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The Creepy Appeal of Dark Tourism

by Barbara Rogers

Apr 25, 2024

© Saiko3p | Dreamstime.com


While the term dark tourism applies more widely to places associated with tragedies, death and the grimmer moments in history, at its heart is a fascination with the bizarre, mysterious and spooky — qualities certain to attract older kids and teens. While sites of mass tragedy may not be suitable, you can enliven family travel with stops at some creepy places.


Imaginations can run wild in semi-ruined castles and old mansions with secret passageways and hidden rooms. Ghost towns, dungeons, prehistoric chambered tombs and dolmen, dark tunnels (especially those reputedly used by smugglers), crypts, catacombs, and underground places in general produce a frisson and a sense of mystery.


Bone chapels — churches whose walls are lined with artistically arranged human skulls and bones — while not common, are found throughout Europe, from Portugal to the Czech Republic. In Italy, both Rome and Milan have them. Other dark tourism sites, such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, are major tourist attractions for historic importance, but the appeal to kids is in its creepiness.


Why are kids fascinated by the Colosseum in Rome? Not its size, architecture or historic significance but because that’s where the gladiators fought lions. Consider some of these places in your travels:



The darkest of these places may not be for all kids, but if yours have a taste for reading mystery stories or watching creepy films, some dark tourism sites might put a little variety in your family travels.


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