When Fear is Fun

by Jenna Maxwell

It's Halloween....And somewhere in a town near you...

The night is cold, and the autumn leaves blow gently in the evening breeze. There is a peaceful sense of normalcy in this neighborhood--but perhaps it is a bit too quiet.

A young couple, hand in hand, approach the doorway to a makeshift house. The house looks old and appears abandoned…or is it? Eerie lights flicker within, and the residence seems to beckon them to enter. The door creaks loudly as it slowly opens to welcome the pair.

Once inside, deep, dark tones of sinister music reverberate along with the whispering sounds of wind blowing through the rafters. Both the man and the woman begin to feel an increase in their anxiety as they look at each other silent but wide-eyed. Interestingly enough, they are both laughing and smiling even though their hearts are pounding with fear while drops of perspiration surface on their foreheads. Something flies overhead--was that a bat? Fiendish sounding moans and screams can be heard coming from the adjoining room. What is going on in this crazy house?

You’d think this would be the perfect time for the overly curious duo to turn around and make their exit. Leaving the house, however, is the last thing on their minds. In fact, believe it or not, this young couple has paid good money for this experience. They are in one of the hundreds of commercially marketed haunted venues that surface throughout the country each and every Halloween. To these two brave souls and many others like them, this kind of self-induced fear is nothing less than a pure thrill. This intentionally frightful night will go down as the true highlight of their autumn months.

During the Halloween season, it’s an annual tradition for kids of all ages to seek out fearful experiences--on purpose. Terrifying, exciting and very unsettling forms of entertainment are popping up all over town with droves of willing patrons lining up to participate. Haunted houses, scary movies, spooky hayrides, frightening corn mazes--this Halloween, folks all over the country will be making a pastime out of getting scared! For many thrill seekers, the readily available scares that come with Halloween are something to look forward to and are the best part of the holiday. For these folks, the kind of fear that Halloween has to offer is downright fun.

For many people, the adrenaline rush that accompanies this type of self-induced fear is an oddly enjoyable experience. Human beings are naturally curious and inexplicably drawn to things that are unusual, bizarre or even grotesque. Perhaps this explains why car accidents that happen along the highway can slow traffic for miles around--people simply cannot resist slowing down and craning their necks to try and see what has happened. In much the same way, patrons will line up to enter a frightening venue, knowing full well that much of what’s inside is going to shock, scare or even terrify them. For some people, it seems that there is something truly gratifying about going through intense fear and surviving the experience unscathed.

Margee Kerr, a sociologist who has studied and written about the science of fear and who is involved with putting on the annual Scarehouse in Pittsburgh, put it this way. “I enjoy using the science of fear to help design and create scary and entertaining experiences that leave people feeling great. It’s not about terrorizing people; it’s about giving people an opportunity to sees how brave they really are.”

When it comes to finding exciting ways to get scared for fun, the Halloween season always has plenty to offer. During the autumn months, it’s easy to find a wide array of entertaining, fear-inducing activities. Haunted houses, spook alleys, creepy castles, spooky forests, and ghoul-filled cornfields are all considered Halloween standard fare. Local theaters are sure to be featuring a fresh new batch of terrifying movies. If you are the more adventurous type, perhaps seeking out a “real” haunted adventure is in order. Visiting a nearby location with a ghostly reputation of its own is another favorite Halloween activity. Some locations offer ghost tours of some of the local haunted spots for those who may be interested in a more potentially up close and personal encounter with the paranormal.

The spine-tingling, heart-pounding natural high that comes from experiencing the scarier side of Halloween can indeed be thrilling. Whether it’s the confidence building feeling of surviving something truly terrifying or just simply enjoying the rush that comes with the experience, there is something empowering about safely arriving on the other end of fear, even if you did it to yourself on purpose.

Let’s face it. When it comes to Halloween, fear really can be fun!

Read more about Jenna Maxwell