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Susan Weidmann

Research Abstract

What Screams are Made Of: Exploring the production and consumption of dark tourism attraction imagery, with a focus on how images and language in marketing materials invoke affective responses in visitors. The case of Salem, MA

This project aims to capture the portrayal of the “Witch City” tourist attractions of Salem, Massachusetts, USA as projected through words and images by businesses and received by tourists, ascertain what emotional responses are intended and generated by these images, and apply the associated affective images to tourism emotion and imagery literature. Capitalizing on the recent pop culture fascination with ghosts, mystery, horror and the supernatural, several attractions in Salem employ a combination of the elements of fun and fear, although they are often considered to be mutually exclusive, in order to solicit particular emotional connections in potential, current, and repeat visitors, thereby deeming them a ‘unique’ attribute. These ‘fright’ attractions, many based on the witch trials of 1692, comprise a large and highly recognized component of the tourist attractions on offer in Salem as a tourist destination.

Promotional materials are designed to provide potential customers with information about a product or experience, and emotions experienced while using a product or engaging in an experience form a large part of the consumer experience. Business owners want their attraction to instill unique emotive meanings in customers, as it may be that feeling which determines the choice of one attraction over another. Thus, imagery used to evoke emotions are of vital significance in advertising, and understanding whether selected imagery is effective is of critical importance to marketing managers. A search of the literature reveals that there is a significant gap in the subject area of tourism advertising and emotion measurement, especially in the area of dark tourism. This research attempts to fill that gap with a mixed methods study of how particular words and images convey the emotional experience an attraction seeks to sell.

Work Experience

Teaching Assistant Positions

  •  TOUX 101 Introduction to Tourism (Online), Summer 2013

  •  TOUR 304 Events and Convention Management (On Campus), Fall 2013

Sustainability Solutions Consulting, New York, NY and Asheville, NC

Owner/Ecotourism and Sustainability Consultant, 2010-2012

American Musical and Dramatic Academy, New York, NY

Director of Student Financial Services, 2003-2007, 2008-2009

Ross University of Medicine, New York, NY

Assistant Director of Financial Aid, 2002-2003

Fordham University, Bronx, NY

Financial Aid Counselor, 2001-2002

Volunteer Experience

Fundacion Jatun Sacha, Tena Ecuador, May-June 2007

Biological research station located in the Ecuadorian Amazon basin, volunteer activities included reforestation, organic gardening, environmental education, flora and fauna conservation research, and community development.

Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilan, Ecuador, September-December 2007

Responsible for opening and closing the lodge, checking in guests, taking reservations by phone and email, basic accounting, serving breakfast and dinner, taking care of guests needs, and light animal and property maintenance.

Extended International Travel Experience

  • March 2007-May 2008: Solo travel through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia

  • January 2011-April 2011: Solo travel through Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama


University of Portsmouth, School of Environmental Design and Management, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Master of Science, Ecotourism (Distinction), 2011

Iowa State University, College of Human Sciences, Ames, Iowa

Bachelor of Science, Family Resource Management and Consumer Sciences with concentration in Family Financial Counseling, 2000. Minor concentration in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management

Professional Designations and Certifications

  • Accredited Financial Counselor (2001)
  • Certified Sustainability Manager (2012)
  • CPR and Wilderness First Responder
  • PADI Advanced Open Water Diver