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Bewitched, Betwixt, and Beloved

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Emily Cunningham

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Faculty Advisor: Dr. Anna Dixon

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This thesis aims to understand cultural/historical aspects of destinations connected with what is known as “Dark Tourism” or “Spooky Tourism” in the dark heritage town of Cassadaga, FL and St. Petersburg, FL. U.S. culture is increasingly “placeless,” and tourists seek out cultural heritage sites to fill this void. This thesis examines tourists’ motivations for visiting destinations associated with Halloween, a holiday that in recent decades has become increasingly commodified and associated with adults rather than children. The location and its tourists play a massive role in the creation of the myths that popularized them. The literature of the town’s history, role in the Halloween tourism industry, the creation of myths and the commodification of Dark Heritage sites, the destination and its sense of place are key. An ethnography of Cassadaga, Florida, Spooky Empire, a bi-annual horror convention in Florida, and Ghost Tours of St. Petersburg, during the Halloween season, provided an increased understanding of the motivations of the location and its tourists. The influx of diverse personalities with varying interests allowed a great sample of people to help me understand motivations, experiences, and commodification of culture. Using an anthropological approach, I conducted short-term participant observation, direct observation, and informal interviews at each of the three locations by going on tours and visiting Halloween- and historically themed locations associated with the sites’ dark heritage.

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Bewitched, Betwixt, and Beloved

This thesis aims to understand cultural/historical aspects of destinations connected with what is known as “Dark Tourism” or “Spooky Tourism” in the dark heritage town of Cassadaga, FL and St. Petersburg, FL. U.S. culture is increasingly “placeless,” and tourists seek out cultural heritage sites to fill this void. This thesis examines tourists’ motivations for visiting destinations associated with Halloween, a holiday that in recent decades has become increasingly commodified and associated with adults rather than children. The location and its tourists play a massive role in the creation of the myths that popularized them. The literature of the town’s history, role in the Halloween tourism industry, the creation of myths and the commodification of Dark Heritage sites, the destination and its sense of place are key. An ethnography of Cassadaga, Florida, Spooky Empire, a bi-annual horror convention in Florida, and Ghost Tours of St. Petersburg, during the Halloween season, provided an increased understanding of the motivations of the location and its tourists. The influx of diverse personalities with varying interests allowed a great sample of people to help me understand motivations, experiences, and commodification of culture. Using an anthropological approach, I conducted short-term participant observation, direct observation, and informal interviews at each of the three locations by going on tours and visiting Halloween- and historically themed locations associated with the sites’ dark heritage.

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