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Book Review – Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Mysterious Destinations

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Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Mysterious Destinations by Olivier Le Carrer

Atlas of Cursed Places

Oliver Le Carrer brings us a fascinating history and armchair journey to the world’s most dangerous and frightful places, complete with vintage maps and period illustrations in a handsome volume.

This alluring read includes 40 locations that are rife with disaster, chaos, paranormal activity, and death. The locations gathered here include the dangerous Strait of Messina, home of the mythical sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis; the coal town of Jharia, where the ground burns constantly with fire; Kasanka National Park in Zambia, where 8 million migrating bats darken the skies; the Nevada Triangle in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where hundreds of aircraft have disappeared; and Aokigahara Forest near Mount Fuji in Japan, the world’s second most popular suicide location following the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’ll admit, the description of this book tickled the same part of me that reveled in references like The Guinness Book of World Records or better yet The Book of Lists in my youth. Stuff that’s interesting for its novelty, obscurity, or rarity. Any touch of the grotesque, the forbidden, only increased my interest.

Here we have an anti-travelogue featuring places you might not actually want to visit. Maybe you’d even want to actively avoid them. But I can see some for of extreme high risk vacationing growing up around this kind of thing,

Atlas of Cursed Places is definitely for the collector of esoteric knowledge. The most densely populated place on Earth makes an appearance along with some of the most polluted, radioactive, and dangerous locales in existence. Humans tend to play lead roles in the dramas that make these cursed places what they are.

This is a great book for the casual reader. The selections are brief and concise, written with a hint of imposing authority and sly mystery. Unknowns are toyed with for effect but not exaggerated and facts are presented with disaffected urbanity. The result is vaguely ominous yet compulsively readable.

I was surprised by the lack of pictures. That’s my fault. The description is clear. Vintage maps. Check. Perdiod illustrations. Okay, check. But somehow I’d convinced myself that each entry was going to be accompanied by an image of the place being described.

They’re not. Take the example pages available of the Black Dog & Leventhal page for the book. This is the entry for Jharia in India.

 

 

Atlas of Cursed Places Jharia

It’s lovely. I could stare at the maps for a long time. Still, what does Jharia look like? I’m imagining Mordor as I read it. That’s actually not far from the truth, but I reckon I won’t be the only person reading with a search engine open or taking a wiki walk afterward.

In the city of Jharia and surroundings, an underground fire has been burning since 1916 - or even longer according to the locals. The fire probably started when abandon coalmines was not properly closed. The fire evolved in to more than 70 underground fires. The inhabitants use the fire to warm themselves on cold winter nights, to dry clothes and sometimes even cook food.

Atlas of Cursed Places is an armchair traveler’s most exciting journey around the world. A collection of hellscapes marked on maps. Here there be dragons. It’s also a great resource for writers. Hundred year subterranean fires or an annual plague of birds battering themselves to death in a remote village rival some of most unusual fantasies I’ve read this year.

Recommended for fans of vintage cartography, The Golden Bough, and Atlas Obscura.

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One thought on “Book Review – Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Mysterious Destinations

  1. Pingback: Travel Reviews | Travelguide

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