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Travel: Follow the tracks of history's infamous villains

June 14, 2013 09:05 IST

Travel: Follow the tracks of history's infamous villains

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How about a bit of spine-tingling adventures along sinister streets and blood-splattered fields?

For those who want a vacation with a difference, Joel Rai feels that these eerie tours could be just what the coroner ordered.

Since various companies offer these walks, check online for the best times and tour costs.

Click on NEXT to read on...


Photographs: Reuters

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Palace intrigue

Those of you of a certain vintage know of the famous pop group of the 1980s, Boney M, and their chartbuster song Rasputin

Even if you can't croon that song about "Russia's greatest love machine", you can take a four-hour walking tour in St Petersburg and learn of the Russian priest and his dalliances with the women of the nobility in the then Russian capital, including Tsarina Alexandra, wife of Tsar Nicolas II. 

Igor Rasputin had a large following among the masses, who loved his preachings. He won over the women, by all accounts, through his sexual prowess. The pertinent part of his anatomy that endeared him to women is still believed to be preserved and charlatans may sidle up to you during the walk and offer to give you a glimpse for a price.

The walk takes you to places connected to the mystic, including the apartment where he used to stay and to YusupovPalace, where on an icy December day in 1916, he was killed by a group of enraged, cuckolded noblemen.

The story goes that they fed him cakes full of cyanide, but it had no effect on the wild-eyed priest. They then shot him, and threw him into the Neva river, from where his body was recovered a couple of days later.

Autopsy had showed he had died of drowning, proving that the cyanide and bullets had no effect on the man.


Image: The Summer Garden in central St. Petersburg, once a favourite place of the Russian Tsars, is a popular tourist spot.
Photographs: Alexander Demianchuk/ Reuters

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Travel: Follow the tracks of history's infamous villains

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Couple of hours with a serial killer

Perhaps history has no other more well-known serial slasher than the shadowy Jack the Ripper of 1888 London.

That year, five ladies of the evening were murdered, their throats slashed and their entrails ripped out in the Whitechapel area of the English capital. More copycat murders followed, but police attribute only the first five to the one and same killer.

The murders were never solved, giving rise to the legend of Jack the Ripper, the name itself coming from a letter purpotedly written by the supposed murderer to a newspaper claiming credit for the grisly acts.

There are many companies that arrange walking tours along the streets where the bodies were found. The one-hour-thirty-minute walks begin near Aldgate and relive the horror of fog-filled evenings when the psychopath was on his rounds.

Some companies also show re-enactment of the murders at the sites, so children are not allowed on these tours. The guides are all conversant with Ripper lore as well as the social history of the metro in the 1880s, and will answer the blackest of your queries.


Image: Hyde Park, London
Photographs: Suzanne Plunkett/ Reuters

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President in the gun sight

Abraham Lincoln, one of the most beloved of American presidents, was assassinated on April 14, 1865 while watching a play at Ford's Theater in WashingtonDC.

The two-hour walk begins at the White House and follows various landmarks associated with Lincoln and the assassination, including the Willard Hotel, where the president had a temporary office amid assassination threats just before his 1861 inauguration, and Petersen House, then an inn opposite Ford's Theater where the grievously wounded Lincoln was taken to and where he died on the morning of April 15.

You can see the small Derringer pocket pistol that John Wilkes Booth used. For a longer tour you can visit Booth's stopovers as he fled from Washington DC, finally to be shot down in Virginia 12 days later.


Image: Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C.
Photographs: Wknight94/ Creative Commons

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With ruthless political killers

There never was a more apt description for the genocide that took place in Cambodia than "Killing Fields".

The Khmer Rouge, an insular communist regime that ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, killed an estimated 1.4 - 2.2 million in the country, mainly people perceived to be enemy of the state. More than 20,000 mass graves in "killing fields" have been unearthed.

The scarred Cambodian people, unwilling to erase this gory chapter of their country's history, have preserved the skulls and bones of the dead.

The full-day tour includes a film show on the massacres, a visit to the infamous S21 prison camp, where out of thousands there were just 12 survivors. You can meet one of them and hear him talk of his horrific experiences.


Image: A Memorial Stupa located on the grounds of the Choeung Ek extermination camp is silhouetted at sunset in the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 9, 2009. The remains of nearly 9,000 people were exhumed in the 1980s from mass graves in this one-time orchard, also known as one of the 'The Killing Fields.'
Photographs: Adrees Latif / Reuters

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