The Beauty of Fear

That which does't kill us scares us more.
February 13, 2009
The following is a departure from my normal fare here on RetroJunk. I am attempting to write an article based on an emotion all of us have felt at one time or another and what it specifically meant to us as children. It will not be another list or character based article. Please read this and give it some thought because the second part depends on the reception this one receives.

ear. What is the nature of fear? What causes our heart to race faster and our spine to shiver? Why is it that some nightmares only scare certain people while others barely bat an eye? What makes a person seek that which scares them? Is there something in our make up that draws us to fear, something inside that yearns to be scared? I have no freaking idea. I'm not a scientist; I'm just a guy that knows what scares the crap out of him. Many a night I lay awake under the sheets quaking in fear at the latest horror in my life. I know that although initially I can't stand to be frightened, more often then not I relish the rush of adrenaline a shock can cause. And I'm not alone.

Why else would we buy a ticket to the latest slasher movie or wait in line to enter a haunted house? People love to be scared. Fear is proof of life. Without fear
we would never experience that which reminds us of our beating heart. When we are calm we take for granted the blood pumping and flowing through our veins. It is only when our heart skips a beat and our blood chills that we realize life is precious and we must survive. Fear is beautiful and at no time do we see that beauty more than when we are young. The world is still new and many horrors are yet to be seen for the first time. Adults have a been there seen that attitude that dulls the amygdala and stops the impulse to scream. That is why at this point in our lives we throw ourselves out of planes and do stupid things to piss off our wives; we still want to be scared.

We didn't need much help in this area as children. All we needed was a dark room. Most children are afraid of what they cannot see and the trouble is that children still have not seen a lot. Hollywood has long tapped into this simple
formula and mimicked its effects. It seems that on film every child has a large bedroom window with a view of a large, menacing, and perpetually bare tree. This tree is harmless in the daytime and may even hold the tire swing that provides endless joy to said child. However, at night this same tree is possessed by a sinister being bent on rattling the window pane and reaching inside to carry the child away with its wooden fingers. This fear is usually heightened by the very shadows that surround the child's bed. To date no movie has better captured the essence of bedroom fears than Poltergeist. In fact the first time I witnessed this film I was unable to sleep without light for days.
I didn't own a clown that sat near my bed but the shadows of my childhood toys told me they still wanted vengeance for the pain I caused them during my daily epic battles. I was unfortunate not to have Craig T. Nelson to calm my nerves and although my parents tried, they failed often.
Frightening right?
(As a side note: to this day I still count down the time between the lightning I see and the thunder I hear.)
Even though I may have gone to bed afraid I may wake in a puddle of my own... expression of fear, I would
eventually fall asleep. That is until I thought of what might be hiding behind closed doors. Monsters lurked everywhere during the time we still had trouble opening doors without using both hands to turn the knob. I believe this was a defense mechanism God gave us. The monsters that dwelled in our closets were a fearsome sort but they could not enter a room unless the door was opened for them. Our tiny hands and short stature made it difficult to open
these doors and if we were lucky our parents placed the safety knobs on and made it impossible for us. Then of course Pixar showed us that no door knob in any country could keep out a determined monster.

Sometimes it took leaving the bedroom in order to find that which scared us. The greatest way to scare a young child is to allow them to enter a haunted house. This is a building with the expressed purpose of scaring all who enter. The haunted
Thank you Pixar
house can be a universal fear and is proven time and time again to be the perfect way to elicit screams from visitors. The methods change as time passes and as we age, but the
madness is the same. Fill the halls and rooms with every horror imaginable and then make those horrors tangible. A film can scare but the danger is only printed on celluloid it can not break the barriers and harm the viewer. In a haunted house the only thing that separates you from certain death is the relative zealousness of the performers. The scares are real and your hopes of safety are now the imaginary.

I myself have been to many haunted houses over the years and I have seen many techniques for causing loss of bladder control. At Niagara Falls I have experienced fear in utter darkness, in Connecticut I have climbed through many levels of terror, through many forests I have dodged the frights that dart from behind the trees. No matter where I went the fear was palpable and my heart raced briefly and I loved every second of it.

I have already stated that this is something many experience. We have all at one point been scared and in most cases we sought the terrors purposefully. This is only a short introduction to what lies ahead. In my next article I will cover in depth the certain instances that have caused many of us to panic. I will discuss how our own imaginations can cause sweat to form on our brow, how Hollywood exploits our impulse to run, and how others prey on our emotions and jolt our senses. I encourage you to share past fears in the comments. It will be interesting to visit and relive the times that caused us to quake. Though our memories will not bring back the same feelings we had at childhood they will remind us that we were truly alive then, and thankfully we survived to remember them now.
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