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Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Humans Like To Be Scared

It’s October, the time for witches, demons, and things that go bump in the night. We all like to be scared occasionally, and October feeds our need. I got to wondering what’s behind the science of being frightened. Here’s what I found, from

When we’re frightened, our hearts beat a little faster, we breathe more intensely, and get butterflies in our stomach. There’s also a hormonal component for being scared. When we feel threatened, we feel stronger and more physically powerful. This “adrenaline rush” charges our physical and mental batteries.

Horror films allow us to experience what’s forbidden and dark, but in a safe way. Many of us live routine lives. Scary movies help us feel more stimulated by life.

Do you agree with that? Think about how you feel after you’ve had a real-life fright or watched a horror movie. Many years ago, I watched a movie called “Dracula’s Daughter,” a little-known black and white from the 1930’s. Scared the bejesus out of me. Still does. I think I would have passed up the life stimulation rather than be so scared. Because of that one movie, I can’t read vampire stories. I believe vamps exist. 

This from The Atlantic:

Some people are pre-destined by birth to crave excitement. One of the main hormones released by scary or frightening experiences is dopamine. Some individuals may get more of a kick from dopamine than others. Those who enjoy scary, thrilling, or risky situations more than others lack “brakes” on the dopamine release in their brains.

Our self-esteem gets a boost every time we make it through a scary movie or experience. Knowing we’re in a safe environment helps us enjoy the frightening situation even more. Scientists have found people across time and the world can be afraid of anything. And people can be made to fear something. There was an experiment in the 1920’s, before researchers were required to be ethical, where they conditioned a baby to be deathly afraid of white rabbits. This fear followed the poor child all through life.

Humans are obsessed with death, hence our preoccupation with living-death monsters: zombies, vampires, and ghosts. Ghost stories have been told around campfires since long before there were camps. The Graveyard Poets of the 19th century paved the way for Poe and Shelley. Note: Ghosts don’t scare me that much. Zombies are just plain disgusting. But vampires? A whole other thing (see above).

Freak shows and museums that house oddities have been around since the mid-1800’s. P.T. Barnum brought these scary sideshows to the masses.

Being scared, so long as you’re in a safe environment, can trigger responses that help you feel stronger and empowered. Note: And riding on a scary roller coaster, watching a horror movie, or reading a scary book can be fun, for some of us. Me, not so much.

Here is a list of the ten scariest movies of all time, as taken by a readers’ poll in Rolling Stone Magazine:

10.  Poltergeist (1982)
 9.   The Thing (1982)
 8.   Night of the Living Dead (1968)
 7.   The Haunting (1963)
 6.   Alien (1979)
 5.   The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
 4.   Halloween (1978)
 3.   Psycho (1960)
 2.   The Shining (1980)
And the number one scariest movie of all time:

1.      The Exorcist(1973)

I agree with The Exorcist being number one. That movie scared me to death, and it still does, just thinking about it. Maybe being Catholic and being taught the devil exists and priests can perform exorcisms has something to do with how scary it was to me. I would have put Psycho as number two. I sometimes still think of that shower scene when I’m in the shower, especially in a hotel. Hitchcock knew how to build up suspense until we almost jumped out of our skins.

What are your favorite horror movies?

Talking about scary stuff, my very dark, very scary shifter romance, Cursed Mates, is on sale for only 99 cents until November 1. That’s a savings of $2.00. Writing this book scared me at times. It took me to a dark place. What a ride!

"What if you were honor bound to kill the man you love?"

Nick Radford is a reluctant werewolf who’s been fighting the Beast within for nearly 500 years. He’s never killed a human, but the Beast is gaining strength and Nick may not be able to ward off his inner demon much longer.

Kyla Yaeger is an elite were-hunter with a scarred past. Her life’s mission is to slay the werewolves that slaughtered her parents. Her quest has brought her to Maine, where she’s been summoned to destroy the werewolf terrorizing the quaint little village of Heavensent. The last thing she needs is to get distracted by her mysterious—not to mention hunky—new neighbor, Nick Radford.

By the time Kyla learns Nick is her target, she’s already fallen for him, making her task of killing him that much harder. She is torn between her love for him and her duty to kill her sworn enemy. Nick fights his forbidden love for Kyla, knowing she is duty-bound to kill him. Kyla and Nick must join forces to fight an even bigger threat—one that will destroy all humanity. Only by their combined powers, can they destroy the evil and bring an end to a centuries old curse.

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Have a deliciously frightening Halloween, everyone!



Melissa Keir said...

First off, Cursed Mates sounds exciting and I'm sure gives us a happily ever after. I don't like watching scary movies. I suppose the suddenness of the scare is what gets me...I did watch Salem's Lot as a teen and that movie stayed with me for a long time. The idea of vampires wasn't frightening but the ugly ones who could make you do what they wanted... that did scare me!

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Melissa. Yes, Cursed Mates has a very happy ending, but Kyla and Nick have to fight the forces of darkness to get their happy ending. I never saw Salem's Lot but I heard it was scary. True, vamps used to be scary, now they're sexy. But they still scare me.

Tina Donahue said...

Loved The Haunting - the B&W version. The scene where Julie Harris and the other woman are in the bedroom and the door starts pushing in like it's rubber - OMG, that was scarier than all the CGI someone could throw at it. Awesome movie.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Tina. Your description of the scene scared me.

Gemma Juliana said...

I've always been too scared to watch scary movies. I've seen a few but didn't like them so one day I decided to stop watching them.

I love your stories, Cara, but haven't read Cursed Mates yet. Sounds like an entertaining read.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Gemma. I can't watch scary movies any more.

Janice Seagraves said...

I don't like to be scared, but I will watch old black and white scary movies.


Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Janice. I do enjoy black and white movies.

jean hart stewart said...

I don't like to be scared anymore either..glad to know I have company in this.

Eugene Uttley said...

Very interesting. Especially about the boost in self-esteem. Glad I found this post on Triberr!

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