Another Halloween post! I’m finishing up with Halloween stuff this weekend, I swear it. Just ’cause it’s nine days into November… heheh…
An amusement park not too far from my house does a Halloween theme every weekend in October, so one Saturday night before Halloween, my dad, sister, and I went. It was our second year going, so this time, I knew what to expect.
The park goes all-out. All the lights go off after 8:00, leaving just red, orange, and yellow spotlights and a whole lot of fog machines. They play creepy music and sound effects all through the park and have designated scarers on rollerblades or on foot, dressed up in costume and makeup, wandering around to scare you wherever you go. They also a have a ton of decorations, like skeletons and scarecrows and other fun, twisted props. It’s an awesome sight, and pretty spooky in the dark.
The main feature of the night is a set of scare mazes. Each maze has a theme, with props, lighting, and costumes to match. You’re ushered through a dimly lit, narrow, and twisting set of rooms and corridors, while the scarers jump out from dark corners or mutter strangely in their twisted scenes. The whole point is to scare the living daylights out of you, and it does a pretty good job.
Halloween stuff in general doesn’t really scare me. I recently went to a scary movie in theatres with two friends, and while they clung to each other for support, I kind of, well, laughed my way through the movie. I couldn’t help it. I found a lot of scenes really funny. I didn’t quite understand the scare factor.
So even when it comes to these mazes, I don’t get very scared. I don’t need to cling to anyone for moral support, or close my eyes and plug my ears to hide from all the scariness. Most of the time, I come out of haunted houses laughing. With these mazes, I did come out laughing, but I also got scared while going through them. It was just a different kind of scared–a milder type.
Fear is a difficult topic to fully understand, mostly because it’s different for everyone. There’s the kind of fear that gets your heart beating and your adrenaline pumping, there’s the kind of fear that makes you run away or freeze on the spot, and then there’s the kind of fear that transforms you into a blubbering, muttering, curled-up-in-a-corner wreck.
I would name them: active fear, startle fear, and terror fear.
Active fear is like an “oh no, oh no–I’m going to die!” kind of fear. It’s pretty good in survival situations, ’cause it can save your life when you’re in danger. It gets your butt moving and lets you do something proactive. In Halloween situations, sometimes this kind of fear makes you punch the guy in the haunted house who just jumped out at you. It’s much more useful when you’re life’s at risk.
Startle fear is a heart-pounding, jump-out-of-your-skin kind of fear. It’s what makes you scream and jump five feet in the air, and I’d say it’s a pretty common reaction to haunted houses and scary movies. This was my fear in the mazes. It’s also the kind of fear I experience in the morning, when I use the toaster. I know it’s going to pop, but when?
Then there’s terror fear. I would say it’s probably the most “real” fear there is. It’s so powerful, it more or less shuts down your body and your brain, overwhelming your thoughts and emotions. This kind of fear is often employed against heroes in adventures because it can weaken them to a point where defeating them is easy. This is the kind of fear that some people experience in haunted houses, and which I experience when I go to the dentist.
Unfortunately, fear is inevitable. At some point in life, everybody is going to be afraid of something. How badly you’re affected by fear can be determined by how you deal with it. Some people find it helpful to just face their fears, so they can realize that it wasn’t so bad after all. Other people like to use evasive tactics, so that they don’t have to face the source of the fear head-on.
I have a particularly acute fear of drowning and tight spaces. Just the thought of being trapped in a space so small, I can’t turn around, or being thousands of feet underwater with no oxygen tank, makes my heart speed up and makes me feel very uncomfortable. These are fears that I can’t evade–if I ever had to overcome them, I would have to face them directly. For me, this means I would have to use my adrenaline to actively move, because the moment I stop moving is the moment I start thinking, and that’s when the fear gets me.
I have a mild fear, however, of things like toasters and spiders. (But I’m not actually afraid of toasters. I just don’t like when they pop, that’s all. It makes me jump every time, heh.) These are the fears I overcome with evasive tactics. By not looking at the spider, or by walking out of the room when the toaster’s ready to pop, I don’t have to acknowledge my fear. It doesn’t get rid of the fear, but it makes it tolerable.
The funny thing about a haunted house is that you can use both tactics to reduce the fear. Some people, knowing it’s going to be scary, just march right in and embrace it, declaring that they won’t be scared because they know it’s not real. Other people get tunnel-vision and just stare straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the scary parts and thinking of a happy place. Either one works, and that’s probably because haunted houses are a combination of “serious” and “silly” fears.
I love being scared at Halloween, in a startle kind of way. I love the creepiness, the scariness, and the overall dark atmosphere of that time of year. It seems kind of funny, to want to be scared, but that’s something I’ll talk about in another post. Till then:
What are you afraid of?
May your fears be overcome, whether you face them or evade them.