the choice of holiday points. The American and Canadian researchers proposed the model of  Dystopian Dark Tourism, or DDT for short and they have tried to explain that some people like to visit tragic places, where death occurs, so they can experience their own fear from death within the group feeling. In 1996, the Journal of Heritage Studies published book Dark Tourism by professors John Lennon and Malcolm Foley and the opened academic society started analyzing this occurring phenomena. In the same year, Anthony Seaton has written about the new population of people who are amazed by death and violence, known as the cult of thanatourism.

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The horror, violence, fear, pain, misery, grief, agony and finally death have become the inspiration for pathfinders, lost in their own dark little worlds. Seeking  for tragedies outside they escape from their  abyss inside They travel thousand kilometers but they can not run away from themselves. The dark tourism is not answer on their adventurous  nature but on their cry for help. Merging with others with the similar or same problem, they feel safe. This is the problem of society which is indifferent to tragedy, like suffering is normal and being compassionate is not allowed.


There are so many sunny and happy places around the world and we must breathe in, for a moment, good and refuse to be surrounded by bad. It doesn’t mean we must forget those who suffered and not give them attention but we must not find sick pleasure in it.  Empathy shall be new religion as soon as possible or the darkness will prevail and not only dark tourism.


  1. Thank you so much, Sarah, for this beautifully written article! In addition to your writing style, I enjoy your choice of the accompanying pictures. They feel cryptic and fill us with awe!

    You bring up a very interesting and profound thought in the beginning of your article where you wrote “the truth can only be found in the depth of the thoughts. Sometimes we go so far away to find things we believe they belong to us but that is only a seek for the invisible elements of our souls, the missing parts of our hearts, when we simply go to find ourselves”. This is the epitome of how we feel deep inside. We, as humans, are always in search of “the missing parts of our hearts”.

    We are in search of what we are here for, our purpose in life, and what the ultimate truth is! It’s a very long and hard, yet intriguing, journey!

    Regarding the dark tourism, it is deeply disturbing that some people would take pleasure in seeing other people’s miseries! In this day and age, more and more people are becoming numb to the pain and suffering of others. This is, as Sarah has described it, herein, a lack of empathy!

    People have become too materialistic, greedy, and therefore phlegmatic vis-à-vis less fortunate people! If people do not mend their ways, our world, as we know it, may vanish, and only animals would survive!

    Thank you,Sarah, for this wonderful article! You have the soul of a true researcher and writer, for you are always seeking the ultimate truth!

    Liked by 1 person

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