Thrill-Seekers Thrive on the Scary
Exploring the 'dark side' may be a psychological need that's met when the scare is actually over.
"Type T's" continued...
According to Farley, some people enjoy the physical sensations
that can accompany being scared -- from the adrenaline rush to the racing heart
to the perspiring palms. In his studies of people who thrive on riding roller
coasters, "there's almost nothing else, including sex, that can match it in
terms of the incredible sensory experience that the body is put
As for children, an event like Halloween can provide an
enjoyable and safe way to explore and experience fear, knowing that the goblins
and witches stalking their neighborhood are only make-believe. Leon Rappoport,
PhD, describes Halloween as something akin to an exorcism, allowing children to
work through and release pent-up emotions and anxieties.
"They're being given the license to probe at least the
superficial anxieties about magical transformations, which, in the imagination
of a child, are not completely foreign," says Rappoport, professor of
psychology at Kansas State University. "The experience provides a sort of
relief in much the way that an exorcism could be said to do."
The Scariest Films
In recent years, if you're someone who savors the
heart-in-your-mouth images of frightening movies, you've certainly had plenty
to keep you entertained. In 1998, Sparks conducted a survey to determine which
films people regard as the scariest they've ever seen. These so-called
"Seven Deadly Films" are Scream, Friday the
13th, The Shining, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm
Street, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist.
Of course, some people would prefer to completely avoid those
or any other scary flicks -- about one-third of the population falls into this
category, says Sparks. For them, there's no redeeming value to stories that
leave them frozen with fear.
Sparks describes a woman in her late thirties who saw
Silence of the Lambs, and found the film so terrifying that she didn't
eat meat for the next six months. When The Exorcist was initially
released three decades ago, there were several cases of adults who experienced
such high levels of distress that they needed to be hospitalized.
Yet for adolescent boys in particular, they may consider these
kinds of films to be a rite of passage, exposing themselves to images and
stories that were taboo when they were younger.
"Most of these films depict transgressions of conventional
values and morality," says Rappoport. "There's an attraction to their
'forbidden' nature, in the same way that many adolescents want to know what
it's like to drink too many beers, smoke cigarettes, or drive their car too
The Ultimate Fear Experience
For people who just aren't satisfied with the run-of-the-mill
terrifying movies or the everyday shaking-in-your boots novels, New Yorkers can
now take the fear factor to the next level. The prescription: Order your own
For a rather hefty price tag (ranging from $1,500 to $4,000), a
newly formed business in New York will arrange to have you abducted, tied up,
gagged, and kept confined for hours or days to instill as much fear in you as
possible. The specific twists and turns of your own kidnapping can be
customized depending on your own preferences and idiosyncrasies for personal