Pros and Cons of Paranormal Tourism

Despite positive news about allegedly haunted locations opening their doors for paranormal tours and events, the value of such tourism is still a hotly debated topic.

Over the years, we have blogged about many stories of so-called “ghost hunters” trespassing and committing a variety of other crimes including vandalism, theft, arson, underage drinking, and even grave robbery. Because of the sensational nature of these incidents, local media loves to hype them up. It is undeniable that certain individuals have gone to allegedly haunted locations to commit mischief, and others use this fact to paint everyone interested in legend tripping with a wide brush. They argue the simple act of writing about an allegedly haunted location invites harm to it.

In 2012, we received this message from a lady in Effingham, Illinois:

“I am writting you about your write up about Ramsey Cemetery in Feb. 2009. This is my family cemetery. It is not haunted. There is no werewolf or warlock or ghosts. These are all stories that have been imagined by people that were either high or drunk. This beautiful cemetery has been plagued by partiers, drinking, drug use, littering and vandalism. Tombstones have been toppled over and destroyed. Graves have been dug up, property has been destroyed.

This Cemetery is not a long forgotten place that has been left for decay. It is the finally resting place of my loved ones…my grandparents & great-grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins. My Uncle that died serving his country is resting here. One day I will lay my parents to rest here and some day it will be my finally resting place as well. Please try to show respect for those buried here and their familes that mourn them.

You wrote about the Ramsey Cemetery in Feb. 2009. In April 2009, 40 tombstones were pulled down. Including my grandparents and Uncles stones. Thank you so much for encouraging people to find my family cemetery, walk through my family property searching for non-exsisting caves and ghosts, werewolves and warlocks. One question? Did you have permisson to tresspass on private property looking for caves, werewolves, warlocks and ghosts?”

There are few people who are as concerned about cemetery and historical preservation as we are, since we believe that legends and lore can be a great way to create interest in Local history. The mistake this lady (and others like her) makes is to assume stories on the Internet draw negative attention to these places, when in fact, they are already well known in the local community. Many have already suffered vandalism long before the internet or personal computers became widely available. As this lady pointed out, many of these stories developed at a time when these locations were used as party spots for teenagers who went there to drink, take drugs, or hook up.

None of that, however, has anything to do with people who are interested in folklore, ghost stories, or the paranormal. We argue that the individuals involved in these crimes use ghost stories as an excuse for delinquent behavior. Many allegedly haunted locations are remote and unsupervised, perfect locations for mischief, but they do not have to have anything to do with ghost stories to attract petty crime. In 2009, three teenagers were arrested in South Side Cemetery in Pontiac, Illinois as they were seen trying to tip over a headstone. Days earlier, as many as 60 headstones had been damaged at the same location. This cemetery was not associated with any legends or ghost stories.

Last summer, a par of thieves broke into Bobby Mackey’s in Wilder, Kentucky and stole dozens of bottles of alcohol. Bobby Mackey’s is famous for its ghostly tales, as well as appearing on TV programs like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Although both their publicist and the local media billed the incident as “ghost hunters gone wrong,” there is no evidence that the men broke into the establishment looking for anything other than free booze. Blaming it on ghost hunters was just a convenient way to sensationalize the event and attract publicity.

The common denominator in most of these situations is an unsupervised location. Even if ghost stories were the catalyst, it was easy for the delinquents to gain access to these locations. Bobby Mackey’s was just the victim of random crime. It seems like the best thing to do for allegedly haunted locations would be to channel that interest into something positive. Allow people to satisfy their curiosity in a supervised environment, in a situation where everyone comes out a winner. Knee-jerk reactions against “ghost hunters” or people interested in the paranormal, blaming them for criminal activity, and attempting to close off locations, is not helpful–it may even be counter productive.

On the other hand, there have been times when allowing paranormal investigation teams to organize tours or have exclusive access to a location has led to unfortunate circumstances. Anyone familiar with the fiascos over Bachelors Grove Cemetery or Manteno State Hospital can attest to that. Even the best of intentions can turn sour as egos and professional jealousy get involved. That is why we would recommend ghost tours and paranormal events be organized solely by the owners of those establishments. When properly organized, these events can be beneficial for a museum, park, or business. It may even help raise money and volunteers for restoration, if necessary.

No one can stop people with bad intentions from doing bad things, but what you can do is try to remove opportunities for mischief in a controlled, carefully supervised environment in which people can satisfy their curiosity about the unknown. Many places have done this successfully, whether in special seasonal events or on a more consistent, yearly basis. The more this becomes the dominant paradigm, the easier it will be to separate acts of petty trespassing and vandalism from the simple act of visiting allegedly haunted locations.

Sorry guys, this page is copyright, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.



  1. I’m going to be 60 years old next year. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Back in the days of black and white television, party line phones and non-fatal juvenile delinquency, teenage boys in my neighborhood went to Bachelor’s Grove to get drunk and act like hooligans. Kids will be kids, vandals will be vandals, and humans are always going to act like idiots. It had nothing to do with paranormal tourism or blogging back then and it has little to do with it now. Yes, there is more access to information these days (maybe too much) but you can’t blame an article someone wrote for a bunch of kids acting like asses.



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