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The Dannemora Prison Break and Extreme Tourism

The hunt by law enforcement officials for two escaped convicts from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora became a nonstop reality show in the media. For several weeks, each and every movement of the convict hunters was chronicled. When one was killed and the other wounded and captures, the show was over. So was the economic windfall.

A headline in the New York Times called the search “A Boon for the Region’s Economy.” A spokesperson for the regional convenience chain store Stewart’s Shops said business skyrocketed during the search. Bob Smith, owner of a Best Western in nearby Plattsburgh said, “as unfortunate as it was, that was our silver lining. We had a lot of business because of the breakout.” According to Colin Read, a member of the Clinton County legislature and a professor of economics, “We are going to see a pretty significant blip in the tax revenue.”

Clinton County has been described as having two industries. “If you are not in the corrections business, you’re probably in tourism,” said Tim Bresett, general manager of Ausable Chasm. The hunt for “the most dangerous game” brought national attention and the suggestion from some local people that it would put the region on the map.

The irony is that nearby Plattsburgh, where dining and lodging establishments benefited tremendously from the manhunt, has struggled to get itself on the tourism map as the site of the Battle of Plattsburgh. That American victory against the a British invasion in the War of 1812 contributed to the negotiations that ended the war.

There are some things Clinton County could do to capitalize on its unexpected notoriety. It can create paths for tourists to travel the same route as the escaped convicts. It could sponsor paintball competitions between the cops and convicts in the area where the manhunt occurred.

I Love NY champions adventure tourism. Let’s intensify the experience. Call it extreme tourism and keep Northern New York on the tourist map.

5 thoughts on “The Dannemora Prison Break and Extreme Tourism

  1. I understand your point especially regarding the disregard of the Battle of Plattsburgh and the notoriety of the prison break and subsequent manhunt. But I personally find your suggestion distasteful although perhaps it was tongue-in-cheek.
    Maybe the scalping of Jane McCrea or Burgoyne’s mistress could be similarly exploited at Saratoga. I find the Tea Parties being portrayed on the Boston wharf equally in poor taste but at least that’s being done by a commercial entity.
    History need not be boring but it shouldn’t be just fun and games, in my opinion. Getting people to talk about these matters however is a necessary first step in bringing history to the forefront.

    1. @ J F Sefcik: I appreciate your thoughtful remarks, and agree 100% re the distasteful nature of the suggested manhunt-themed tourism for Clinton County….uggh! I don’t think it was offered tongue-in-cheek!

      1. I actually don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek or not even though I wrote it. Let me explain. I don’t watch the phony-baloney shows on TV although I do see commercials and headlines about the trials and tribulations of the participants. The physical challenges seem to be ever more demanding on some of them, especially in remote areas. The most striking pictures of all are those of the camera crew filming the participants in these moments of struggle. The TV shows don’t show that image, you only see the participants, not the crew a few feet away offering no help whatsoever. But the participants aren’t troops on maneuvers, they are civilians at risk for ratings, profits, and celebrity status. So if a camera crew can stand by and film this without interfering, how difficult is to imagine the next step being taken regardless of your or my sensibilities?

        Now there is even a spoof on the phony-baloney shows. It claims to expose the truth behind the drama and tension of the Bachelor. In this version, the maneuvering of contestants by the staff for ratings leads to one contestant leaping to her death. I think this leads to a lawsuit of monstrous proportions against the show. Although it is a TV show about TV shows, it does raise the issue of how far people will go and whether they can lose control of the situation. Extreme sports show that people are willing to push the envelop on what they would risk in the real world.

        Storytelling enables us to raise topics which are both relevant and frightening. Here is a description of The Tenth Victim, a movie from 1965:

        Some people like violence so much, that they decide to create a club in which human hunts are organized – members being alternately hunters, and prey, until they end up dead.

        Here is a description of the Fight Club, a movie from 1999:

        An insomniac office worker, looking for a way to change his life, crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker, forming an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more…

        People are drawn to violence including to weapons at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the real world, Clinton County does have an opportunity to offer hikes following the trails taken by both the convicts and the police. People visiting O.K. Corral assume the poses of gunfighters without actually shooting anyone and the same would be true on these hikes. Actually, this subject is more a discussion about our future than it is about our past.

        Thanks for writing.

  2. I’m surprised that we don’t already have a Chester Gillette Water Park. Why not a reality TV show called “Escape from Dannemora?” The used car dealer who said he lost business during the real escape could benefit from the TV show when escaping celebrities “steal” a car from his lot. The list of possibilities is endless!

  3. I don’t watch much TV or go to movies very often primarily because what is being offered has no appeal for me. Of course, I don’t match the demographic profile either! I much prefer reading history especially that on the American Revolution, watching the Yankees on TV, listening to classical music, and going to museums. So you won’t find me or my dollars at Dannemora. Fort Ticonderoga and the Saratoga Battlefield however are worthy of both.

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