Why do we like a good Halloween scare?

Hi YA Bookcasers,

It’s that time of year again – spooktacular, creeptastic, and boo-inducing Halloween! Like many people, this is definitely my favorite time of the year. There’s something about All Hallows Eve that really captures people’s hearts and imaginations, and in particularly, double people’s excitement about getting scared…but what is it that makes us want to be frightened?

Audio version:


There are many different ways to be scared. Whether it’s a terrifying movie, a creepy book, a thrill ride at an amusement park, or something else, but no matter what it is, some of us love to get our hearts pumping and our fear level spiking. And I have a couple of ideas why:

  • When we’re threatened in nature, we have heightened senses and intuition, and increased power and strength. Adrenalin starts pumping. However, while in nature we have the very real possibility of not making it out alive, in our modern world, we get to experience this heart-thumping moment without any danger to ourselves. In other words, we get to experience one of the most basic parts of our brain – fight or flight – from the comfort of our own home. We experience the foundation of man and how we evolved to survive.
  • It makes us feel smart and brave. How many times have you yelled “don’t go up the stairs” to the person (usually a girl) going up the stairs where the serial killer awaits? Sure, a lot. But what about those sneaky, wonderfully written stories where the opposite of what’s expected happens and you’ve worked it out. You’re proud of yourself for your intelligence, and for your ability to survive. For the courage of making a strong, decisive decision. Even if it is just armchair horror.
  • We get to feel victorious. As we connect to characters in film/TV/books/etc. we in part become them. When the character wins and defeats the odds, so do we.
  • It inspires us. We realize that if someone can defeat terrifying odds…well we might be able to, as well. Perhaps that scary situation at school, work, wherever, pales in comparison to that terror you just experienced.
  • Morbid fascination. Ever stop at a traffic accident or looked? Don’t lie. We’re fascinated with the concept of death. What happens after? Is it as terrifying as some of us believe?
  • It allows us to question our nature. What would we do in that situation? Sure, we’d all like to think we’d be the hero who grabbed a baseball bat and searched out that chainsaw-wielding maniac. And it feels good that we would do that. Some of us, though, might feel like we wouldn’t go the physical route, and would use our intellect to escape, or outwit said maniac. Some of us realize we’d get the hell out of there – and that’s okay. It shows us that survival comes in many forms.
  • Oh, and a good scare is a whole lot of fun!

Now, these are just my hypotheses on why people like to be scared, but I’m sure there are many more, and psychologists will have many opinions on this, too. So, what makes you scared and why do you like it? Comment here, or drop me a comment on Twitter at @BookOmnivore!

Catch you on the next post!

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