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Halloween Guide and Ideas
Halloween Guide and Ideas


Lets face it, a large percentage of people really enjoy being frightened, but why? To understand why, we must first realize that there is both a physical and mental component to fear and Halloween, with its frightening images and sounds, provides a perfect environment for stimulating these.

While the physiology and psychology of fear work hand-in-hand, we will try to describe them separately, to better understand the entire process of fright. Knowing your personal fear comfort level is important for controlling and actually enjoying any frightful experience.

Be sure to read our article for surviving a haunted attraction.

The Psychology of Fear
Scary Halloween ImagesMany believe that people who enjoy being frightened, do so simply because they get pleasure from the physiological response of the increased adrenaline in their body and while I agree that this is usually part of it, I don't believe that this is the whole equation.

Many people see it as a physical, mental and emotional challenge to survive a scary event on a person level, even if they know that it is all just make believe. For example, I've seen people standing in line at a haunted attraction repeatedly saying to themselves, "Okay, I can do this, I can do this". They need to do it just so they know that they can.

I think for many people, being terrified is exhilarating, and the eventual release of the tension produced by fear can be emotionally cathartic. The relief afterwards and the knowledge that one has overcome and survived a intimidating event can be very empowering. It gives you a feeling that you are emotionally strong and that thought that "If I can handle seeing this, maybe I can handle anything." Once they have made it through a particularly gory haunted, they feel that emotional rush of power, exhilaration and adrenaline. It fells good!

Another psychologically initiated response is screaming and one only has to look at the animal kingdom to see why. The most common reasons why people scream when confronted by intense danger is from intense surprise, as an audible alarm to alert the rest of the tribe to the perceived danger as a warning and/or as a call for help, and to make one's self seem more dangerous in an attempt to frighten away or deter the perceived threat.

Hearing people scream in fear, particularly young women with their high pitched shrills, is one of my greatest Halloween pleasures. If I am able to elicit a scream, I know that I have succeeded in producing the desired emotional response and given them a real thrill. This is a double edged thing, they get a release and thrill at what they have seen that makes them scream and I get an emotional thrill knowing that I have created something that caused this to happen. 

However, there are people that do not like being frightened, even in a simulated and safe way, it is simply too much for them to handle. This type of person should never be forced or coerced into going into a frightening situation, even a simulated one, as it could be emotional harmful. I have a friend, a male, who went with our family to a haunt a few years ago. He made it through two of the tamer of the five haunts because he could not stand the emotional fear he was feeling even though he knew that none of what he was seeing was real. Even being lead by me and holding my wife's hand, he just couldn't make it through the other haunts. This shows that even people who enjoy being frightened to a point, have a comfort level for fear either real or imagined.

We have another friend, a female, who likes to be scared to a small extent. One year we were going to check out a local haunted attraction that we had heard about. While waiting to go through the haunt, they had a scare-actor come out and try to frighten those seated in queue. One of them actually grabbed her by the ankle and tried to pull her off the seat. This freaked her out so much that she refused to go through what turned out to be a very sorry excuse for a haunt but also broke the cardinal rule that scare-actors never touch the patrons. She also went with us that year to Universal Studios haunt, which was very gross and did fine because no one touched her. This just shows that it's all about your comfort level.

The Physiology of Fear
Many people enjoy the physical sensations of the "adrenaline rush" that accompany being scared, whether its going to a haunted house, encountering spooky Halloween decorations and props, watching a horror movie, or listening to a scary story, its like riding a roller coaster.

Lets look at what happens to the human body when a person becomes frightened. When the brain detects a potential danger, whether on a conscious or subconscious level, it invokes the "Fight or Flight" instinct for survival. My personal experiences with people being frightened from a variety of stimuli, have been that there are actually three responses, "Fight, Flight or Freeze."

I have been to many Halloween haunted attractions specifically to observe the people going through them. Some have little or no fear, or control the fear they feel and press on, others run past to avoid the danger or even retreat in fear, but some simply freeze in place. And there are some people, like my wife and myself who work in tandem to scare the people working the haunt who are trying to scare the visitors. They are so busy trying to do their job that they don't notice one of us behind them ready to yell Boo! or scream right behind them. We get a kick out of scaring people, we really enjoy it. But that's a whole other article.

In any event, adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is instantaneously dumped into the body from the adrenal glands, causing a higher heart rate to pump more blood to the muscles and brain, increased respiration to pass more oxygen through the lungs and into the body, the pupils of the eyes dilate to increase visual acuity, all in preparation to meet the danger with increased strength and heightened senses. It gives your body a natural "rush", like a "runner's high" and it does feel good. Since we, as humans, all like to feel pleasurable feelings it makes sense that some of us love being scared for the pure feeling of it.

Endorphins, biochemical's produced by the body that are similar in nature to morphine, can also be produced as a reaction to being frightened. There effects usually occur directly or shortly after the event and produce analgesia comparable to taking a pain killer and a feeling of well-being.

There are other reactions your body has to fear, the two most common being the hair on the back of the neck standing up and the second of having goose bumps, both of which are related to each other and part of the physiological response to a fight or flight situation. Goose bumps are created by a nerve discharge from an involuntary portion of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. This discharge causes a contraction of tiny hair erector muscles just under the skin. As these muscles contract, they elevate the hair follicles above the rest of the skin, causing goose bumps and sometimes the hair to literally raise. Do you experience these more on Halloween night?

In extreme cases, some people have been known to faint from fear as part of a Vasovagal response, known as Vasovagal syncope. A very small percentage of people actually have the opposite reaction than most when frightened, where the nervous system slows the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure, contracting the arteries and veins resulting in a lack of blood to the brain, which causes them to faint.

In Closing
After a night of Halloween scares, people often relate their personal experiences of fear to tell their friends and family, "Oh my gosh, that haunted house was so scary!", they say as they tell their story. Being frightened can be a lot of fun, just remember that after the fear has faded away, have fun with it and laugh about it, after all, its only make believe...

Halloween Online Staff


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