Saturday, 17 June 2017

Trips to Tragedy: Dark Tourism

Have you ever found yourself interested in macabre? Possibly wanting to visit somewhere associated with it? Then you will want to look into the concept of 'dark tourism'. Dark tourism is defined as "tourism that involves travelling to places associated with death or suffering" and Chris Lloyd's short film, Trips to Tragedy: Dark Tourism, explores the obsession that most people have with visiting places that have tragic pasts. The film explores specific cases such as people visiting Cromwell Street in Gloucester to see the house in which Fred and Rose West killed and buried their victims and the Welsh village of Aberfan, in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school in 1966. The most intriguing thing that Chris explores in his film, after the concept of dark tourism itself, is the moral complications that it causes. Is it acceptable for tourists to visit places such as these and furthermore, is it acceptable for businesses to profit off them?

For me, there are different levels of dark tourism. Not all dark tourists are out to fulfill some form of sick kick. For the past 70+ years people have visited sites of tragedy such as the holocaust camp Auschwitz and the city of Hiroshima, which was destroyed by the atomic bomb. These sites may fall under the dark tourism umbrella, but at the same time they are sites of historical importance which people can visit for educational purposes as well as to pay their respects. However, there is definitely a more corrupt side to the matter. For example, Trips to Tragesy: Dark Tourism sees Chris meet a man who is running an actual bus tour around Bridgend, the town in which 26 people killed themselves as part of a suspected suicide cult. Not only is making money off the suicides incredibly wrong, but creating a tourist hotspot when there are still people grieving for those who died is rather disrespectful.


Can it be argued that we all have at least an inner dark tourist? For me, my dark tourist spot comes in the form of 77 Barton Street in Macclesfield. I have been a massive fan of Joy Division since I was in my early teens, and as I grew older I began to understand and appreciate their music more and more. I became enthralled by Ian Curtis' lyrics and always wanted to know what influenced him and where his ideas came from. Only we'll never truly know. On May 18th 1980, after battling epilepsy and depression, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his home on Barton Street. So, what possessed me to visit this place? Was it the fact that Curtis lived there? Or was it the fact that he died there? I don't really know how to put the reason for my visit into words. I suppose that being near the place that Ian Curtis, whom is an icon in my eyes, spent his last moments gave me a sense of being close to him. Interestingly enough, the issue of morality comes into play once again as a super fan allegedly purchased the property in 2015 and plans to turn it into a Joy Division museum. Is this something to be celebrated? Or is it an act of disrespect? Curtis left behind his wife and daughter, so how would they feel about having their former home, and the place that a member of their family commit suicide, turned into an attraction that someone else will use to earn a profit?

Ultimately, dark tourism and an interest in the macabre is something that has been engrained in human history for centuries. Roman citizens would flock to see Christians being savaged by lions, and prior to the invention of television people would seek entertainment in the form of watching executions. So, perhaps in today's society that in no way condones actions such as these, dark tourism is the 21st century answer to getting our fix of morbidity.

I would like to thank Chris for getting in touch and sharing his film with me. Make sure that you go and watch it here and let us know your opinions on dark tourism.

You can find Chris on Twitter here.

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