An empty feeling in the gut, sweating palms, nervousness and a racing heart are all part of the body’s response to fear. Every year, haunted houses and horror movies draw crowds, all in search of getting this feeling.
For years, scientists have researched fear. Some argue that humans are born knowing how to deal with fear due to the evolution of the brain to deal with nature. Others argue that fear is a personal experience; for example, some are afraid of watching horror movies, and others are afraid to walk to their car after the movie is over.
“Fear was developed out of necessity,” said Weber State University pre-med major Ashlee Henry. “Our fear serves to protect us. When we are in fear, we have a cocktail of hormones that are released that help us to deal with the ‘threat.’ This trait is obviously beneficial for organisms, which is why we have it today.”
While it could be argued that no one truly likes to be scared, the lines at haunted houses make it seem obvious that many people do like to be scared, insomuch that they seem to like to push the boundaries of theur fear. Asylum 49, an old mental hospital in Tooele, is now a full-contact haunted house, giving a new dynamic to the fear a haunted house can bring.
Cheryl Lynn, a student who said she scares easily, attended Asylum 49 in search of the feeling of being scared that she loves.
“It’s exciting and fun to run from the things that scare you the most,” Lynn said. “I think what makes the actors scary is they are able to take you from your group and put you in a dark room, and you either sit there alone screaming while they pound on doors and scratch things, or you plan your escape. I was taken from my group quite a few times.”
Some people may say they don’t like to be scared, but agree that they do like being scared when it comes to haunted houses and scary movies.
“I hate being scared unless I am at a haunted house, and I love scary movies because I like the adrenaline rush,” said WSU student Jake Fresques.
Not everyone loves being scared, though, and student Mikeling Yu is among them.
“I hate getting scared,” Yu said, “so I do not like haunted houses, especially the fact that scary things jump out at you, and I will not watch scary movies voluntarily. I think people like the thrill of being scared, but I honestly don’t see why people like it as much as they do.”
Henry also said the adrenaline makes being scared enjoyable, but she has a different theory of why it is enjoyable in some scenarios and not in others.
“I don’t think people necessarily enjoy being in a constant state of fear, but on the other hand, a lot of people go to haunted houses. Maybe when you are walking through a haunted house and realize there is no real threat or danger, the adrenaline rush could be quite enjoyable.”
Student Ashley Nalder worked at local attraction Haunted Hollow this year and noticed that people “love being scared, but not terrified. Scared is an emotion that sends chills down your spine and keeps you on your toes. Being terrified, however, drags out that fear into your head and takes control of your reactions.”
While there are many theories out there about what it is that makes people scared, one thing is for sure: Hollywood and haunted houses love whatever it may be that makes people keep coming back for more.