Dark Tourism - Trips to Tragedy

Going to be talking about something a little bit different today. Usually on Cupcakes and Coasters I talk about all things themed attractions - usually with a focus on theme parks. However, there's obviously a much wider angle to tourism and tourist attractions in general and with that comes a darker side, and that 's what we're going to be discussing today.

Have you ever gone out of your way to visit the site of a death or a tragedy? Made sure that on your trip of fun and exciting antics you stop by a famous graveyard or museum that commemorates some horrific event in history? Then I'm sorry to say my friend, but you are what is known as a Dark Tourist!

Dark Tourism is the name given to tourism that involves travelling to places associated with death and suffering - most notably of events that have happened within living memory of those affected by it.

When this phenomenon was first brought to my attention by film student Chris Lloyd, whose final film project is based around the subject, I stopped and had a think about what Dark Tourism spots I've actually visited myself. And it's loads! Places like Auschwitz, Ground Zero, Dealey Plaza, the bridge where Princess Diana crashed, I'm actually quite a prolific Dark Tourist myself without even realising it.

But then I thought about it, lots of people visit these places. They're some of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. Isn't it weird how such an industry is built on death and tragedy? And whilst I know a lot of people would claim they're visiting these places as a mark of respect, we all really know that it's pure morbid curiosity that gets us visiting these places in the first place.

But there's definitely a different vibe in the air when you visit these 'attractions' (can you even call these places attractions? It always feels like such a happy word to me so feels wrong!) You notice people are a lot quieter and when posing for pictures there tends in general to be a poise of dignity and respect, less selfies and group shots (although not everyone appears to subscribe to the same consideration).

So, is it right? There are lots of tours and industry and monetisation from places like this, is it morally acceptable to profit from death and tragedy? I'd argue there are different categories of Dark Tourism. You have things like Auschwitz and Ground Zero whose atrocities had a massive impact on the entire world where tours and museums are warranted. It's a shared tragedy for the whole of humankind and it makes sense in my mind that people would want to visit places like this.

Then you have the slightly weirder side of things. I'm talking 25 Cromwell Street, the home of notorious serial killers Fred and Rose West, places like that. The tragedies that took place in these locations affected a much smaller number of people and whilst I'm sure we're all in agreement that the events were horrific, there's something a little seedier about a pilgrimage to visit such a location. In my opinion it just seems to capitalise on the pseudo-celebrity culture perpetuated by the British tabloids around tragedies like these and I don't necessarily think that's a good thing...

But overall, I don't think there's anything wrong, or even that unusual, about being compelled to visit a Dark Tourism spot. Western culture is obsessed with the morbid and macabre. Look at the success of things like Making A Murderer on Netflix or even things like Crimewatch. We don't watch things like this because we want justice, we follow them because we want all the grisly and gory details (and if you don't then you're just a liar, frankly).

I'd like to thank Chris for getting in touch with me about such a fascinating subject and implore you to check out his short film Trips to Tragedy - Dark Tourism!

Talk later xoxo,


  1. Hi - found this through Chris's post on FB. And I agree with you about the different sorts of dark tourism. I've also long been a dark tourist even long before I knew that the term existed. It's probably the same for the vast majority of dark tourists. But now I'm actually travelling much more targetedly as a dedicated dark tourists. I also exclude sites like Cromwell Road or dodgy exploitative tours, but the more you research it, the more you become aware just how incredibly wide the scope of dark tourism is.
    If you want to know more, check out my website http://www.dark-tourism.com/ (e.g. go to 'categories' ... there are over 40 of them listed there!)

    Thanks for a cool post!

    best wishes


    1. Thanks so much for reading, glad you enjoyed it! Your website is soooo interesting, this whole thing has opened up a whole new world for me!