What if I told you there is a whole seedy underbelly to tourism all around the world?
It’s called “dark tourism” and these destinations typically involve places historically associated with death, tragedy, and genocide. The most famous example is Auschwitz—the concentration camps of mass genocide against the Jewish people.
But is there a fine line between education and exploitation? What’s the difference? Well, it should be called “tacky tourism” and you’ll never believe how some opportunists profit off these tragic destinations.
You may have already heard of the docuseries on Netflix called “Dark Tourist” hosted by New Zealand journalist David Farrier who travels to some of the world’s most infamous historical events took place.
But in this docuseries, you’ll discover the line is blurred between what needs to be taught—educating the masses so that we don’t repeat history—and reckless disregard for those who lost their lives or livelihoods from these tragedies by charging tourists for that knowledge.
Here are some examples discussed in Netflix’s “Dark Tourist.”
President John F. Kennedy Assassination Tours
It’s still one of the most disturbing videos ever recorded. President John F. Kennedy is riding through the streets of Dallas, Texas when a shot rings out from… somewhere… and strikes Kennedy in the head while First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy sits right next to him.
Farrier goes on one JFK tour that’s enough to make you spit out your coffee upon seeing the gross sensationalism of it. The Netflix host takes the tour on a literal party bus to learn about the assassination.
And it’s as ridiculous as it sounds too.
They literally have an actress who plays Jacquelin Kennedy who’s afraid to move because she fears JFK’s brain matter will spill out of his head. It’s grossly offensive and purely for shock value, but people pay for that absurd nonsense.
Farrier also meets a man named Robin who claims to be a “historian” on the tour, but you quickly learn he’s a conspiracy theorist.
Robin picks up Farrier in a convertible remarkably similar to JFK’s from that fateful November day in 1963. After describing where JFK was assassinated, Robin says, “Look at the picket fence. There are professional assassins behind that fence, David. There’s also a shooting team in the Dal-Tex building waiting for the president.”
Now, while that is a plausible theory – all the details on this JFK’s assassination tour drive that narrative.
It’s incredibly dangerous that Robin has the biggest tour and is spreading unprovable information like this.
Pablo Escobar Hitman Tours
You remember Pablo Escobar – inarguably considered the most famous South American drug lord of all time, right?
Well “Dark Tourist” host David Farrier travels to Medellin, Columbia, where Escobar turned his home country into the murder capital of the world and slaughtered thousands of his own people in the process.
The irony? Escobar is mostly revered in Columbia as a god-like figure. In fact, one of the locals tells Farrier that Escobar gave his mother and grandmother a house to live in so, “how could I not love him?”
The “Narcos” tour includes meeting up with one of Escobar’s closest assassins, Jhon Jairo “Popeye” Velasquez Vasquez, who served time in prison for killing over 250 people and “even his own girlfriend.” Popeye also has his own private tour in Medellin.
Now, he’s a YouTube star actively against what he stood for and that “killing people isn’t worth it.”
Popeye takes Farrier to Escobar’s prison and reenacts one of the murders he committed. You too can learn about this for a nominal fee. Farrier points out that he’s “blasé about all this and treats it like a big joke.”
Jeffrey Dahmer Tours
Jeffrey Dahmer is undoubtedly considered to be one of America’s most infamous serial killers.
In episode 3, Farrier travels to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to meet up with a fellow American dark tourist to discuss the “Milwaukee Monster” who lobotomized, cannibalized, committed sexual acts with corpses, and even attempted to turn his victims into zombies between 1978-1991.
Farrier goes on the “Cream City Cannibal Tour” which is exclusively for Dahmer’s serial killings.
And the wild part is how the tour guides actually defend Dahmer. One explains, “He did cause a lot of death, but he was [like] a perfect storm of issues that caused this man to become what he was. So, I actually have a fair amount of empathy and sympathy for him.”
Thankfully, Farrier stops this nonsense in its tracks. “I understand empathy to a point but in the same time, he did absolutely unforgivable things so, you know, the empathy can only go so far,” says Farrier.
But then one of the tour guides responds with “he didn’t enjoy the act of killing at all” as if that’s the main point to draw here.
Farrier says in voiceover, “I can’t imagine how [Dahmer’s] victims’ families would feel knowing this tour was trying to call out Jeffrey Dahmer’s ghost.”
And what’s possibly even worse? The Dahmer tour is a big hit with bachelorette parties and actually features one such group that tries to humanize the monster like he committed a simple petty crime.
Dahmer was a murderous necrophiliac. Not being loved as a child is not an excuse.
Other “Dark Tourist” historic hotspots are separated by areas like “Japan,” “The United States,” “Europe,” “Africa” and “Southeast Asia.”
You can learn about some remarkable events in world history like the Manson Family murders and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Those are extreme tours.
It’s unfortunate that this tourism fad proves nothing is sacred. No matter how gruesome or tragic, no subject is too tacky or distasteful as long as there are tourists willing to pay to see it.