What makes Halloween attractions so addictive?

Even though it is terrifying, why do we still crave a scare?

Samie Eldridge and Cayden Giacoma

When it comes to Halloween, what first pops into your head? Costumes? Parties? Music? Doing the one thing your parents advised you from doing- taking candy from strangers? This nation-wide loved holiday is held dearly to the hearts of many, but there is one aspect that sends shivers down the spine of the average person. The amusement parks. Here in Indy we have a variety- Hannah’s Haunted Acres, Indy Scream Park, the newer Twisted Woods, Piney Acres Scream Farm, and Necropolis. People have an addiction to these delightful frights, but why? Is it the adrenaline? The frequent cheesiness? The actors? Or maybe it’s just something for whenever you get tired of watching horror movies. Whilst we’re in the afterglow of the spookiest scary season, this aspect of the Holiday is one I’d very much love to explore. So take a seat, put on some spooky tunes, relax, and enjoy some Spooktober goodness.

There are sections in your brain that control how you perceive these scarefests. Think of a roller coaster, when you’re going up the hill and rising, you feel scared, like a feeling of wanting to get off of it- but whenever you pull back into the station, you feel euphoric and exhilarated. Your brain has both a ‘sensation’ and ‘reward’ section, the sensation being the scary jumps and going through the horror attraction, and the rewarding feeling being finally getting passed all of it, going after this experience is called ‘sensation seeking’, which is also why horror fanatics pay money to go to their local theatre to see the latest horror films. 

One of the larger reasons this happens is because whenever we get scared, our fight or flight alarms begin wailing in our minds. Fight or flight responses throws out all nonessential thoughts we could have, all your worries melting away in your screams (and eventually laughter). Now- arguably the most imperative reason that we do these things is that it brings people together, the shared fear and experiences can bring friends closer, and whenever you see your friends having fun and laughing through the fear, your brain releases a chemical that makes you feel compelled to react the same. And what’s better than a night of screams each friend can share together. 

While this time of year makes us feel jittery and a little paranoid, we also crave that “oh so good” scary mask that jumps out of the shadows to make you leap. However, even if scary attractions aren’t for everyone, how do they make so much money from people willing to go? To put it simply, there is a sort of understanding that everything is make believe. While you listen to a true story of ghosts, you feel this urge to either cover your ears or keep on hearing them. However in the sense of going to, let us say, Indy Screampark, even the most scared can’t seem to stay home without going for themselves at least once. Sure, peer pressure can play a big role, but it’s what the ride provides that keeps them coming back for more. And while you walk through the forest of cannibals or a run down insane asylum, you always feel a sense that you will ultimately not be hurt and will be ok in the end. This “make believe” understanding makes us all feel better about going and ultimately enjoying the attraction in the end. Plus, just saying you went can make you seem kind of brave, don’t you think?

While a scary attraction isn’t the same as a birthday party, the emotion can be the same if the ride allows all these feelings of excitement and safety to take over your senses. Don’t believe us? Think of it as this, you are running at all sides of a room, feeling only unspeakable demise. Ghastly red liquid begins to submerge your body, as the blood rushes from your toes to your head, you feel as if you are being eaten by this uncontrollable situation you voluntarily put yourself in. As you gasp your last breath, shutting your eyes, you scream, as though letting out all the emotion that had taken over you. Your breath is instantly replaced by regret, the tears welling up on the sides of your shut eyes as you begin to come to terms with what is about to happen to you. Then, as you open each eye nothing is there, all is gone and you are still walking around this room, you can’t help but laugh as the fear is replaced by a sense of relief. 

You want to read more right? It’s this feeling of adrenaline that fills your head as you read the scene, as which you expect to take your final breath, only for it to be a breath of relief as it seems everything is ok; yet still, you want to keep reading and see if anything else scary happens. It’s these emotions that keep people wanting to come back to attractions, as they feel this emotion of being scared, then relief, then scared of what to come. It’s funny how it works, but scary attractions are made for this urge to be scared then relieved it is not real. So, if you are too scared to go to a spooky attraction, then good. That means sooner or later you will want to make sure this instinct of fear is correct, only to go and want to come back for more later. Happy Belated Halloween.