Tag Archives: Dark Tourism

4 Places to Visit Before I Die

As much as I’ve traveled I’ve never left America. Pathetic, right? Earlier this year I was eyeing an autumn excursion to Vietnam, then became curious about South America. Now I’m a food vendor with festivals lined up pretty much into October. But my appetite for foreign soil has been anything but satiated. In fact, after coming very close to purchasing a plane ticket to Bogota, Columbia – the would be jump off point for a South American adventure – I’m a tad regretful that I opted instead to plunk my change into a mobile food vending business, an idea baked… Continue Reading

Comp Time with Marcus the Karcus

One day in the mid-1990s, Marcus the Karcus, then 16, was flipping through a magazine in an underground bookstore when he came across some pictures of people hanging from hooks. Having always been drawn to the macabre, young Marcus was instantly mesmerized by the photos. “This is the world I wanted to be in,” he recalls thinking. “It seemed like one of those things that only went on in big cities, not something that was accessible to me.” Nine years later, Karcus, as he’s generally known, began exploring body modification. One day while getting pierced, he noticed a picture on… Continue Reading

Highway History: Myself, a Marker and the Massacre

Near the confluence of the Bad Axe and Mississippi Rivers, outside of Victory, WI. Victory, WI – The nation’s highways are dotted with commemorative plaques, memorials and points-of-interest. Wisconsin alone has 520 such markers, each offering a tidbit of state-approved history. Many of these markers are tributes to obscure local figures, events or milestones, significant to few beyond the civic boosters who raised the money for their creation. Most are forgotten as quickly as they’re read. But every once in a while one will arouse the imagination and compel you to contemplate an unimaginable history. Here, just south of Victory,… Continue Reading

The World’s First Modern Prison

Eastern State Penitentiary was the world's first modern prison. Its Gothic architecture was intended to scare prisoners and the public alike. Fairmount, Philadelphia – Eastern State Penitentiary was conceived in 1787, in the living room of Benjamin Franklin, a leading member of the Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. The reformist group was appalled by conditions at the recently opened Walnut Street Jail, located behind Independence Hall, where guards sold liquor to inmates and often made women available. The reformers believed that a policy of strict solitary confinement would better encourage spiritual development. In 1790, the society convinced… Continue Reading

Nuclear Neighbors

The cooling towers at Three Mile Island nuclear plant loom over Middletown, PA. The city of Okuma Japan has been evacuated indefinitely pending the outcome of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where the cooling system for at least two of three failing reactors have yet to be powered up more than a week after the area was rattled by a 9.0 earthquake then ravaged by a 33-foot tsunami. So far, nuclear meltdown has spared Japan, but the situation remains serious. As of tonight, engineers are considering whether they’ll have to entomb the plant’s No. 3 reactor… Continue Reading

Turning Bones into Art

Skeleton of Harry Raymond Eastlick, who suffered a progressive condition that turned tissue to bone. A few Sundays ago, I was at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum viewing the Hyrtl Skull Collection, an ensemble of multi-ethnic craniums collected from throughout Central and Eastern Europe by Dr. Josef Hyrtl during the early 1800s. Hyrtl, a professor of anatomy at the University of Prague, believed that racial and intellectual traits could be determined by studying the cranial bone structures of various groups. The museum acquired Hyrtl’s 139 skulls, along with thirty-six placentas and six sets of genitals, in 1875. Beneath each skull is a… Continue Reading

The Perils of Low-Budget Motels

Meth Hearse found in Cookesville, Tennessee. For the budget road tripper, occasional stays in a fleabag motel are a given. They’re convenient, cheap and charming in their own special ways. I’ve stayed in my fair share of them. Some had mold beneath the peeling wall paper. One came with hair in the sink. In another, a used condom and wrapper laid rudely in the bathroom wastebasket. More than a few had cigarette burns in the carpet. Paying between $25 and $45 a room, it never was any surprise that these rooms didn’t sparkle or smell particularly well. The trick is… Continue Reading

12 Hours in Manhattan

Manhattan Island, New York – There was no point to the trip other than to just go, get out of Philly for a minute and walk around Manhattan without an itinerary or plans except to see some things and drink a lot. We bought our $25 round trip bus tickets to New York, and set out early Saturday morning for the Big Apple. Dustin, exhausted from his previous evening at a Prince concert in North Jersey, slept most of the way up, which was a smart move. Except for the times we sat on bar stools, we were on the… Continue Reading

Standing with a Dopeman in the Footsteps of a Strangler

The vacant lot where the Kensington Strangler murdered his first victim on Nov. 3, 2010. Kensington, Philadelphia – With not much on the agenda today I thought I might make cookies, but I instead put on my Sunday best and headed north to the badlands where a man dubbed the Kensington Strangler has murdered two, but maybe upwards of four woman in recent months and has choked and raped just as many. Several people, including myself, disembarked the el at the Somerset Station. Slow walkers they all were and it seemed like an eternity passed before the line traversed the… Continue Reading

Understanding Philly in Signs and Blood

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs, it’s true. Like most cities, Philly is awash in advertisements and public service announcements. You can discern a lot about a place by what’s advertised to its residents. Sometimes an entire city can be summed up in a few measly words. “We’re getting better,” reads a message from the transit authority posted in the trolleys. I can’t imagine the level of dysfunction that prompted the transit authority to decide “We getting better” was their best they had to offer riders.  “We’re getting better,”  is still displayed just as it was when I moved here three… Continue Reading
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