Do you like to be scared?
I’m currently in the process of trying to convince someone that she wants to go to Halloween Horror Nights with me. I started the pitch with perhaps the dumbest question I could have asked: “So, do you like being scared?”
Pretty much everyone who refuses haunted houses, roller coasters and horror movies does so by saying the same thing: “I don’t like being scared.” To be honest, I’m not sure anyone likes being scared. We enjoy fake simulations of scares. I don’t think anyone who gets mugged thinks that was such a rush! Tomorrow night I’m walking down a dark alley to see if that can happen again!
It’s not fun because the scare is real; you can get hurt or even die. Roller coasters are fun because the simulation of the scare of falling triggers an endorphin rush, but we’re not really scared any more than we fall in love from eating chocolate, even though biochemically speaking the results are the same.
I know this because I love roller coasters while I hate being scared of heights. Every single time I get on a roller coaster it’s exactly the same. The coaster slowly starts traveling up the track, the chain clicking ominously. Full freak-out mode then commences. Okay, I change my mind. I want off. Is it too late to get off? Click. Click. The coaster continues to ascend. Why did I do this? I hate roller coasters! Click. Click. If I can loosen this lap bar a little I can crawl out, grab hold of the track and then climb down. Click. Click. My god, this is high. Humans aren’t supposed to be this high. That’s why we don’t have wings. Then one final click and I’m at the track’s peak, seconds away from its first plunge. Nooooo! I’m going to die! I’m going to die! Then the roller coaster abruptly drops. Woo hoo! This is so much fun!
I love haunted houses because the thrill of zombies and other crazies pretending to attack simulates fear and provides that endorphin rush. But what if things that truly scared us were featured at the haunted house? I imagine Halloween Horror Nights would be considerably less enjoyable.
If the haunted houses played off my actual fears, they wouldn’t have zombies, monsters, or guys with chainsaws. They would have creditors and loan officers reminding me of the money I owe. They would have my writing professors sarcastically asking me where on the bookshelf they can find my novels and then muttering something about “wasted potential.” Instead of screams and spooky music, the park’s speakers would play secret recordings of me in my bedroom, strumming my guitar and singing when I thought no one was listening.
I walk into a haunted house and see a familiar face, a girl I hadn’t seen in year.
“Wow, hi. I wasn’t expecting to see you here. How have you been?”
“Good. Oh, and this is my son. He’s yours, by the way.”
If haunted houses played off my actual fears, there would be one house giving a glimpse of the future. In this bleak future, President Obama has just been inaugurated into his 14th term, Maroon 5 have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and my tombstone shows that I died without ever marrying or having children. Worse yet, the number-one-rated show is a new program called Buzzfeed Television.
None of that would be fun, because facing our actual fears is never fun. Roller coasters and haunted houses, on the other hand, are tons of fun, so you should go with me, okay?
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Your Song of the Day: “Shankill Butchers” by The Decemberists
You should also read: “Haunted Houses Get a Bad Rap” and “Halloween is for Candy, Nip Slips, and Douchebags.”