Quiet people are creepy

Fearfulness: Why people like to be scared

Oh god, I don't want to go through there - but I can't stop here either. My heart is racing. My mouth is dry Thick fog obscures the way in front of me. The threatening music from the speakers increases my alertness. I take a step into the fog. Suddenly a mutant with glowing eyes appears in front of me and yells at me, I yell along and start running.

A young woman points at me, laughing. The last laugh, however, is a bloodied construction worker who stands behind her and nudges her. Her laughter turns into a scream as he follows her and pulls his rusty shovel across the floor, spraying sparks.

More on this: Fear and horror: where does it come from when you are alone at home?

The scary business

The mutant and the construction worker are just two of the 280 lavishly costumed monsters that roam the area during the "Halloween Horror Show" in the Movie Park Germany in Bottrop and frighten the visitors. In addition to the free stray creepy figures, there are horror houses - specially designed to confront visitors with their worst fears.

While I'm almost having a nervous breakdown in line for such an attraction, most of the people around me seem genuinely looking forward to the horror. How can you voluntarily let yourself be scared to death and also have fun doing it?

Playing with fear and excitement

The psychologist's answer to my question is: lust for fear. At first glance, two very opposite emotions. In reality, however, one rightly speaks of mixed feelings. Consciousness fluctuates in moments of fearfulness. "Something scares us and shortly afterwards we realize that we are not in any danger," says psychologist Peter Walschburger from the Free University of Berlin and a member of the German Society for Psychology.

The origin of this mixture of feelings is deeply anchored in people. Fear has a survival advantage, it warns of danger and the desire for arousal and pleasure satisfaction ensures reproduction. But in order to be able to feel fearfulness as a teenager or adult, basic trust must first be built in a safe environment in early childhood. "To the extent that the child was able to experience trust and security, it can open up to new experiences," said Walschburger.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    It smells like carrion

    May we introduce: a squid mushroom (Clathrus archeri). Like all mushrooms, it belongs neither to animals nor to plants. Mushrooms are an independent "group" of living things. The super power of this representative: He smells of carrion. The color is reminiscent of rotting meat. This attracts flies and dung beetles, which spread the spores. Clever little fellow!

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Not deadly, but not tasty either

    The squid mushroom is native to Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and the Malay Islands, but it doesn't see it that closely. It is now much more widespread. It was first discovered in Germany in 1934. It is not poisonous. After removing the spore container and the gelatinous gleba layer, it can be consumed - but you shouldn't expect a culinary highlight.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Horrible hand

    The multifaceted wooden club (Xylaria polymorpha) is also known as "Dead Man's Fingers". It prefers to grow on dead or dying deciduous trees. The outside of the wooden club is dark brown to blackish brown, inside white and fibrous. The dead fingers are not edible. Besides, you don't want to become a cannibal :-)

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Young and bloodthirsty

    The sharp cork sting (Hydnellum peckii) excretes a watery-red liquid like blood when it is young. Spines run down the underside of the hat and the handle. That should be enough of a deterrent, because here we are dealing with a toadstool.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Menacing and threatened

    Cork spikes are represented in Central Europe with around 15 species. They are among the rarities of the fungal flora that are worth protecting. But the sharp cork sting likes it sociable. It is not uncommon to find it together with other threatened species, such as the pig's ear.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Delicious pig's ear!

    This is the famous mushroom I was talking about. The pig's ear (Gomphus clavatus) is mushroom of the year 1998 and often looks like - exactly - a pig's ear. The good news, also for vegetarians: This mushroom is delicious and can be consumed with a clear conscience! The meat is white, tender and has a mild taste.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Forgotten bird's nest

    The striped dearling is also called bread basket or bird's nest mushroom. It belongs to the mushroom relatives family. The species occurs almost worldwide, but is just beautiful to look at - and not an edible mushroom.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms


    May we introduce? A stinkhorn. The Latin name "phallus impudicus" means "shameless penis" and is no coincidence. Because that's exactly how the fungus can be found. Its tip is covered with a smelly, sticky substance. With good reason: it attracts flies, which carry the spores of the obscene fungus on.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    The fine veil lady

    This is also a fungus belonging to the stinkhorn genus, but a little less offensive. The "Bridal veil mushroom" (Phallus indusiatus) wears at least one veil. The mushroom flower is also badly smelling, but is often used in upscale Chinese cuisine. It's high in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Bon appetit then!

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    From brain to gut

    The meat-red jelly beaker (Ascocoryne sarcoides) likes it sociable. The fungus is particularly common on dead wood from birch, willow or beech. Its appearance is somewhat reminiscent of innards. But it is available in a wide variety of shapes - from top, cushion, to cup-shaped, thick gelatinous, flesh-pink, violet-pink to wine-red. In theory it is edible, but ...

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Inedible doppelganger

    The double of the meat-red gelatinous cup is the large-pored gelatinous cup (Ascocoryne cylichnium). The latter is inedible, but the two can only be clearly distinguished from one another under the microscope. So better hands off!

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    Carnivorous plant?

    Wrong, completely wrong. This specimen is neither a carnivore nor a plant. Cookeina tricholoma belongs to the family of sac fungi and is a fairly harmless contemporary. However, it is particularly noticeable due to its shape and head of hair. In parts of Mexico Cookeina tricholoma is consumed as an edible mushroom, in Cameroon it is used for medicinal purposes against earache.

  • Happy Halloween: Scary and beautiful mushrooms

    What a lion's mane!

    The hedgehog goatee or monkey head mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is also a hairy eye-catcher! And it's edible, unlike most other mushrooms. In Asia it is considered a delicacy and is also popular in traditional Chinese medicine. But the hedgehog goatee is rarely found in nature, it is on the red list. Therefore: just look, don't touch!

    Author: Hannah Fuchs

More to scare: 5 crazy infections that affect our behavior

Flight or fight

What exactly happens in the brain when a person is afraid, the psychologist explains using the example of an evening walk in the forest. "You are already a bit tense and suddenly notice a winding movement in the foliage," Walschburger outlines. A structure in the limbic system, which is responsible for processing emotions in the brain, gives a warning signal - attention, danger, snake! This leads to an impulse to flee or attack very quickly and without much thought.

How we govern now is different. The cerebrum causes some people to pause for a moment and reflect rationally. A second look reveals the alleged snake as a harmless branch - fear is dispelled, relief follows. Others are so alarmed that they are unable to reflect and simply want to escape the situation or react aggressively.

How the end of the walk is stored in the memory already gives a tendency for behavior in the future. "Those who have survived the situation will strengthen their self-confidence and will continue to walk in the forest in the evening. Those who run away, on the other hand, will limit their range of action in the future and tend to avoid the forest in the evening," explains the psychologist.

We'd rather encounter it on the screen than on the street

More on this: Animal horror stories

Horror as a valve of wishful thinking

So fearfulness works especially when the person feels safe in spite of the terrifying situation. For example, with a horror film in the cinema. "Horror offers us the safe variant of horror that we don't want or can't have in the real world," says cultural scientist Christian Lenz from the Technical University of Dortmund. Because in the cinema the viewer can simply hold his hand in front of his eyes and switch off the television at home with the push of a button. The unconscious feeling of security protects.

I have now understood the attraction of shuddering. But the concept of horror film raises another question: why do people watch brutal murders on screen that they would surely condemn in reality? "The killer in the film can act out the actions that you just can't act out yourself. Everyone has thought 'If only I could'. That acts like a projection surface for the viewer," explains Lenz.

I think back to last night when I was out in the car. Another driver cut me and I would not guarantee that my abuse was adult. "If you had been sitting in a convertible and everyone would have noticed, the inhibition threshold would have been greater," suspects Lenz. Horror and especially horror films offer an outlet for thoughts and wishes for action that are not compatible with social norms.

Although I know her better now, I and I will probably no longer become friends. I prefer to stay at home on Halloween and hand out tricks instead of treats.

More to scare: mushroom hacking in the ant brain

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Horror films strengthen the immune system

    Horror films have a positive impact on our health. This is shown by an experiment: researchers let one test group sit quietly in the room - the other watched horror films. The result: the subjects who had seen the horror film had a higher percentage of white blood cells after the film. These are central to the human immune system.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Lifting a film marathon instead of weights?

    Anyone who watches horror films also burns calories! At least that's what a study carried out by scientists from the University of Westminster says. The best personal trainer is "The Shining" with 184 calories. "The great white shark" still has 161 calories despite its outdated technology.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Training for emergencies

    But why do we actually watch horror films? One thesis: From an evolutionary point of view, they prepare us for life-threatening situations. "We develop cognitive behavioral patterns in order to recognize potential dangers quickly and to react appropriately," says the fear researcher Mathais Clasen. So maybe you should take a close look at "The Shining" before your next hotel stay.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Biblical fear of the snake

    Virginia researchers asked adults and elementary school students to choose a specific image from a series of eight. The participants found the snake quickest in the tangle of images. They found frogs, caterpillars or flowers much more slowly. For the first time, the researchers examined the improved perception of evolutionary threats in children.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Spider cocktail

    Another experiment tested human perception in relation to scary objects. Although participants should concentrate on mixing a cocktail, they immediately noticed the spider that suddenly appeared next to them. Other distractions such as syringes or houseflies, however, were secondary.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    The real dangers of life

    Fear and revulsion should protect us. However, human evolution has not yet arrived in modern civilization. Our primal fears - spiders, snakes, heights, narrow spaces - have little in common with today's dangers: industrially produced fatty acids, cigarettes, cars, alcohol. Amazingly, these threats are not hung up as decorations on Halloween.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    The strange case of the patient "SM"

    Not everyone is afraid. The patient SM (not in the picture) had damage to the amygdala. This brain region is responsible for recognizing danger, among other things. Horror films, haunted castles or hideous animals had no influence on the patient. Instead of being afraid of a snake, the person examined the animal extensively for three minutes.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Zombie monkey

    Monkeys seem to be scared of zombies, much like us. In a study by Princeton University, macaques were shown both real monkey faces and disfigured ones. The monkeys looked at the real pictures longer. The researchers see this as evidence that monkeys have an instinctive aversion to disease and genetic deformations.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    The smell of fear

    You can actually smell fear! Cinema goers in Vienna were shown both a horror film and a normal film. Then they dabbed their armpits. In the test subjects who saw the horror film, the scent of fear was clearly detectable. The stress hormone cortisol is apparently not responsible for this. So fear fragrances must have a different origin.

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Constant alert

    Horror movies can cause permanent, negative perceptions. In a survey of students, 75 percent said they had permanent disorders after watching horror films. These include, for example, difficulty getting into the water because you saw the film "Jaws", feeling uncomfortable in the presence of clowns, or fear of camping in the forest because of the film "The Blair Witch Project."

  • Exploring Fear - And Why Halloween Is Good For Us!

    Video games are not without effect

    There are also initial studies on horror video games. Australian researchers have found that the intense gaming experience disrupts sleep. The gamblers slept shorter and the sleep was less restful.

    Author: Conor Dillon