Some people like a good jump scare. They enjoy that heightened sense of knowing something awful is just around the corner. They don’t feel totally alive until they’re screaming in terror.
I am not one of those people.
I am one of those people who can be quietly working in my office and become startled when someone knocks on my door’s frame to announce their presence.
I am one of those people whose heart skips a beat when a cat sprints across the road while I’m driving.
I am one of those people who watches kids’ Halloween movies because the adult ones creep me out too much.
It’s the week leading up to Halloween, and the haunting season is in full swing. Between the inflatables and tombstones popping up in yards, we might be reaching Christmas levels of decoration in some area yards. There are haunted cornfields begging people to feel as though they’re being accosted by a chainsaw-wielding clown in all corners of the region.
I’ve never cared for these much, so I sought to understand why other people do.
My oldest daughter enjoys watching horror movies, but she can’t exactly explain why. I’d asked my Facebook friends to help me understand, but it turns out that aside from the occasional person who goes to a haunted cornfield, most of them are just as chicken as I am.
When I was young, I used to enjoy the sensation of my skin crawling and the hairs jumping up on my arms when I walked near an abandoned house in my hometown. I never went any closer than the sidewalk, though, because, as I’ve already declared, I am a scaredy cat.
My first date with my now-wife was actually at a Halloween-themed event. I thought it would be romantic to go on a short autumn train ride, but that came with a trip through the organization’s “haunted office building.” The person at the entrance suggested we hold hands as we went through it, which proved to be accidental next-level genius for breaking the awkward tension of a first date. Still, we haven’t been back to a haunted house again in the nearly two decades since then.
It’s not as if I’m worried by life. I’m the one in our family who deals with mice found in the shed, burying dead pets and checking out why strangers are parked in front of our house. I know there’s a certain amount of risk in life.
I nearly died on a trick-or-treating night back in fifth grade. The cold autumn air set off my first and most major asthma attack, which landed me in the hospital for three days and somehow earned me the last rites from my parish priest. (Nowadays it’s better labeled as the anointing of the sick, but it’s Halloween, so let’s use the scarier title.)
The world itself is a scary enough place. Who needs Chucky, Freddy and Michael Myers when we have runaway inflation, a degraded moral conscience and pumpkin spice drinks sold in September? If I want to be scared, I can think about how much of the Social Security fund will remain by the time I’m ready to retire. That’s truly terrifying.
So if you’re one of those people who draws joy from scaring others, know that I’m an easy mark. It won’t take much to make me jump, shreik or curl up into a fetal position. Enjoy your time of year, when the culture adopts the macabre.
After all, I know my favorite season, Thanksgiving, is just around the corner. I know that instills a special kind of dread in most people. I’ll be able to get you back with my cornucopias and probing questions about why you’re thankful.
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