While, certainly, when it comes to ranking holidays, Halloween hasnít really nudged Thanksgiving or Christmas out of the way, thereís no question it is indeed relevant. As a matter of fact, according to the folks who study our economy, what we spend on Halloween will again this year top the $7 billion mark, which is exceeded only by Christmas when it comes to holidays that move the money needle.
Included in that $7 billion, according to a group I never knew existed, The Haunted House Association, a billion of those revenues come from the sale of tickets for haunted adventures during the season. And, if you think these tickets sold to folks who want to be scared witless are always pretty reasonable, think again.
In Philadelphia, a Halloween tour at the Eastern State Penitentiary, closed since 1971 but a National Historic Landmark that runs a Halloween-themed tour, ticket prices start at $20 each and increase to $30 if you want to be there at the bewitching hour of midnight to hear and see the things that go bump in the night.
Yes, in the true spirit of the old Scottish prayer, ďFrom ghoulies and ghosties / And long-leggedy beasties / And things that go bump in the night / Good Lord, deliver us,Ē thereís no question that a whole bunch of you out there absolutely love to be scared and will pay for the opportunity to be so.
Personally, I have never really been wired that way. While many canít wait for the next scary movie designed to induce fright and clamber to get in line to ride the next roller coaster thatíll provide that pit-in-the-stomach feeling, Iím content to remain on the sidelines of any field of fright. To me, daily life can be scary enough. If you donít believe me, the next time you get out on the highway, count the number of text-messaging teens you see looking down at their laps while passing you driving 70 miles per hour.
So, for all of you who love to be scared and the rest of us who just donít get it, I did a little reading to get to the bottom of what, to me, is an enigma. I hope my readers this week include those who planned that wedding reception I once bartended, an affair that was Halloween-themed. It was a theme I never really understood. I mean, really. Isnít marriage in and of itself scary enough?
David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah, theorizes that so many people love being scared and go to such great lengths to seek that feeling out because they know that deep down, there really is no danger.
Author Cristina Robertson puts it another way. She feels being ďscared to deathĒ reminds us of our vulnerability, that our lives can change at any moment for the worse. And, while many, like me, donít prefer to experience anything that will remind us of that fact, there are a bunch of you out there who get an almost euphoric joy from being scared to death in a safe environment. The feeling, Robertson said, provides an adrenaline boost and gives many that thrill that reminds them that they are alive.
As far as the demographic of those who enjoy being scared witless, it seems that a large percentage is comprised of children, tweens and teens. Many psychologists feel the reason being scared is so appealing to them is that, for those that age, there is a natural urge to take risks because they feel impervious to harm. So, to test the metal of their armor of invulnerability, they will, so to speak, push the envelope far more than those who are older and realize no armor of invulnerability exists for anyone.
According to author Rebecca Fraser-Thill, because children have so few opportunities to experience real risk, like jumping from high places or traveling really fast, because of all that adult supervision, they seek avenues to simulate risk, from haunted hayrides and cornfield mazes to scary movies to roller coasters. Think of it as their living on the edge but with a safety net.
Many who study child development feel that children being scared yields a lot of positives. It provides a sense of adventure and also provides a sense of accomplishment that they made it through that entire horror movie or haunted cornfield intact.
While I understand the experts when it comes to being scared, I remain unmoved though. From the time I was a child to now, when it comes to things that go bump in the night, Iíd prefer those things be moving in shadows far away from where Iím standing.