Halloween is here and to celebrate LGIU has cast an eye on all things “dark tourism”. A semi-recent concept with a long tradition, dark tourism concerns sightseeing at some of the least happy places on Earth, sites of tragedy, war, incarceration, disasters and death.
Over the last couple of weeks, we asked our readers and the LGIU team what dark tourism destination you found the most interesting, moving or even chilling.
We got loads of great ideas! Here are some of our favourites.
Check out our Global Local: Dark Tourism with a range of additional resources.
1. City of Gosnells Ghost Walks in Western Australia
This tour has won the Western Australia Heritage Award and the National Award for Local Government in the Creativity and Culture category for Ghost Walks. The City of Gosnell’s mayor Terresa Lynes says the event “is an entertaining and memorable way to immerse yourself in history”.
“For nearly 30 years, Ghost Walks has brought our rich local history to life, welcoming hundreds of community members each year to explore heritage sites by moonlight, where they meet ‘ghosts’ of local historical figures,” Mayor Lynes said.
Three Ghost Walks events are held each year, on Fridays closest to the full moon in January, February and March. Four tours are held each night, accommodating 300 participants each year.
Tickets are released to coincide with Halloween each year and the sessions generally sell out months in advance. Find tickets here!
2. Aberdeenshire Council’s Historic Churches trail
Claire Herbert of the Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service explained the work of her service and council in maintaining Aberdeenshire’s historic churches: “We actively encourage people to visit our historic ruined churches and associated graveyards (now closed to new burials). Our Historic Churches trail guides visitors to 12 historic churches & graveyards across Aberdeenshire, and we suggest visitors take time to explore the surrounding graveyards to learn the stories of the parish, the people and events, their triumphs and tragedies. Within these graveyards, we also have interpretation boards which explain what the various memento mori symbols on gravestones mean as well as discuss the stories of some of those buried. We also talk about the body snatching phenomenon where the graveyards have mort houses and mort safes. Aberdeenshire Council runs a Historic Assets Management Project to manage and maintain assets such as historic graveyards, carrying out repairs as and when required”.
3. Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh
LGIU’s Scotland Commissioner Kim recommends the Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, supposedly the most haunted graveyard in the world. Kim describes it as “amazingly atmospheric”.
Any Harry Potter fans will also love wandering Kirkyard as they’ll quickly realise many headstones have been the inspiration for characters, including McGonagall, Moodie and even Tom Riddell – one of modern literature’s most famous villains!
4. Wicklow’s Historic Gaol
We received an anonymous recommendation for Wicklow’s Historic Gaol, owned by Wicklow County Council, describing it as “Ireland’s best interactive Jail Museum, located in the heart of Wicklow town. Wicklow Gaol is an unforgettable journey through an original prison building, telling the stories of the men, women and children imprisoned here over two centuries of turbulent history. The Gates of Hell at Wicklow Gaol is Ireland’s Premier Virtual Reality experience. Guests are transported back in time & immersed 360 degrees in three unique stories from the Gaol history, set in authentic cells in the Gaol building. It is multi-generational & multi-lingual.
Paranormal activity at Wicklow Gaol has earned the building the reputation of one of the most haunted places in Ireland. Wicklow Gaol was, for many years, a place of horrendous atrocities in which prisoners were subjected to torture, starvation and death. Many might scoff at the idea of ghosts. Many others believe that a place such as this, with its dark and sordid history, could very well harbour the spirits of those who previously lived or worked here. Come and visit, if you dare!”
5. Paris Catacombs
LGIU’s Head of Content, Ingrid, has visited several dark tourism hotspots in her time, but one of her top picks has to be the Paris Catacombs. Twenty meters underground and thought to be around 300km long, this underground network contains the remains of several million Parisians.
6. Leap Castle in Co. Offaly
Olive Farrelly, Tourism Officer at Offaly County Council, recommended “Leap Castle in Co. Offaly, arguably the world’s most haunted castle. Built in the early 1500s under the supervision of the powerful O’Carroll clan, the Leap Castle has a turbulent and bloody history and is said to be home to many spirits. While the Leap Castle is a private residence (yes, people actually live among the spirits!), it is open to visitors from 10am-5pm on Monday-Saturdays. The owner, Sean Ryan, legendary tin whistler, will show you around and might even play you a tune or two!”
7. Narni Sotterranea, Umbria, Italy
Simone, our Events Coordinator, recommends Narni Sotterranea, a historic subterranean underworld rediscovered in 1977, containing a church and prison.
8. Body Worlds Museum, Amsterdam
LGIU’s Content Manager Freya reluctantly suggested the Body Worlds museum in Amsterdam, recalling the time she visited and “naively didn’t actually know much about it, especially for someone who is really squeamish. We ended up accidentally walking around the museum the wrong way, and it was only when I got to the end (the actual beginning) that I read the sign explaining how it was actual human bodies on display. I genuinely thought it was just plastic models, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t know while going around because I don’t think I would have handled it well!”
9. Lú Festival of Light, Drogheda Ireland
Susan Murphy of Louth County Council recommends the Lú Festival of Light, which takes place in Drogheda with free family-friendly shows nightly from the 27th-31st October and the 2nd-4th November this year. Lú Festival is an audiovisual spectacular light show retelling the tales of Irish myths and legends.
10. Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora Czech Republic
Simon Blom, CEO at LGA Procurement, recommends Sedlec Ossuary, just outside of Prague in Kutna Hora, describing it as “A small church decorated with over 40,000 human skeletons. Simultaneously eerie and beautiful”.
11. Guys Cliffe House, Warwick
An anonymous recommendation was submitted for Guys Cliffe House in Warwick, which was described as “quite sinister though it’s set in lovely countryside, with a handy pub nearby – it’s most interesting if you go on the tour bookable online. Interesting information can also be found in the recently published Paranormal Warwickshire by local author S C Skillman (published by Amberley); she is currently researching for Paranormal Gloucestershire, which should turn up some great new ideas for future wanderings!”
12. Pere Lachaise, Paris
Andrew, LGIU’s Head of Research, recommends Pere Lachaise in Paris, the most visited necropolis in the world. Containing approximately 70,000 burial plots, the vast size of this cemetery alone makes it well worth a visit.
13. Larrimah, Northern Terriroty Australia
Freya and Bea from LGIU’s content team suggested Larrimah in Australia’s Northern Territory. Freya recently watched Last Stop Larrimah: Murder Down Under, a true crime documentary on Netflix about the 2017 murder in the middle-of-nowhere town of Larrimah with only 11 residents. “It’s a bit of a real-life Cluedo whodunnit mystery. It’s never ‘officially’ been solved, but I thought it was so interesting from a social perspective as the town, which was once a booming pitstop, is basically slowly dying out and those who remain just have so many (pretty trivial) feuds between them – a bit of a perfect storm for the murder. They also have news station footage interviewing all the residents from before the guy’s disappearance and they’re just slating each other and saying some pretty damning things. Don’t want to give too much away but it was just super interesting.”
You can see the trailer here!
14. Abney Park Cemetary, London
LGIU’s Content Officer, Sid, recommends Abney Park in London. Founded in 1840 as a non-denominational cemetery, the grounds have since become wild and weathered. The routes are winding at points, and you’ll likely come across dead ends and randomly placed graves – making this one of London’s best, but also creepiest, walking spots.
15. Hannah Twynnoy’s grave, Malmesbury
Finally, our Head of International Operations, Hannah, told us she once “took a lot of buses to get myself to Malmesbury specifically to see the grave of the first person to have been killed by a tiger in Britain”. Hard to top that!
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of spooky places you can visit – there’s so much more to explore in the world of dark tourism! For more ideas, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our dark tourism edition of Global Local on Halloween 🎃 featuring interviews with the Mayor of Salem and leading academics in the field of dark tourism.