Frightfully Fun

Why is it fun to be scared?

Catharine Richards

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As strange as it may seem, fear can actually be enjoyable, and this time of year exposes us to a plethora of fun frights. Whether you enjoy watching horror films, going through haunted houses, listening to ghost stories or reading a chilling book before bed, most people find at least a little thrill in being scared. So why is that exactly?
The scientific explanation behind this has to do with our fight-or-flight instinct. Studies show that at the same time the body is experiencing a scare, the brain releases a variety of chemicals, many of which produce positive feelings when it is apparent you are not going to be harmed. This can leave many wanting to experience these same feelings over and over again.
“It’s really fun to kind of push the boundaries of what would be in your comfort zone, because it can help you develop more courage as a person,” says sophomore Ivan Calderon, “but also, at least for me, I like watching scary movies, so it’s really interesting to kind of step out of your comfort zone.”
Watching scary movies is an activity that most people engage in, and the resulting reactions can range from excitement to terror depending on the person.
“I get really anxious still especially [watching] horror movies,” says junior Aris Grady. “I’ll cover my eyes, and I’ll have someone explain to me what happened because I get scared.”
“I think scary movies and stuff are fun because there’s not really any harm that can be done I guess,” says eighth grader Sage McHenry.
Most would agree (aside from those real thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies) that a key part of having fun while being scared is knowing that you will come out safe and in one piece at the end.
While horror movies have more of a year-round appeal, October is definitely peak haunted house season. Again, part of what makes haunted houses appealing and exciting is being able to get a good fright without being in any real danger.
“I feel like if I’m going to sign up for a haunted house I better be scared,” says senior Jett French. “I feel like that’s the whole point.” While the senior class annually hosts a themed haunted house, many students venture outside of Seabury to explore the larger-scale spooks.
“Since sixth grade, for my birthday, since its six days after Halloween, I always go to the haunted houses in Kansas City like The Beast and The Edge,” says Grady. The haunted houses, which are set up in large former warehouses in the city, are an incredibly popular attraction and are known to elicit many screams from those passing through.
However, not everyone pictures running through a haunted house being chased by zombies and ghouls as a fun night out. “I’m not really a person who likes going to the really big haunted houses,” says McHenry. “That just doesn’t sound appealing to me. I mean; I am kind of a scaredy-cat.”
Although there are some people out there who are brave enough to embark on these spooky adventures on their own, most would agree that having a friend or two by your side–either as someone to scream with or someone to laugh with–is usually a good idea.
“I definitely could not see myself going to a haunted house or a horror movie alone,” says Grady. “It would definitely have to be a friend thing. I think it’s funny to watch your friends get scared.”
McHenry agrees that being able to laugh at yourself and with your friends makes everything a lot more fun. “I mean, friends kind of mock each other in some ways, and so you know if one of your friends gets scared you can be like ‘Haha’ and kind of make fun of it.”
French agrees that most of the time, sharing thrills with friends can be enjoyable: “Sometimes your friends can make it all a joke and then you kind of lose the scariness, but also if you use it to not get scared and you can make jokes about it then [it’s fun].”
“It makes me feel like I’m kind of sharing an experience with a group of people,” says Calderon. “A lot of my friends enjoy scary stuff like I do. It kind of helps you bond with the people you’re around and get to know them better.”
So as October comes to a close, perhaps consider going to that haunted house you have seen or watching that scary movie everyone is talking about. Who knows? It could be a lot more fun than frightening.