Why So Scared?

Story by: William Yeromian

Photos by: Jorge Alvarado

Fear factor, fun factor

“Before I arrive to the theme park, I feel nervous,” said high school student Veronica Palafox as she neared the haunted mazes at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights (HHN). Haunting music mingled with screams echoed in the background as she entered. “It takes a lot of courage to step in to a park like this.” The roar of the chainsaws cut through the darkness, and swallowing her fear, she stepped into the looming fog.

“I do it for the thrill and the adrenaline,” Palafox said.

She is hardly the only person who gets a kick out of getting scared. But why do they enjoy it?

“In 2008, reporters stated that horror was born during The Great Depression,” said John Murdy, the creative director and producer of HHN. “What’s scarier, losing your 401k, or going to Halloween Horror Nights? We give people escape.”

The artificially created fear gives a temporary escape from the troubles of the real world.

“There is an attraction to certain horror films,” said clinical psychologist Mark Sergi. “People are upset by a certain thing but also excited, such as fear of snakes or spiders; certain people will change the channel when they see it, but others will find excitement from it.”

This is what separates those who go to Halloween Horror Nights and others that don’t.

But what happens if fear negatively impacts your life? The top fears are flying, public speaking and heights. This has to do with past experiences, when people had a bad encounter, or perhaps they saw a TV news report. According to PubMed.gov, to cope with fears people take medications, such as the antibiotic D-cycloserine. Though it’s used to treat tuberculosis, scientists have reported that it may be helpful in producing the protein N-methyl D-asparate, which can eliminate fear.

For those wanting to get over their fears, Sergi recommends an alternative type of treatment called exposure therapy, which requires facing your fears. “Exposure therapy works by exposing yourself 25-

to-30 minutes at a time for long periods of time,” Sergi said. “You want to increase your arousal and anxiety until yourr body no longer shows signs of anxiety. It’s not easy to be brave and to face your  fears. You need to have the motivation.”

Others though are like Palafox, who find fun in fear and getting scared.

Still, her trip through the Horror Nights maze left her completely out of breath from the constant screaming. The final challenge of the night was a horde of chainsaw-wielding zombies and horrifying clowns. Although the smell of gasoline filled her nose, she was determined to reach the exit without fear. Through the chaos, she managed to find the exit, safe with the knowledge of what she has accomplished.