Fright or Flight: Why Do Some of Us Love Haunted House Attractions?
Each October, Halloween enthusiasts flock to haunted house attractions to get their fix of frightful (but fake) thrills. From haunted mazes to ghoulish cornyard mazes, a lot of creativity goes into artfully crafting the spooky scenes and jumpscares that await visitors around every corner.
It’s just a fact: some people like to be scared, and some hate it! But what is it exactly that draws some of us to seek out the feeling of fear?
A Brief History of Fear
Fear is an evolutionary response that has kept humans alive for as long as we have walked the earth. It causes hormone production that temporarily gives a burst of strength and speed – anyone who has been to a haunted house attraction can attest to this!
For our distant ancestors, this helped them to survive in the rugged environments they lived in. It kept them safe from predators and environmental factors that could have killed them.
Fear has an odd place in our lives today, because we still feel the same emotion early humans did, but it manifests differently. Instead, our daily fears are about our social and romantic lives, or our careers, or anything else that is worrying us.
So Why Do We Like Haunted House Attractions?
The world used to be a lot more dangerous. We no longer have to fear for our lives every day, so most of us rarely feel the intense, heart-thumping fear of being hunted by an animal, or traversing through dangerous terrain with no equipment.
The fear we typically feel on a day-to-day basis is very abstract in comparison to the primal fear humans experienced almost constantly. For some of us, it’s refreshing to be scared of something tangible for a change, so we seek that feeling out in horror movies or haunted houses and other Halloween attractions.
The Difference Between Real Fear and Recreational Fear
Knowing that you’re not in actual danger makes a huge difference. When we seek out recreational scares like haunted house attractions, most of the fear comes from the visuals, the suspense, and the element of surprise.
This means that while we are feeling fear over what we are witnessing, it is at a much lower level than if we had no idea that it was fake. So instead of panicking, we get a lower boost of adrenaline that can be addictive for some people!
Scientifically, the fear response is not far off from happiness or excitement, so once our brains register that we are actually safe, the screams almost always turn into laughter (even if tears are still involved)!
When we participate in these kinds of Halloween attractions with our friends and family, the collective fear responses turn into a shared memory that helps us bond with each other.
5 Haunted House Attractions That Are Worth the Trip
1. The Hex House - Tulsa, Oklahoma
The critically acclaimed Hex House in Tulsa, Oklahoma is considered one of the most intense Halloween attractions in the US. The walkthrough tour leads you through a gruesome alternate universe-like nightmare. Be warned: for a fully immersive experience, the actors are permitted to touch the guests in this horror house!
2. Nightmare: Gothic Horror Experience - New York City, NY
If you are looking for a fully immersive horror experience, look no further than Nightmare: Gothic in New York! Throughout the tour, you will be blindfolded and wearing an audio headset that triggers different sounds as you navigate the haunted house attraction. While there is no gore or a madman chasing you with a chainsaw, it is a captivating experience nonetheless.
3. Pennhurst Asylum - Spring City, Pennsylvania
If you are looking for a horror attraction that might also have a little bit of truth mixed in with the artificial scares, you’ll want to head to Pennsylvania ASAP! The Pennhurst Asylum is full of ghoulish scenes and fake blood-covered actors throughout a real historical asylum. If that doesn’t satiate your fear craving, they also offer overnight paranormal tours!
4. The Dent Schoolhouse - Cincinnati, Ohio
Ohio is considered to be one of the most haunted states, making it a perfect destination for haunted house attractions alongside real frights. According to local legends, The Dent Schoolhouse is haunted by the spirit of a janitor who murdered students in the 1850s. Though no one has been able to confirm that this ever happened, it still makes for a spooky atmosphere! The owners run a recreational horror house each October and switch up the scenes annually.
5. Georgetown Morgue - Seattle, Washington
The Georgetown Morgue’s history is marred by stories of tragic deaths, but today the building has little resemblance to its original appearance. Nonetheless, it operates as a frightfully fun Halloween attraction that tells the tale of an evil doctor and his henchman capturing citizens of Seattle and holding them hostage in the morgue and sewers below. Enter only if you dare!