Thanatourism at Grodno Castle in Zagórze Śląskie

Aleksandra Chlebicz, Paweł Konczewski



Thanatourism is a concept involving travel to sites associated with death and suffering. It is not a cult of death, but merely a form of tourism aimed at discovering places of human tragedy. Grodno Castle is a popular destination of thanatourists, as it features specific forms of attractions, namely a starvation dungeon with a displayed skeleton, a torture chamber, and burial crypts of the previous owners. The article discusses the phenomenon of the growing attractiveness of thanatourist places. Secondly, it presents the results of a study of human bone remains found in the starvation dungeon of Grodno Castle. The assumption was that the bone material could belong to the heroine of the legend of Princess Margaret (i.e. it could have been artificially assembled for the purposes of the exhibition) or it could come from the tombs of the last owners of the castle. An anthropological analysis was carried out, involving determination of the sex, age and other parameters, and appropriate measurements were taken. The analysis of the material showed that the remains belonged to at least three individuals of different ages, and both sexes (young woman, 19–22 years old; adult male, over 35 years old; mature woman, 45–55 years old). Most likely, some of the examined bones used to make up a displayed skeleton in the past. The article also presents findings of a survey conducted among tourists at Grodno Castle, concerning their characteristics, as well as their motivations for visiting. According to our findings, Grodno Castle is mostly visited by women aged 35–44 with higher education, who live within 100 km from the castle. The main motivations for their visit are their interests in the past and the opportunity to tour the castle. The most frequent feelings expressed by the tourists during their visit were curiosity and enjoyment. Thanatological elements did not attract much attention. The lookout tower turned out to be the best tourist attraction. The exhibitions of human remains, coffins and the torture chamber mostly aroused curiosity, compassion and sadness among the visitors.

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