Halloween Is Turning Into A Worldwide Holiday. Why Do So Many People Love To Be Scared?

By Patt Morrison
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Leo Braudy, author of “Haunted: On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds” shares why we love scaring ourselves.

Los Angeles Times

In Scotland, they used to pray that from “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord, deliver us.”

But these days, do we really mean that?

Halloween is turning into a worldwide holiday, celebrated in countries that never even had that tradition before — which is to say before movies and comics and the commerce of All Hallows’ Eve.

What is it about making ourselves a little bit scared that draws us all, again and again, to the creatures of our imagining?

Leo Braudy is a USC professor of English who sorts out our fondness for a good fright in his book “Haunted: On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds.” Here’s why we like to go for the trick and the treat.
Why do we love doing this to ourselves, scaring ourselves?

I think it’s partially purgative, that is, when you see something in a movie or you read a book, that is, it has a shape to it — it arouses these fears, these emotions. But then it allays them, it makes them into a story. So by the end we feel a little bit better about things.

And so we can outsource our terror?

We can outsource it into traditional monsters of one sort or another, whatever is bothering us in the current world, whatever is freaking us out, whatever is making us uncertain becomes part of the story, part of something that we’re sort of familiar with. We know about monsters. We know about vampires. We know about ghosts in some vague way, so we can assimilate that knowledge.

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