Dark Tourism: My Top 5 Bucket List Destinations

‘I have an odd attraction to all things dark tourism and never like to pass up an opportunity to visit an attraction on my travels…’  

I love visiting real and fictional crime scenes, as well the locations of major disasters, monster and ghost sightings. Dark tourism appeals to my inner ghoul…

I was thrilled to find out that the emergence of the ‘dark tourism’ market means that I’m far from alone in this interest.  I’m not sure whether this is a worrying trend or not, but I’m happy nonetheless  It’s not that I’m revelling in the death and suffering of my fellow (wo) man, it’s just that I have kind of brain where I’m always trying to work out what possesses people to do the things to do.  I wouldn’t hurt a fly*, so it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone else could.  I previously wrote about dark tourism spots that I’ve already visited and there are so many more I’m keen to see…

Overlook Hotel, The Shining

Courtesy of Pinterest
The creepy AF ‘Overlook’ (The Stanley Hotel)

The Overlook Hotel was the setting for Stephen King’s classic movie, The Shining.  Starring Jack Nicholson as the lonely writer who takes over the Caretaker role at the property during the closed season and slowly loses his marbles. I’m sure you know the story, so I’ll save you any more rambling.

The exterior scenes of the film were shot at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado and the hotel is still open.  If you’re brave enough, you could wander round and scrawl ‘REDRUM’ on the wall in blood. Or you can tricycle down the halls.  You know, just if the mood strikes you.  It’s in no way compulsory or anything

I believe there are plans to turn the Stanley into a horror museum and OMG YES PLEASE.

Bates Motel and House, Psycho

courtesy of flavorwire.com
Noooormaaaaan…   (Courtesy of Flavorwire)

Bates Motel was built on the lot at Universal Studios in California and, sadly, isn’t a real property.  Despite this, I’d still love to drag my rocking chair round the front and sit, laughing maniacally like a crazy lady.

I love Psycho, and the main house has such an iconic look that it just oozes creepiness.  I’ve stayed in a few motels during in my time and immediately pull in off the highway if I see something that even *resembles* the Psycho house. I’ve never had an issue in the showers in any of them. However, I can’t say it’s not always at the back of my mind.

The Killing Fields, Cambodia

Skulls recovered from mass graves (Courtesy of PeacenotProfit.org)
The Killing Fields, Cambodia
Mass graves at The Killing Fields (Courtesy of Indochinavoyages.com)

This is the first one of my list that’s actually the site of a real life horror story. The Killing Fields are a series of sites across Cambodia where the government massacred and buried in excess of 1,3000,000 people.  Yep: that’s 1 MILLION, 3 HUNDRED THOUSAND of their own people.

The citizens were executed by the Community Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979.  If that wasn’t shocking enough, the combined total of murdered people, including those that perished due to starvation is between 1.7 and 2.5 million.

The people targeted were often ethnic groups of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese, as well as people with religious beliefs not shared by the Khmer Rouge.  Choeung Ek is one of the most famous sites of the Killing Fields and has a Bhuddist memorial and burial grounds commemorating the victims.  The temple in the park holds the skulls of around 5,000 people and lies just south of the capital, Phnom Pen.

Within Phmon Pen itself is the Genocide Museum of Teol Sleng.  This, like Choeung Ek, was the site of mass brutality within the walls of the notorious prison S-21.  It is estimated that around 20,000 people met their cruel fate within the jail.  Of those people, only 12 survived, which is testament to just how horrific life must have been there.

It’s a dark, dark period in the history of Cambodia (and for the rest of us) and it is, as odd as it sounds, wonderful to see that they’ve shared it with the world so openly in order to honour the people who lost their lives.  This, if nothing else, means they will never be forgotten.  I’m sad that I didn’t have time to visit during my time at Angkor Wat, but I plan to return at some point in the future to pay my respects.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

Keep out…. (courtesy of wiki)

You’d have to be living under a rock not to know the story of the Ukrainian nuclear power disaster in 1986.  It is the single biggest nuclear power plant accident in history. It had such far reaching consequences that radioactive particles travelled all the way from Ukraine to Western Europe.  The Chernobyl disaster was a Class 7 event, which is the highest possible, and is one of only two ever to scale those dizzy heights.  The other was at Fukishima in Japan.

The disaster itself began during a routing systems test which went a *little* bit awry.  After a power surge, an emergency shut down was attempted, which caused a sharp rise in power.  This led to a series of explosions which resulted in a massive radioactive fallout. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and resettled in ‘safer’ regions.

As the plant was run by central Soviet Government, it was some time before Ukrainian authorities were actually aware of the problem.  In addition, the local town wasn’t evacuated. The extent of the problem was only realised when residents started to fall ill. The fact that people of Pripyat had no clue about what had happened is horrifying. The fall out was so far reaching that radioactive rainfall even hit the Scottish Highlands.

Today, an exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl still exists. This is known as the Alienation Zone, which is pretty much as off-putting as it sounds. However, in view of tourism interest, one of the reactor sites has been opened up to visitors. The radiation levels are still so high it’s estimated it won’t be safe to inhabit for 20,000 year.  Even when it’s deemed safe(r), workers won’t be allowed on site for more than a few days at a time.

Belchite, Spain

The abandoned Spanish town of Belchite (courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk)
the ruins of Belchite (courtesy of GoNomad.com)

The Battle of Belchite occurred between August and September 1937 in the small town outside Zaragoza.  The battle was fought between the Republicans and Franco’s Nationalists and all but destroyed Belchite. When the war ended, Franco insisted that the town be left as it was as a memorial.  A new town was built nearby, but the original Belchite remains and has become a dark tourism hotspot.

May of the properties in Belchite remain partially intact  There’s furniture and decoration in place; cars outside, and signs of the life that used to live there in plain view.  It’s difficult to imagine a situation where you have to flee in an attempt to escape with your most important asset: your life.  And your dog, obviously.   And your husband, if you have time.

In years gone by, you could wander the site on your own. These days, you can only visit as part of a guided tour.

Have you visited any dark tourism spots?

Suz x 

 

*but I would murder the ninja cat who lives by me who keeps leaping out of the bushes when I pass…

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