The American South is home to a wide swath of strange and unsettling tourist attractions, ranging from official sites to weird areas that travelers have to work to get to. These attractions are meant for the excited traveler who enjoys the darker side of life, and while many of them have depressing origins, they’re worth checking out on a road trip through the South.
These creepy places in the South each have their own bleak backstory, many of them with an aggressive undercurrent, but there are plenty of places in the South that are simply weird. The area lends itself to being a little strange, which is why the South is the perfect place to get lost.
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The Body Farm, Knoxville, TN
This is one attraction where visitors need to call ahead in order to visit - that is, if they’re even accepting visitors. William K. Bass’s center for forensic observation is an area dedicated to studying the way that organic material decomposes.
The Body Farm is a 2.4-acre plot that’s full of remains donated by volunteers. Each specimen is buried in a different scenario in order to give an accurate reading on how remains deteriorate in the wild. The Body Farm doesn’t offer tours, but the school provides four-day courses on subjects like forensic anthropology field methods, human osteology, and outdoor recovery.
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Medieval Torture Museum, St. Augustine, FL
Created as a way to show modern visitors what life was like for people living in the Dark Ages, the Medieval Torture Museum focuses on historically researched forms of punishment and offers a visceral look at the actual implements and practices that were in place.
Attendees aren't just cordoned off to the sidelines in this museum. Many of the pieces are interactive and give visitors a chance to dunk someone in a water tank or see what it looks like when someone is roasted alive. This morbid attraction is not for the faint of heart.
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Old Slave Mart, Charleston, SC
The South’s history of slavery can’t be ignored, and many of its most notorious tourist attractions draw people into places where this historic blight looms large. The Old Slave Mart was constructed in 1859 as a way for the local government to keep track of the auctions that took place in the city.
Following abolition, the building was used as a variety of different establishments. It held low-income housing and a car dealership before it was renovated into a museum that tells the story of Charleston’s terrible history of human trafficking.
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Capt. Tony's Saloon, Key West, FL
Getting a drink in one of Florida's oldest bars comes with quite the creepy story. Capt. Tony's Saloon has been a few things in its lifetime: Prior to serving as the city's mortuary, it was the site of Key West's hanging tree, which was once outside but has since been replanted in the middle of the building.
Inside, there are chains built into the wall where someone allegedly lost their life. Aside from its gruesome backstory, the bar is a hoarder's paradise. The ceiling is decorated with bras, license plates, and all manner of ephemera. There's even a grave marker of a woman who was buried beneath the bar enshrined in concrete next to the pool table.