The strange attractiveness of fear  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

From the usual definition of fear—a distressing, unpleasant emotion evoked by the dread of or threat of imminent harm—we’d assume people don’t line up to pay good money to be frightened. But the lines outside haunted houses and theaters showing horror films prove us wrong. We don’t like being afraid but somehow are attracted to fear.

I wonder if this love of being scared isn’t hardwired into us as human beings. Created as finite we exist as tiny creatures in an expansive cosmos, and so live on the edge of a greatness that shocks our imagination. Called into existence by God’s word, if God were to withdraw his sustaining word we would tumble back into the nothingness from which we came. And in a fallen world we live knowing that death shadows us, and every glimpse into that abyss once again underscores our finitude. Not surprising then, that biblical incidents where people experience the presence of God and his angelic warriors find them struck down with fear (Isaiah 6:5; Daniel 8:17; Revelation 1:17). Nor is it surprising that a healthy fear of the Almighty is a sign of wisdom and maturity, demonstrating an ability to rightly discern reality (Proverbs 1:7; 1 Peter 2:17).

Thus the yearning for spirituality, for God, for meaning that transcends the narrow confines of time and space includes a search for a proper fear. We find this unpleasant response somehow strangely attractive, needed to jolt us into a sense that we might after all exist.

Perhaps this explains the attractiveness of places like The Nightmares Fear Factory, a tourist attraction at Niagara Falls, Canada, billed as “The World’s Most Frightening Experience.” It takes fifteen minutes or less to walk through it, and at the corner in which the fear peaks The Factory has installed a camera. They post pictures online (which you can see here).

My question is: why are these pictures so funny?

[Source: Thanks to Andrew Sullivan on The Dish, where I first heard about The Nightmares Fear Factory.]

This entry was posted at Friday, October 14, 2011 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


WHAT are the lookin at??

October 14, 2011 at 11:53 AM

I'm with Margie, I need more information!

The picture of the guys is hysterical!

October 14, 2011 at 9:56 PM

Andrew and I saw these pics a few days ago and could not stop laughing. Apparently, this is where a car crashes through the wall toward them.

October 15, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Margie and Heather go to the link that Denis put at the end of the post where it says "here" that link will take you to where you will find a little more info.

Denis, to address your question: I think we find it so funny because it is simply an attraction. No one is going to die unless of course they frighten so easily, decide to go through with it and die of a heart attack. As human beings we seem to be most animated when we are afraid. I know that I find myself immediately following being frightened, laughing so hard that I am crying once I am relieved of my fear. For me it is the identification with those adrenaline junkies that makes me laugh.
thanks for being thoughtful.

October 15, 2011 at 8:07 PM

Everyone who left comments:

Knowing it is a car bursting through a wall helps explain the postures of some of the frightened people in the pictures. The close line between crying in fear and crying in laughter is an interesting phenomenon, and rather a good reminder that we can love someone we also rightfully fear.

I would not choose to go through the Factory.

October 18, 2011 at 11:05 AM

I think we laugh because we are safe and sound and not in any danger so we can "afford" to laugh. It's a disconnect between us and them. On some level, we find humorous what causes others pain/fear/discomfort. Haven't we heard of or even told the story of a calamity which befell someone else and find ourselves laughing even as we tell or hear of it? We usually say "I shouldn't be laughing" nonetheless we are.

October 18, 2011 at 11:27 AM

I guess I'm odd. You see, I never find myself on a Friday afternoon thinking, "I'm bored. I'll go get the crap scared out of me. That'll be fun!" Thus, fright factories and scary movies are not on my agenda at all. The question I'd like to hear an answer to isn't, "Why do we think these pictures are funny?" but rather, "Why would anyone in his right mind think that doing this is funny?"

October 25, 2011 at 7:45 AM

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