Morbid Tourism is not a new phenomenon and people increasingly continue to visit places with some mysteries behind them or places where people have died.
Annika Majak takes a look at the concept and gives tips on places to visit for those who like the morbid.
More than twenty years ago, Thomas Blom, a Swedish senior lecturer in human geography at Karlstad University, coined the term morbid tourism. In the early nineties, he went to Washington and while there, he visited Arlington National Cemetery. “I saw a form of tourism migration on the cemetery. There was a small center where you could buy souvenirs and newly printed newspapers about John F. Kennedy from the day he died,” explains Thomas Blom.
He noticed that places with violent history and sudden death seemed to attract tourists and decided to find out more about this. Pretty soon he discovered that people are drawn to places where morbid events have occurred. “People visit places where there has been a murder or places where something mystical has occurred,” he continues. This creates a tourist industry around morbid places and generally these places are all around us. It is not a new phenomenon, but how has it evolved over the years?
According to Blom it is thanks to media development that morbid tourism keeps increasing. Information now reaches us through social media in just seconds.And if truth be told, most of us, in one way or another, are interested in morbid tourism, whether we like to admit it or not. “There is something in all of us that attracts us to morbid places and gory details attract many visitors,” says Blom.
So, what exactly is morbid tourism? It is a phenomenon where tourists visit places where others have lost their lives. It gladly contains violent and sudden deaths. It can also be beneficial and highlight individuals and it should preferably be a little bit scary, but in a controlled manner. However it does not have to be 100 percent truth, fiction and film locations also work.
Four morbid places to visit around the world:
California, USA – Michael Jackson’s death site
100 North Carol Wood Drive, Los Angeles, California – the address where the King of Pop passed away. Immediately after his death, people began to gather outside the gates bringing flowers, teddy bears and letters. Even if the flowers are no longer there, it is still a huge tourist attraction and many tours in Los Angeles go to the house.
Czech Republic – Sedlec Ossuary
About an hour’s drive outside of Prague there is a church that, from the outside looks like any other church. When you go inside you will see the result of what a half-blind monk created in the 1500s. From floor to ceiling, it is covered in various skeletal remains. There is a chandelier made out of human bones and a military shield containing the same. The bones of approximately 40,000 people are portrayed in this church. It takes morbid to a new level.
Peru – The mummies
There are several locations around Peru where you can see real mummies. Some of the museums are small and privately owned but they still allow tourists to visit. Be prepared to see grotesque facial expressions of mummies in strange and awkward positions. In some cases, the heads are also elongated due to skull-extension using planks.
South Africa – Robben Island
You do not have to leave South Africa to participate in morbid tourism. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 19 years, forms part of morbid tourism. Today it is no longer a prison, but a huge tourist attraction where the guides themselves are previous prisoners who had been on the island. Book your ticket and take a boat trip to the island to learn more about how Nelson Mandela spent his jail time on Robben Island.
About the author: Annika Majak is a freelance journalist. Born in Sweden but calls the whole world her home. (Shares her travel on her website www.bringblingtoeverything.com).