"West Virginia's Dark Tourism" Book Review
Written by John Colianni
Published by Schiffer Publishing
Written by Tony Urban
2016, 144 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on September 28th, 2016
I have not a doubt in my mind that there are an endless amount of wonders that the world has to offer in terms of traveling and sightseeing. I happen to be going to Costa Rica in couple months for my honeymoon. As far as the United States is concerned, we have our fair share of gems that everyone should see before they kick the bucket. One such place that has never come to mind is the state of West Virginia. Maybe it's the east coast elitist in me, but I've frequented the hilly, mountainous locale a grand total of once, and only because it happened to be a halfway point between friends in Kentucky. I'm sure that beyond what seemed overrun by foliage and treacherous winding and steep roadways, there are things to see and landmarks to explore. Unfortunately, I only saw a tiny vineyard and a truck stop/restaurant that acted as the main event in Jane Lew, WV. However, with an open mind and a new found perspective, I have been able to get my hands of a copy West Virginia's Dark Tourism by Tony Urban.
When the term “travel guide” is thrown around, one can imagine the section of the local bookstore that is jam-packed with expert crafted testimony about every nook and cranny of the place you happen to have interest in vacationing or day-tripping to. Every eatery, park and important street corner is highlighted for your ease of bleeding a place of all it has to offer. To the detriment of readers, these tomes only show what is important to that individual writer. All too often readers are given a cookie cutter list that any Google search can come up with. Then there are the rare exceptions when someone has put in the extra effort to comprise more rare locations to venture to. That is exactly what is offered in West Virginia's Dark Tourism.
This is not a book that will cater to the average adventure seeker. What Tony Urban does provide is a list of places that those with a flair for local urban legends and bizarre tales take a liking to. Adding to the unique legends and stories is Urban's own experience of visiting each of the thirty-one places scattered throughout West Virginia. Ghosts, monsters and even a famous bathtub are found within the pages and almost all are accessible to the most curious of travelers. While not every stop will be worth your time, I managed to note just a few as my favorites. "The Lost Colony", commissioned by George Washington himself, mimics the abandoned colony of Roanoke. The savagery that occurred at the Van Meter Farm will send chills down anyone's spine. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park may sound fun but has a devastating and haunted past. The sheer variety that Urban compiles is impressive and pays wonderful homage to the strange, macabre history and lore that West Virginia has. Vacationers and state natives will have to work hard to find something they cannot enjoy in this book.
Honestly, before meeting up with friends, visiting West Virginia wasn't too high up on my list of states to spend any amount of time in. Now knowing that it is just as robust with urban legends and ghost stories as any other place in the United States, I may be intrigued to go back with a much more open mind. Tony Urban has done a fantastic job with luring readers to a state that many may have written off as being overrun with hillbillies and never-ending forests and mountains. Except for Jane Lew. That place actually does suck.