Anna Gragert
April 27, 2016 3:28 pm
Ryan Murphy Productions

The Haunted House Association reveals that about 8,000 people visit haunted attractions every year. In other words: People actually pay to be scared… But why?

Educator Margee Kerr explains – on her TED-Ed episode “Why is being scared so fun?” – that it all has to do with the logistics of fear. Essentially, when we’re scared, Harvard Medical School reports that our bodies go into Fight or Flight Mode. Chemicals that give us energy and protect us from experiencing pain are released. So we can make it out alive, non-essential systems such as critical thought are shut down.

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Interestingly enough, we are faced with a similar response during positive situations that promote arousal. The main difference has to do with what’s going on around you. If you are in a safe environment, then you can focus on having fun (instead of responding to danger). This is why you may start out screaming on a rollercoaster and end up laughing toward the end.

However, it is important to remember that this reaction changes based on the person, since our bodies (and their chemicals) are all different. Some may love a haunted house, but will never set foot inside a cemetery. Others may be fans of rollercoasters, but hate any ride that spins around and around forever and ever.

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Plus, it doesn’t end there! Successfully getting through this feeling of fear can make us feel super accomplished. Even when we aren’t actually in danger, we can feel this way because our fear comes off as genuine. Consequently, Dr. Glenn Sparks reveals that when we make it through such an experience, we can get a self-esteem boost because WE DID IT.

Fear can also bring us closer together, according to psychiatry professor Dr. David H. Zald. When you witness your friends’ fear or excitement, you may feel the need to mirror their reactions. This helps us understand what our friends are going through and, in the end, makes us feel connected. The hormone oxytocin helps this relationship along, since it evokes a powerful reaction when unleashed during Fight or Flight time.

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Mainly, if you react strongly to something, odds are that you’re going to remember it. If whatever you reacted to made you laugh or smile, then it has a positive connotation in your mind and you will most likely want to do it again. That’s why we keep going back to haunted houses year after year.

Right now, we could use a self-esteem boost, so maybe we should buy tickets to an amusement park instead of partaking in online shopping?

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