“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us."
-- Cornish Prayer
I have heard that human beings are the only creatures on the planet that have the ability to scare themselves. And, at some point, don't we all love to be scared? I know as a little kid I used to love watching horror movies, playing scary games, telling ghost tales, and going to local "spooky" places.
As an adult, I am not that fond of these pursuits, but maybe I'm in the minority. Although Halloween may not have achieved the holiday status of Thanksgiving or Christmas, it is second only to Christmas in revenues ($6 billion in 2009) generated by sales of scary costumes, decorations, candy, and haunted activities. So many adults now like the "escape factor" of dressing up in costumes, and they love anything particularly scary.
Scene from Terror In the Trees
* According to David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah, we enjoy feeling scared and seek the feeling out because, deep down, we know we are in no real danger.
We understand the real risk of these activities is marginal, and because of this underlying awareness, we experience excitement rather than actual fear, Rudd explains.
Most adults and teenagers are able to realistically gauge the actual level of threat that scary stimuli pose to them, and, correspondingly, their safety level. For example, watching a horror movie poses no physical threat, with the minor psychological threat being that they might have nightmares as a result of seeing it. Therefore, most viewers feel safe watching such a film, and are excited by it, not truly afraid.
However, some adults and most young children are unable to correctly gauge a threat, perceiving it to be higher than it is.
"The experience of 'real' fear is when the appraisal of threat is greater than safety," says Rudd "People that are afraid of flying appraise the threat of a crash in an unrealistic and disproportionate fashion, since it's actually safer than driving. As a result of the faulty appraisal, they experience fear."
This is why children become scared so much more easily than adults. A young child may perceive harmless Halloween fun as a serious threat to his or her safety, and become truly afraid.
(Remy Melina. "Why Do People Love to be Scared?" livescience.com. October 31, 2010)
Those who adhere to existentialist philosophy have their own ideas. Central to Existentialist philosophy and psychology are the contrasts of “being” and “non-being.” Rollo May (1958) points out that humans are unique animals in that we have Dasein. Dasein, or "being there," is peculiar to human beings. In existential terms, that means we humans are aware of ourselves, our responsibility for ourselves, and that we are in a continual state of becoming.
Our Dasein also makes us aware that at some point, through death, we will be no longer. May states the decision between “being” and “non-being” does not pertain to a one-time decision between life and suicide. Rather, it is a series of choices we make almost every instant. The ideas of being, non-being, freedom, choice, decision, responsibility, authenticity, anxiety, angst, dread and guilt are key to Existentialist philosophy.
(Christina Robertson. "Why Do We Like To Be “Scared To Death?”
saybrook.edu. October 20, 2013)
We know the goblins are one step away to haunt us with non-being when we make poor choices, misuse our freedom, and are not responsible. This is when anxiety, angst, dread, and guilt can enter in -- they are the “ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night” for Existentialists.
* So, here is the existentialist theory: being “scared to death” reminds us that we are vulnerable, our lives can change at any moment for the worse, and that death or non-being is possible at any time.
Most of us would prefer not to experience traumatic life events to remind us of these facts. However, being “scared to death” in a safe environment such as a haunted house, with a guaranteed outcome, can be fun. Being “scared to death” can “get the adrenaline going” an give us a thrill just to know we are alive.
Terror Right Here, Right Now
And now, a local haunted attraction “Terror in the Trees” is preparing for a summer session with an event called Full Moon Terrornormal Camp Out. Co-director Steve Johnson has created this unique experience in the woods, behind Jacobs Cemetery in Jefferson Township. It is a haunted trail with dozens of scenes, themes and interactive spooks.
Johnson said that the guests will be kept out of Jacobs Cemetery. The property is an L-shape around the cemetery, so it can still be used to add atmosphere to activities at the camp out -- night investigations, stories around campfires, paranormal movies on the large projection screen
Johnson is known as a seasoned haunt expert who has worked in many various haunts and has attended many conventions on the trade.
“We thought it would be fun to have a camp out on the site during a full moon, especially with being next to the cemetery and the things that we’ve found around the property,” Johnson said. “We’ve found what appears to be at least one grave site on the property, but we just put the stones back where they were.”
Limited to the first 50 people, Terrornormal Camp Out will only be eligible for adults 18 and older. Expansions include a bigger corn maze, special lighting, and 3D effects. The camping experience will be held July 12. The cost of admission is $30 for anyone in a tent or self-sufficient camper.
(Joseph Pratt. "‘Terror in the Trees’ Hosting Summer Camp Out."
Portsmouth Daily Times. June 25, 2014)
Terror In the Trees site: http://www.terrorinthetrees.com/
I'm a little overwhelmed by the adult interest in ghoulies and ghosties. Zombies and vampires and other creatures of the night fascinate the masses these days. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy a little "scare" like most, but the huge obsession with the supernatural is beyond me.
Humans first started believing in the supernatural because they were trying to understand things they couldn't explain. And, I guess, today's 24/7 often one-sided, promotional coverage of the paranormal on the Internet and TV perpetuates myths -- old fiction and new fiction readily available and pitched as "reality." The computer and the television are the new shaman storytellers.
What drives people to be so interested in the supernatural? People actually want to believe says Brian Cronk, a professor of psychology at Missouri Western State University. "The human brain is always trying to determine why things happen, and when the reason is not clear, we tend to make up some pretty bizarre explanations."
In a 2006 study, researchers found a surprising number of college students believe in psychics, witches, telepathy, channeling and a host of other questionable ideas. A full 40 percent said they believe houses can be haunted. That's right... college students.
"While it is difficult to know for certain, the tendency to believe in the paranormal appears to be there from the beginning," explained Christopher Bader, a Baylor sociologist and colleague of Mencken. "What changes is the content of the paranormal. For example, very few people believe in faeries and elves these days. But as belief in faeries faded, other beliefs, such as belief in UFOs, emerged to take their place."
(Robert Roy Britt. "Supernatural Science: Why We Want To Believe."
nbcnews.com. August 18, 2008)
Anyway, right now the supernatural is so vogue because it is out of the ordinary, and adults love the titillation of what appears to be potentially dangerous. Of course, checking out the supernatural also allows us to explore things beyond our imagination... you know, the undead and alternate realities and fantasy worlds.
Adults these days seem to crave some kind of romance with all this science fiction. Is there an innate need in human beings that makes us feel the need to explore the supernatural? To love it, even? After all, we were created to live in two worlds, objective and subjective, the material and the spiritual.
Good luck to the daring campers of Terrornormal. I hope the scare tactics reward you with enough fear to make you wet your pants and scream "Bloody murder!" but not enough to give you cardiac arrests.
As for me, I'm skipping the camping experience and saving the substantial money of admission. As an adult, I'm much more frightened when I attempt a creepy trip to Wally World than when camping on a wooded plot near Lucasville. Besides, walking through Walmart is free, and it's always open for the courageous shopper. It's full of unnerving scenes and interactive spooks. I actually feel lucky to make it out of the parking lot and head back home every time I'm forced to venture into that great unknown.
Scenes From the Frightening World of Wally
Now That IS Scary!