Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let's all scare the tourists

The Haunted Arkansas site set up by the state Department of Parks & Tourism is a fine example of the Chamber of Commerce types nationwide embracing once-shunned local legends of ghosts and monsters -- because people like me will pay good money to see those places, even if no ghosts or monsters actually turn up.

One term for this growth industry, "ectotourism," has been around for years, judging from this 1997 article in San Francisco's Examiner, but I don't much like the word. It looks like a typo for "ecotourism." We can do better.

That not every Chamber of Commerce is thrilled with this stuff is evident in a snarky comment on the "Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders" -- which happend in Villisca, Iowa, in 1912, as you connoisseurs of unsolved axe murders doubtless recall. Click on "The Town," and you find that the owners of the "Murder House," who are flogging it for all it's worth, have encountered some local resistance:
Ten years ago, visitors inquiring about the axe murders were met with cold stares and turned heads. Today, however, these same residents seem to be on the verge of accepting the one thing that they cannot change. If Villisca is to recover and continue to grow, they must accept and eventually embrace their history.

The Villisca Historical Society has been a [sic] somewhat of a "ghost" in Villisca for some time now. Although the Society officially existed, its accomplishments were few and any interest displayed by outsiders rebuffed. The recent announcement that the Society has finally received it's [sic] 501(c)3 designation is a spark of hope for those of us who are sincerely interested in seeing the history of the town documented and preserved rather than swept under a rug.
Maybe Villisca should launch an axe-murder festival, as in David Prill's novel Serial Killer Days. Hey, equally sketchy events have turned into family-friendly annual celebrations: Point Pleasant, W.Va., has a Mothman Festival, and Fyffe, Ala., has a cattle-mutilation festival (though it's actually called UFO Days, for obvious reasons). And need I mention the venerable example of Salem, Mass.?

No comments: