Trends in Dark Tourism: Communities taking spook to a whole new level


Ghost and spooky tourism is a big hit this time of year, but as tourists increasingly seek out "authentic" experiences, some communities are extending the spook season year-round. This is because more consumers are deliberately choosing to spend money to engage their senses and have a memorable, emotional experience over buying more stuff. Spooky tourism offers the opportunity to engage every sense, even the sixth sense if you're lucky (or maybe un-lucky, depending…). Some of my favorite communities that have successfully turned scare into an year-round affair include: 

Sleepy Hollow, NY

As the setting of Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," this is a community that knows how to tell a tale. The iconic ghost story of  the unfortunate pedagogue Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is woven into nearly everything that Sleepy Hollow does. But, they also have a sense of humor and put together a great YouTube video poking fun at the community's obsession with its own legend.


"From the listless repose of the place, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow. Some say that the place was bewitched during the early days of the Dutch settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power that holds a spell over the minds of the descendants of the original settlers."

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving


Gettysburg, PA

The sleepy Town of Gettysburg, PA, is the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War where over 50,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fell. They don't have to try hard to sell scare – it's everywhere. Even if you're not into the guided ghost tours with promises of paranormal encounters, I can tell you that it's nearly impossible to explore the town's historic buildings and rolling farm fields without getting shivers down your spine as you listen to the stories of what occurred there over the course of three summer days in 1863 - it's fascinating and terrifying. 

"...But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract..."

Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address

Salem, MA

There are no ghosts to believe in when you hear Salem's story, which makes it all the more frightening. As history tells it, in 1692 many young girls started writhing in pain experiencing fits. The official diagnosis at the time was bewitchment, but today's toxicologists suggest a fungus found in rye caused the symptoms. Whatever it was, it caused hysteria to spread throughout Salem leading to a series of trials and hangings of twenty people accused of witchcraft. Today, Salem owns its horrifying history by branding the modern witch. Their police cars that have witch logos and high school sports teams are the Witches. They also have a great tourism website that weaves in hints of Salem's witchy past without overdoing it.



You say I'm a Witch like it's a bad thing...



New Orleans, LA

The eclectic city of New Orleans has many claims to fame, one of which is America's Most Haunted City. Mark Twain even coined the cemeteries of New Orleans "Cities of the Dead." With a storied past rich with natural and man-made disasters, New Orleans' haunts are easy to find. But, a surprise to none, this city's brand of scare is deeply rooted in its celebratory culture where death is a cause for celebration with Day of the Dead, Krewe de Boo Parade (on Halloween), and Jazz Funerals. Who's game for a Bloody Mary Tour of Bourbon Street with Ramon, the resident vampire?




What's your ghost story?

Each community has a unique story and, therefore, their own brand of scare. Tell us your ghost stories in the comments!



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