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147759.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 6:07 am Reply with quote

Have we heard of thanatourism? This is the (apparently) growing market for “cheap holidays in other people's misery,” as JR once sang it.

Otherwise known as “dark tourism,” it’s the kind of package holiday that you strongly suspect would appeal to future serial killers and budding US high school massacre kids.

Auschwitz, those skyscrapers they blew up in New York, the hotel where Martin Luther King was murdered, Cambodia's killing fields - these are all popular destinations for tourists attracted by death, destruction, tragedy and disaster. (Insert Benidorm joke here).

Interestingly - discomfortingly - academics studying thanatourism also list Graceland and the ruins of Pompeii as thana destinations. (Apologies if you've heard me on this before, but it has always struck me as mindblowingly incomprehensible that, for instance, the sinking of the Titanic and the murders of Jack the Ripper have been, for so many decades, acceptable, cosy, respectable “hobbies.” There were still survivors of the Titanic alive when that disaster became part of the entertainment industry. And yet, the same doesn't apply to the 11/9 attacks on New York, or recent paedophile murders, for instance. How is it decided which tragedies are fun for all the family?)

Anyway, the term was coined in 1996 at Glasgow Caledonian University by Profs John Lennon (blimey! Presumably the hotel where John Lennon died is a prime thana site?) and Malcolm Foley. In an academic paper, they noted that the number of dark tourists was “growing exponentially.”

Prof Lennon believes dark tourism is ancient: religious pilgrimages, Roman gladiatorial games and Victorian morgue tours, he gives as previous examples. He also points out that in 1815, British nobles actually paid to watch the Battle of Waterloo - which is surely the absolute ultimate in thanatourism, and something which I have no doubt at all will be revived within the next few years.

Lennon expresses surprise at how quickly some disaster sites begin cashing in: Sarajevo and Rwanda, for instance, have organised thana tours, while New Orleans was receiving organised groups of tourists within 18 months of the flood.

Prof Lennon himself was, at the time of the interview, “looking forward to a visit to the Killing Fields.” It seems his work is his hobby.

S: Western Daily Press, 30 Dec 06.

147783.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 6:48 am Reply with quote

cf people picnicking by the motorway to watch the emergency services dealing with the aftermath of a pile-up, which I recall was a big issue in the papers in about 1976 (I recall that because we did a sketch on the topic in an undergraduate revue).

Back when I had a proper job a party-organising company brought us a proposal for a Titanic-themed Christmas party. You arrived and were served cocktails in a mock-up of the state room, then for dinner you went through to another room which was done up in the same way but as though it was underwater, ie as though the ship had sunk between courses.

I would say that this theme does have scope, even if the sketch we did in 1976 did completely fail to exploit it. Maybe in an "Endings" show?

154503.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:08 am Reply with quote

This could also go under "extravagance" or "excess".

The world's most expensive package tour "Around the World by Private Jet" operated by Abercrombie & Kent. Cost (3 years ago) -
$70,000 US dollars per person for 28 days! Drinks not included!

source: was on the tour myself for 8 days (for free - it was a newspaper assignment).

Frederick The Monk
154582.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 10:59 am Reply with quote

MatC wrote:
.... He also points out that in 1815, British nobles actually paid to watch the Battle of Waterloo - which is surely the absolute ultimate in thanatourism, and something which I have no doubt at all will be revived within the next few years....

We don't need to go - rolling news brings all the thrills of the battlefield to our living room. We are all armchair thanatourists.

Frederick The Monk
154585.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 11:03 am Reply with quote

I make the odd history documetary or two and the most common request I get from broadcasters and production companies is for treatments on historic disasters. Every year there will be requests for Pompeii, Santorini, the collapse of the Maya etc. The US market are also usually after docs on serial killers which seem to do rather well.

My nephew's favourite programme currently is 'Moments from Disaster' a show which lingers on shots of happy folk who are unaware that in a few seconds time their plane/ car/ space shuttle/ bicycle will dissolve into a fireball of unaccountable misery.


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