What is it about the supernatural that really draws you in, that gets your blood pumping and chills running down your spine? Maybe it’s the boogey man─ the cold, cool surface of a mirror with a sinister entity waiting for you to close your eyes. Or possibly the killer hiding beneath your bed, waiting patiently outside of your home, or up in the attic watching through the ceiling vents.
Many people to this day believe in ghosts, or demons. Some swear that there are creatures living beyond our realm or in parallel universes. Whatever your personal fear may be, it’s fun to just imagine a world beyond the norm. Even if it does terrify you, there is a small part of your brain that hopes something else exists. Be truthful with yourself for a moment─ isn’t it dull to think that we are are all completely alone?
Since I was a child my family would sit and watch scary movies. My mother especially liked the thought of angels, spirits, aliens, or ghosts. She would talk about seeing what she was convinced were aliens flying in the sky or that alien abductions were real. I can confidently say that it was an interesting childhood if nothing else.
If none of us really liked the fear of the unknown or being scared until we borderline shit our pants, places like haunted houses wouldn’t exist. Know someone that doesn’t like scary movies? That is a fear within itself, knowing that if we watch something like that we wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. So, fear of being afraid─ hmm. Phobophobia, anyone?
The meaning behind fear attached as an emotion didn’t come about until around the 1300’s. In old English færan─ to terrify or frighten, or fær─ sudden danger, peril, or sudden attack. Which is why it makes sense to classify it as an emotion. Several hundred years later (around 620 years to be exact!) American physiologist Walter Cannon found that fear triggers an emotional response in the amygdala, firing a chain of chemical events that readies the body for a fight, or flight response. I never had that theory put to the test on me until the age of ten. My best friend at the time and me were playing outside, going up and down alleys with our bikes. There were an older group of boys well known by the neighborhood kids as the local assholes. (We found it out quickly when a game of hide-and-seek turned into them charging and tackling younger, weaker kids.) Thankfully, they tended to to pick on girls a little less─ albeit the occasional bloody nose or skinned elbows and knees.
One day, we’ll call him Mr. Quackers, Mr. Quackers decided that because I never cried or responded to his bullshit (for whatever reason unknown to me, I was one of the lucky few that only got called names) got a wild hair up his ass to try and attack me. I still have no clue what happened to that kid or why he was so psychotic, but needless to say he was fully committed (bless his heart) to putting the fear of god in me and my friend. Whether it was to scare us, or actually harm us, we’ll never know because my next series of actions even surprised me. His face contorted from a combination of manic glee and anger to confusion as I crouched, squared my shoulders, and charged back toward him. Either I got stupid lucky or he got caught off-balance, but he flipped over my left shoulder and landed hard on his back.
Something snapped, and some might say that my fury grew three times that day.
I’ve always had a protective side─ you mess with me, it’s whatever. Sure, it hurt and at times dug pretty deep, but seeing my friends or someone else getting picked on stirred the beast. I straddled him and went right for the face, throwing as many punches as the other kids allowed. I’m sure they didn’t really hurt that bad (considering I was all of ten years old and he was nearly fourteen) and I’m sure I didn’t know what I was doing or how to punch that well, but the point had been made. I don’t know it if was one of his friends or mine, but a few kids grabbed me roughly by the shoulders and drug me away kicking and screaming. Imagine a very angry bobcat, flurries of hissing, spitting, and yelling as I attempted to claw my way back to my prey.
Even though he had managed to scare me, I learned something about myself that day. Your body just sort of reacts, there is no thought. The strange part was even though I had been afraid, I felt alive afterward. Like that fear and adrenaline left me with a sense of euphoria. I later would learn in high school that phenomenon is endorphins released from the brain to make you feel better. Similar to what chocolate does. That’s where we circle back to that fear-inducing spark that leaves us all feeling like we’ve barely escaped our doom─ and damn, does it feel good. That’s where I think all of this may stem from, the relief of being alive.
But getting back to my earlier point, we enjoy being scared because of that chemical reward. Also? Who doesn’t like to feel like we’re special and some nefarious entity has singled us out.
We all have that one story (or a story that’s been passed on through our family) we can’t explain─ maybe it’s noises in the dark, or lights coming on when they shouldn’t. What was that looking down from the window of the old abandoned Blackwood home? You know the one where everyone died a horrible death. Even if these aren’t something you can relate to, why do we go a little faster down dark hallways or a small spike of panic as we move through the dark to the bathroom? There is no logic to it and we rationalize with ourselves that nothing is there─ but it never actually works, does it?
Because the fact remains that all of us, just a little bit, like to feel that prickly sensation and wonder─ am I really alone?
Well, my lovelies─ what do you think?