THE HAUNTING From ancient tales of mythical creatures to the unspeakable crimes of modern cinema, the ghost story holds us in thrall.In this spectral world where sorrow dwells, why are we unable to look away?
I love scary stories and I love anthropology, cultural history and mythology, so hooray, even though I think this topic has been well and truly covered. It's actually a promotion for new Australian film The Darkside, but still, I feel like this is the fifth article I have read in the last couple of years asking "why do people like scary stories?"
Do a Google search for "why do people like scary stories" and most of these articles will come up, along with a good bunch of blogs and forums answering the same question.
I don't actually think it's that mysterious, is it? Stephen King answered the question in On Writing, and all these articles, blogs and forum posts answer it too.
People like (or are drawn to) scary stories because:
- they are cathartic, allowing us to feel and release pent-up tension and fear
- they help us manage our fears of the unknown and death
- they allow us to rehearse scary situations
- they provide the adrenaline rush of the 'fight or flight' response which we need to keep us safe
- this adrenaline rush, as a by-product, provides a thrill which is (kind of) pleasurable
- or, encapsulating all of these: as Older Single Mum commenting on this post of mine so succinctly said, they "still the mind".
New Scientist, in its recent Night issue, had a great article called The night: Things that go bump... which says the paralysing terror we feel at noises in the night (and during horror stories) is our animalistic fear of predation, of being hunted and eaten. That gives me a shiver just re-reading it (and reminds me how horribly stressful the life of many animals must be).
So that's pretty well explained, from my point of view.