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Review ?Vol. 54, No. 2/ 2006/ 145-160 ?UDC: 338.482:130.2
A dark tourism spectrum:
Towards a typology of death
and macabre related tourist
sites, attractions and exhibitions
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SUMMARY Deaths, disasters and atrocities in touristic form are becoming an increasingly pervasive
feature within the contemporary tourism landscape, and as such, are ever more providing
potential spiritual journeys for the tourist who wishes to gaze upon real and recreated death.
As a result, the rather emotive label of 'dark tourism' has entered academic discourse and
media parlance, and consequently has generated a significant amount of research interest.
However, despite this increasing attention the dark tourism literature remains both eclectic
and theoretically fragile. That is, a number of fundamental issues remain, not least whether it
is actually possible or justifiable to collectively categorise a diverse range of sites, attractions
and exhibitions that are associated with death and the macabre as 'dark tourism', or whether
identifiable degrees or 'shades' of darkness can be attributed to a particular type of dark
tourism supplier. This paper argues that certain suppliers may indeed, conceptually at least,
share particular product features, perceptions and characteristics, which can then be loosely
translated into various 'shades of darkness'. As a result, dark tourism products may lie along a
rather 'fluid and dynamic spectrum of intensity', whereby particular sites may be conceivably
'darker' than others, dependant upon various defining characteristics, perceptions and product
traits. It is proposed that construction of a firm and comprehensive typological foundation will
lead not only to a better understanding of dark tourism supply, but also, and perhaps more
importantly, lead to a better understanding of where to locate and explore consumer demand,
motivations and experiences.
Keywords:
dark tourism; supply; product; death; macabre; framework
INTRODUCTION
Deaths, disasters and atrocities in touristic form are includes people gazing upon sites of brutality at former
becoming an increasingly pervasive feature within the battlefields of northern France, to visitors purchasing
contemporary tourism landscape, and as such, are ever souvenirs of atrocity at Ground Zero, to tourists
more providing potential spiritual journeys for the sightseeing in the ruins of New Orleans (after Hurricane
tourist who wishes to gaze upon real and recreated Katrina), or touring sites of mass murder and tragedy
death. Indeed, the seemingly macabre within tourism such as Auschwitz-Birkenau or the Killing Fields of
Philip R. Stone, MA in Tourism Management, Senior Lecturer in Lancashire Business School, Department of Tourism and Leisure Management,
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
E-mail: pstone@uclan.ac.uk
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Philip R. Stone ?Vol. 54, No. 2/ 2006/ 145-160
Cambodia. Consequently, the phenomenon by which perceptions and product features. Consequently, this
people visit, purposefully or as part of a broader recre- paper outlines a conceptual framework entitled `A Dark
ational itinerary, the diverse range of sites, attractions Tourism Spectrum', where it is argued the task of
and exhibitions which offer a (re)presentation of death theoretically measuring the extent of `darkness' and
and suffering, is ostensibly growing within contempo- the multi-hued nature of dark tourism sites, attractions
rary society. As a result, the rather emotive label of and exhibitions can begin. Ultimately, from this
`dark tourism', and its awkward, if not more precise framework, the paper suggests a typology of Seven Dark
sister term of `thanatourism' has entered academic Suppliers which may be loosely `plotted' against this
discourse and media parlance (Foley and Lennon 1996; `spectrum of supply'. It is proposed that construction
Lennon and Foley 2000; Seaton 1996). Although the of a firm and comprehensive typological foundation
author does not wish to enter into a philosophical will lead not only to a better understanding of dark
debate over the term `dark', but rather to accept a tourism supply, but also, and perhaps more impor-
common-sense meaning, it is fair to suggest that the tantly, to a better understanding of where to locate
term `dark', as applied here, alludes to a sense of and explore dark tourism demand. This should lead to
apparent disturbing practices and morbid products (and the more fundamental research task of extricating those
experiences) within the tourism domain. With this in consumer motives and experiences which are central
mind, it is suggested that dark tourism may be referred to fully understanding the dark tourism phenomenon.
to as the act of travel to sites associated with death,
suffering and the seemingly macabre. Likewise, Tarlow
(2005: 48) identifies dark tourism as `visitations to places DARK TOURISM SUPPLY
where tragedies or historically noteworthy death has AND DEMAND
occurred and that continue to impact our lives'.
Needless to say, no analysis of dark tourism supply can
Thus the concept of dark tourism, in its various be complete if tourist behaviour and demand for the
manifestations, has generated a significant amount of dark tourism product are not acknowledged. Indeed,
research and media interest (see for example www. it is crucial to the understanding of this phenomenon
dark-tourism.org.uk). However, despite this increasing that an ability to extract and interrogate the motives
attention the dark tourism literature remains both of so-called dark tourists exists. This is particularly so
eclectic and theoretically fragile. That is, a number of within a variety of social, cultural and geographical
fundamental issues remain, not least whether it is contexts. It is perhaps this fundamental requirement
actually possible or justifiable to collectively categorise of `understanding the underside' and extricating
a diverse range of sites, attractions and exhibitions that consumer motivation that is propelling the current dark
are associated with death and the macabre as `dark tourism debate (Stone 2005a). Nevertheless, the purpose
tourism', or whether identifiable degrees or `shades' of this paper is to address, though not necessarily solve,
of darkness can be attributed to a particular type of the issue of dark tourism from a supply perspective,
dark tourism supplier (Miles 2002; Strange and Kempa which in turn will lay a theoretical underpinning in
2003; Sharpley 2005). Evidently, in order to address order to better explore consumer demand. It could be
these questions, it is necessary to possess some under- argued of course, that dark tourism is simply a manifes-
standing of how and why particular `dark' visitor sites, tation of consumer demand. As such, Seaton (1996)
attractions and exhibitions exist and whether certain suggests dark tourism is essentially a behavioural
`dark suppliers' share particular attributes and product phenomenon, defined by tourist's motives as opposed
traits. Therefore, in order to construct a holistic appro- to particular characteristics of a site or attraction.
ach to the diverse and fragmented nature of dark However, Seaton's view rather restricts dark tourism
tourism supply, this paper argues certain suppliers may to a demand orientated phenomenon, whilst over-
indeed, conceptually at least, share particular product looking important supply aspects. Consequently, Shar-
features, perceptions and characteristics, which can pley (2005) suggests it remains unclear as to whether
then be loosely translated into various `shades of the dark tourism phenomenon is attraction-supply
darkness'. As a result, dark tourism products may lie driven or indeed consumer-demand driven. Thus he
along a rather `fluid spectrum of intensity' whereby argues it is important to consider both demand and
particular sites may be conceivably `darker' than others, supply elements in attempting to construct any
dependant upon various defining characteristics, framework of this phenomenon.
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Philip R. Stone ?Vol. 54, No. 2/ 2006/ 145-160
Whilst the author indeed accepts this notion, complex Early examples of dark tourism may be found in the
demand motivators for the dark tourism product are patronage of Roman gladiatorial games. With death
explored elsewhere, especially with regard to consumer and suffering at the core of the gladiatorial product,
experiences of dark tourism and the meaning of death and its eager consumption by raucous spectators, the
and dying within contemporary society (Stone and Roman Colosseum may be considered one of the first
Sharpley forthcoming). dark tourist attractions. Other precursors to dark tou-
rism may be seen in the public executions of the
Importantly therefore, prior to the more fundamental medieval period up until the nineteenth century. As
task of extracting and interrogating consumer demand, public spectacles, executions served as visible reminders
the need to appreciate dark tourism supply more fully of deterrence and retribution. Yet with the advent of
is evident. As a diverse and fragmented set of dark more formalised arrangements to accommodate
tourism suppliers exists, so equally diverse are the visiting voyeurs, public executions increasingly took
motives of tourists who visit and consume these on the characteristics of a spectator event. Indeed,
products. However, the argument is that before one execution sites such as Tyburn in London boasted
can systemically address the fundamental question of specially erected grandstands to offer better vantage
why people visit such places, a recognised and struc- points to see the condemned die. In a similar vein, this
tured framework of dark tourism supply is required to fascination with `Other Death' may be seen in the
aid the identification, and subsequent research of alleged first guided tour in England, whereby in 1838
potential visitors and their experiences to these dark a railway excursion in Cornwall took in the hanging of
tourism products. Firstly however, it is necessary, two convicted murderers (Boorstin 1987). Other early
through a brief review of the literature, to draw toge- examples of dark tourism may be found in the guided
ther extant concepts and knowledge of dark tourism morgue tours of the Victorian period, the Chamber of
as a basis for subsequent discussions. Horrors exhibition of Madame Tussauds, or in `correc-
tion houses' of the nineteenth century where galleries
were built to accommodate fee-paying visitors who
DARK TOURISM: ATTRACTION OF witnessed flogging as a recreational activity.
DEATH, DISASTER AND THE MACABRE
However, dark tourism over the last century has beco-
As mortal finite beings, as we shall live so we shall die. me more widespread and varied. Smith (1998) for
It is this very premise of the human condition that lies example, suggests that sites or destinations associated
at the crux of the dark tourism concept. It could be with war probably constitute `the largest single cate-
argued that we have always held a fascination with gory of tourist attractions in the world' (also see Hender-
death, whether our own or others, through a son 2000). Yet war-related attractions, though them-
combination of respect and reverence or morbid selves diverse, are a subset of the totality of tourist si-
curiosity and superstition. tes associated with death and suffering (Dann 1998).
However, it is (western) society's apparent contem- Additionally, within the literature, reference is frequen-
porary fascination with death, real or fictional, media tly made either to specific destinations, such as the
inspired or otherwise, that is seemingly driving the Sixth Floor in Dallas, Texas (Foley and Lennon 1996) or
dark tourism phenomenon. Further to this, Marcel to forms of tourism, such as visits to graveyards (Seaton
(2004) noted the range and diversity of dark tourism 2002) and celebrity death sites (Alderman 2002),
supply when she examined whether `death makes a holocaust tourism (Ashworth 1996), prison tourism
holiday', and consequently suggested that dark tourism (Strange and Kempa 2003), or slavery-heritage tourism
is the dirty little secret of the tourism industry. (Dann and Seaton 2001). Such is the diversity of
Nevertheless, before the democratization of travel dark macabre-related attractions, from fictional death in the
tourism had a number of precursors, and indeed death `Dracula Experience' in Whitby, UK, or recreated death
has been an element of tourism longer than any other in the London Dungeon, UK, to the sites of real `famous'
form of tourism supply, often through religious or deaths (James Dean, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley - see
pilgrimage purposes (Seaton 1996; also see Sharpley Alderman 2002) or major disasters (Ground Zero and
and Sundaram 2005). New Orleans), that a full categorisation of supply is com-
plex and multifaceted.
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Is dark tourism postmodern?Dark Tourism and Dark Heritage: Towards a Common Ground Lennon and Foley (2000) locate the concept of dark tourism within postmodernist contexts, highlighting its key characteristics and mapping them against postmodernist philosophical