Sarah Stultz: Why is choosing to be scared fun for some?

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 16, 2017

Nose for News, By Sarah Stultz

My husband and I have an annual tradition to attend a haunted house of some form each October. Some years we go on double dates and some years we go by ourselves. We’ve been to many of the attractions in the surrounding area over the years, including Fright at the Farm in Zumbrota, Dead End Hayride in Wyoming, Minnesota, and Screamtown in Chaska.

I find it interesting to see the hundreds of people — like ourselves — who stand in line for hours at a time to walk through these Halloween-related attractions just to be scared for a few minutes and then to get back on with their daily lives a few hours later.

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Why do we find entertainment in getting scared for a few minutes — whether at a haunted house or by watching a scary movie?

Is it the thrill of the unknown? The adrenaline rush you get when you’re out of your element and then know you can return to your normal life?

On the other end, why do some people actually enjoy dressing up and scaring people at these types of attractions?

I did a little research online and found that the frontal lobe of the brain can be a factor, according to psychiatrist Katherine Brownlowe at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in an article on

“The frontal lobe is the thinking part of your brain,” she said. “It’s the part of your brain that can modulate the more primitive response and tell you you’re OK right now. So if you’re in a situation like a haunted house and something jumps out at you or you hear a scary noise, your body goes into fight or flight mode, but your frontal lobe still knows you’re safe and will calm you down, allowing the situation to be more pleasurable.”

The article went on to say that there are some personality traits of fear lovers:

• conscientiousness

• openness to experience

• extroversion

• agreeableness

While some thrill-seekers can be impulsive, others can be empathetic and sensitive to others’ emotions.

The article talked about how fear is sometimes a way to connect with others.

Margee Kerr, a sociologist and author of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear,” said in the article, “When we do scary things with other people like go to a haunted house or skydive, there is a real bonding and a feeling of connectedness. There are studies that show that we get closer to each other when we’re scared with people we have an existing positive association with, and on the other hand, how we increase negative feelings toward those we don’t like when we’re in stressful situations together.”

While scary situations are not enjoyable for all, they’re fun for a lot of people at this time of year. If you like them, get out and enjoy some fun.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.