Why read horror?

by Jennifer 30. January 2014 10:15

I don’t remember when I started reading horror. I think it was probably in the fifth or sixth grade (somewhere about age 12 I guess) when my voracious appetite for books left me little to read in our small elementary school library. Because I scored high in reading, I was allowed to pillage the high school for books. I enjoyed mysteries and I somehow ended up grabbing my first horror book.

I don’t remember the title, and of course it was probably very mild on the horror scale, but I liked the thrill the book gave me. From there, I slowly picked off the horror section at school and at the local library. I became a horror junkie really quickly once I started. When we stopped at the used book store I’d load up with anything that happened to have vampires, werewolves or a mention of serial killers on the cover. Most of my family rolled their eyes and looked the other way as I devoured bloodbaths in word form. Even some of my teachers suggested that some of what I was reading wasn’t suited for a young lady my age.* But I was happily addicted and I still am today.

But the question remains: why do we like to read about monsters and people who do terrible things to their fellow humans?

For the most part, our lives are pretty boring. We get up in the mornings, go to work, do our job, come home, cook, eat supper, watch some TV then go to bed. Kids and pets stir up this recipe of boredom but overall, the days still blur into each other. When you boil it down, our lives are stagnant and boring most of the time. We live a life safe from big scaries in the dark (for the most part) and live in a world where we feel we are wrapped in bubble wrap. But some portion of our brain still wants a bit of excitement. So--purposely or not--we reach for something that makes our heart beat a little faster.

Horror safely satisfies that craving for many people. When we read horror, we can experience danger and excitement in a very safe place. We can glimpse inside the heads of monsters while we stumble through the mundane. The mess of blood that often accompanies horror isn’t a problem to clean up because the visualization is in our minds. Horror evokes a variety of emotions from fear to disgust to unease. If it gets too much, we can take a break and set it aside. It makes us twitch and it makes us think.

We still have that portion of our lizard brain that makes us jump when someone knocks on the door unexpectedly or when we see a shadow on the wall that shouldn’t be there. When our heart races we feel suddenly alive and able to do things we normally wouldn’t think of. The flight or fight response isn’t easily subdued by years of evolution. In fact, with our quiet lives, I think the response is stronger.

There are other reasons why people read horror (please feel free to add them) but I’m sure most of us will agree that experiencing fear--even if it is jumping a little in your seat--is one of the biggest draw of the genre. It’s hard to deny that adrenaline rush.

* I read IT in the eighth grade


~The Shadow Minion

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2/4/2014 11:09:05 PM #

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