Why We Love Being Scared

You’re walking to your car late in the evening, not even a streetlamp in sight to provide a soft glow. The only sound is that of your shoes against the asphalt, the clomp – clomp keeping pace with the beat of your heart. Passing a dark alley, you pause at the sudden sound of movement within the shadows. A glass bottle slowly rolls toward you, its warbled path stopping at a crack in the pavement.

You follow its purported path back towards the shadows wondering who — or what — caused it to move.

Your eyes searchla poursuite, straining against the darkness, as you listen for the most imperceptible of sounds. A muffled movement or shallow breath. The hint of someone taking a caustic step. 

Moments pass and still there is nothing. You let out the breath you didn’t realize you were holding. Imagination can get the better of anyone. 

You continue towards your car when the onslaught of noise behind breaks like a thunderclap — someone rushing towards you. Footfalls pounding on the pavement. A steam train of focused intent bearing down on it’s single object of desire.

You.

You run, knowing with every step you are too late, every pump of your arms, your pursuer gains. Your feet carry you over the curb of the sidewalk and into the parking lot where your abandoned car awaits.

A light flashes from the building behind, your shadow jumping from the concrete to meet you but the gurgle squirming up your throat is not from your own shadow but the one beside you. The shadow driving a pointed blade toward your own dark back.


So besides there being a reason no one writes in the 2nd person I thought it’d be fitting to explore a little bit of fright as we say goodbye to Halloween.

Real You
The doll’s been a “bad girl” Picture from “Real You”, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour

Why do we love to be scared?

The other night I turned on RL Stine’s “The Haunting Hour” with my kids as we watched the first and second parts of the “Really You” episodes. I was surprised by how engaged I became. For a kids show I thought it was fantastic. Sure there was a lot of classic cheese, but they did a great job ratcheting up the tension and my kids were spooked. I found myself laughing out loud at moments when my kids screamed in surprise or shock.

As the first episode finished, after both my oldest daughter and son lamented at having to watch something so scary, they both demanded to find out what happened, pushing to watch the second episode. Despite being freaked out and scared, they wanted to keep going, even knowing that the “scares” would continue.

I’m fascinated at our collective desire to be frightened. Similar to adrenaline junkies, we love the feeling of being scared, our bodies reacting to threats with only a fraction of our mind convincing us it’s not real. It’s that voice of reason that keeps us going, I believe, in a mental dare to see just how far we’re willing to push ourselves. How far are we willing to believe? or dispel our beliefs?

I find there is truth in horror. There is a rare honesty within the concoction of deceit and lies. Because when horror is done correctly it allows us, as the audience, to learn something about ourselves. To face the question of what we might do if we were faced with a similar situation. To project our fears on to whatever baddie is after the characters and hope and pray we’ll find a way out.

While each of us will have our own horrors to deal with in life, that test we place on ourselves beforehand may be a deciding factor in helping us realize we can get through it.

And if we can’t?

There’s always reality TV to drown your sorrows. (To me that’s the greater horror anyway)

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2 thoughts on “Why We Love Being Scared

  1. Thanks! Ya, when horror is well done and you care about the characters, nothing is better. I’ve been able to get the wife into Hannibal as well – she’s loving it. Oh how I’ve corrupted her… 🙂

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