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Thrill-Seekers Thrive on the Scary

Exploring the 'dark side' may be a psychological need that's met when the scare is actually over.

The Scariest Films continued...

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 fast."

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 "designer kidnapping."

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 terror.

As of late October (2002), about three dozen people had paid for the thrill of being grabbed at a bus stop or the shopping mall, or even from their own bedroom, thrown into the back seat of a car, blindfolded, driven to a warehouse, stripped down to their underwear, and slapped around a little. It's everything a masochist could ever want.

"This company apparently conducts a 'pre-interview,' finds out what your fears are, and then plays into them," says Farley. "I view this as a very decadent indulgence. It's violent and very scary, but people do it voluntarily."

And a designer-kidnapping business may be coming to a town near you. The young artist-turned-entrepreneur who started this enterprise is contemplating opening up similar dare-to-be-scared operations in other parts of the country.

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