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Dark Tourism: Introduction

This guide will help you start your research on dark tourism.

Dark Tourism

What is dark tourism?

Dark tourism destinations represent tragedy, death, suffering, and other similar ideas (Stone, 2006) These dark sites range from fun to horrifying, from ghost tours to concentration camps (Stone, 2006)

Some researchers argue that dark tourism is growing in popularity (Timothy & Boyd, 2006).  Yet, people have participated in dark tourism for centuries. For example, hundreds of years ago, pilgrims traveled to view relics associated with martyrs. More recently, dark tourists visit places like memorials, battlefields, monuments, ghost tours, places where famous people died, or where people were enslaved (Timothy & Boyd, 2006).  People who are considered dark tourists include those who take selfies in front of burning buildings or at other sites of tragedy (Price, 2017)While they are sometimes called thanatourists or heritage tourists, these kinds of tourists visit places of death, atrocity, disaster, terrorism, or human suffering (Price, 2017). 


Why do people visit dark sites?

Visitors are motivated by a lot of different reasons, including a desire to think about and talk about death in public (Stone, 2013). Some people look for religious pilgrimage or seek a life-changing experience (Collins-Kreiner, 2015; Seaton, 2002).  Others visit due to patriotism, nationalism, or to rewrite history for themselves (Carr, 2010; Stone, 2013)

Social media has increased interest in dark tourism (Price, 2017).  Now, tourists can post selfies or livestream their experiences as they visit sites of tragedy or human suffering.  


Click here to see the reference list for this guide.

Site Authorship

This site was created by Rebecca Price, MLIS, MEd.

Dark Tourism Photos

Visitors at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

by Glyn Lowe, licensed CC BY 2.0 

Tourists at the Flame of Liberty, used as a memorial for Princess Diana, London

Licensed cc by-SA 2.0

Wreckage from the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC

by smuconlaw, licensed CC BY 2.0 

Visitors at Memorial to November 2015 Terror Attacks in Paris

by Stolbovsky (Own work) licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Visitors view a memorial at the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre

by Bbjeter (Own work) licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 

Skulls of genocide victims on display at Murambi School, Rwanda

public domain, taken during the official visit of U.S. Representative Frank Wolf 

Visitors observe historical reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg

by By S Pakhrin, licensed CC BY 2.0 

Altar at Ntrama Church Memorial

by Scott Chacon, licensed CC BY 2.0