Remember what it was like to be really scared? Scared when you knew there was nothing to be afraid of, but you were scared anyway? What is it that’s fun about that? Yet we seek it out from the time we’re little.
Like hide-and-seek. We know the people are out there, but when we find them, we’re often startled or even terrified when at last we stumble across those we seek.
Going to a Halloween haunt is a return to our childhood roots. We know we are safe. We know no one is going to hurt us. Yet we go to be scared. There’s an underlying hysteria to the whole process of gearing up for a haunt.
It starts with the gathering of the group. And the group psychology is important to the whole experience. There’s an optimal group size. If the group is too big, there’s too much safety in numbers. You can hide in the middle of the bunch. If the group is too small, the contagious nature of fear is lost. I think 4-6 people with a couple of total scaredy-cats is perfect.
It’s small enough that the fear of 2 can spread to the rest of the group vs. the swagger of several buoying up the rest of the group’s courage.
And, let’s be honest, as much as I hate to admit it, there’s a gender difference. We women haven’t spent our live pretending to be brave. We’ve been taught to be afraid for our safety in so many subtle ways; we’re more likely to be startled, frightened, and even terrified than our male counterparts.
We’re also more likely to fully enjoy the experience of a haunt. This is also true of children–the younger, the more disbelief is suspended.
I ponder the attraction of being scared. It’s a reminder of our vulnerability, a feeling of helplessness. Why do we enjoy this feeling of not knowing what’s going to jump out at us? Is it the rush of having experienced terror and having survived? Is it significantly different from the rush of thrill seekers who sky dive, climb Mt. Everest, or go cave diving?
These images were taken on the haunted trail at the Acres of Darkness event. I was hidden in the shadows, waiting for the moment when the victims were suddenly startled by the various actors on the trail. While I can’t claim there great images in terms of lighting, framing, or composition, they captured a moment of true fear for at least some of the guests.
I laugh when I look at their faces. I laugh because of the complete abandon of their expressions. Is it macabre of me to enjoy having captured fear? In my own defense, if they would have been in real danger, it wouldn’t be funny to me. But these are “we got you!” moments. They came to be scared and they were.
It’s photographic evidence that the haunt achieved what the audience paid for.