Dark tourism has successfully been on the rise, especially in the last couple of years. Netflix’s Dark Tourist has only served to emphasize on the growing demands of tourists willing looking to explore new areas of attraction.
While powder-white beaches and stunning ski resorts may never go out of style, tables are turned during Halloween. In a bid to honor the devil’s number, check out these six freaky locations, perfect for dark tourism.
1. Suicide forest, Japan
Mount Fuji may be Japan’s iconic site, however what lies towards its northwest might change the perception of this stunning mountain. The dense forests of Aokigahara has all it takes to be a set for a blockbuster horror film. But to the locals, the dark woods are better known as ‘Suicide Forest’. Official statistics on the suicide rates of Japan’s forest may vary, due to the sheer size of the woods.
However, Aokigahara is believed to witness up to 100 deaths a year. This includes bodies which may have been dead for several years, before being identified by local authorities. Aokigahara’s geography only aids to its eerie reputation. Trees are as twisted as a witch’s hair and roots form treacherous web-like traps. Therefore, making this a must see in anyone’s dark tourism bucket list.
2. Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic
This small chapel sits in the suburbs of Kutna Hora. From afar, it is nothing more than a medieval gothic church. As you set foot in Sedlec Ossuary though, its an entirely different experience. This is one of the most intriguing churches in the world. The chapel is embellished with more than 40, 000 human skeletons. Therefore, giving rise to the tagline of ‘The Church of Bones’. The massive chandelier is the most impressive artwork in Sedlec Ossuary. This piece of art as it is made up of at least one of every bone in the human body.
Additionally, chains of skulls and intricately arranged bones can be seen on the walls of the church. It all began when the abbot brought back a jar of soil from Golgotha, believed to be where Jesus was crucified. As the word spread, people from all over the world turned to this church to bury their loved ones. Thus, the ossuary was built. Impressively, the half blind monk who was tasked with this, artistically arranged the bones as they are seen today, much to the delight of dark tourism enthusiasts.
3. Choeung Ek, Cambodia
The barbaric Khmer Rouge reign in 1975 – 1979 saw almost a quarter of Cambodia’s population wiped out through starvation and execution. The latter sees the nation’s Killing Fields accommodating up to over a million bodies, with Choeung Ek being the largest of the fields. Phnom Penh’s S-21 Genocide Museum served as the main political prison, before the prisoners were sent to Choeung Ek, crammed in the back of trucks like a can of tuna. Over 12,000 political prisoners were detained, however, there are only seven known survivors.
The rest were believed to be blindfolded and pushed into pits containing thousands of dead bodies. To avoid wasting bullets, these prisoners had their heads pounded with spades and were left for dead. Today, these horrifying acts are highly evident in Cheoung Ek’s memorial center. Furthermore, the compelling audio tour gives dark tourism fans a harrowing insight into the tragic times of the genocidal regime.
4. Chernobyl, Ukraine
This ghost town was the victim of a destructive nuclear power plant leak in 1986. The world’s worst nuclear disaster started during a safety test on one of its reactors. The tragedy saw many lives, especially workers and firemen severely affected by the radioactive leak. Many have died and even more are reportedly suffering from the ill-effects of this mishap.
Recently, HBO’s brilliant series, Chernobyl, dedicated to the tales of this disaster has led to a massive spike of interest in this town. Travelers flock from far and wide to explore the remains of the eerie city. From abandoned homes and schools to parks and buildings, this setting is perhaps the world’s most famous dark tourism destination.
5. Leap Castle, Ireland
This is said to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, thanks to its bloody history and ghastly acts of violence committed within its walls. One of which includes the murder of Thaddeus O’Carroll, by his brother. The dispute of the O’Carroll leadership saw Tiege piercing a sword to the back of Thaddeus, who was a priest. To add to that, the murder was committed in a chapel, now better known as the ‘Bloody Chapel’.
In addition, 40 members of the McMahon clan were hired to train the O’Carroll’s in warfare. Following a victory over a rival clan, the O’Carrolls repaid the McMahon’s by having them over for a feast and poisoning them soon after. Hence, we now know the source of inspiration for Game of Thrones’ most shocking episode, The Red Wedding.
In the 1600s, the ownership of Leap Castle was passed to the Darby family. However, the dark times only escalated as an evil spirit infested the castle. Mildred Darby indulged in dark arts and unleashed the Elemental spirit. She recounts the experience in the 1909 Journal Occult Review as, “The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse.”
Additionally, the sinister discovery of a dungeon in the ‘Bloody Chapel’, which revealed masses of human skeleton is every bit disturbing even for dark tourism enthusiasts. The remains were believed to be guests of the O’Carroll’s who sent them plunging from a trap door, and straight onto wooden spikes which punctured their lungs. Talk about a warm welcome.
6. Pompeii, Italy
A visit to Pompeii allows travelers to feast their eyes on Europe’s most compelling archaeological site, as the sprawling ruins of Pompeii is both equally majestic and haunting. The world’s largest Roman town was destroyed by the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Pompeii was then buried under this volcanic shroud for an estimated 1700 years, before active excavation efforts began in the 18th and 19th century. What was uncovered though, was nothing short of fascinating.
The remains of human bodies were found in abundance, shockingly frozen in time, thanks to the volcanic ash. Giuseppe Fiorelli, the director of the excavations identified the voids left by the decayed corpses. He then poured plaster into the air pockets and chipped away the outer layers of ash to reveal the corpse, frozen in its original position. Some of these bodies were found trying to shield their faces. The excavation also revealed a mother’s desperate attempt to save her child, unfortunately left in vain.
There you have it, six haunting destinations for the ultimate dark tourism bucket list. If you’re keen to create spooky Halloween illustrations, check out this collection of Halloween design visuals. Finally, take a peek at this curated likebox for your travel inspiration, be it for your blog, magazine or website!