By: Charlene Cristobal | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 19, 2017
Photo: Pixabay Photo: 826 PARANORMAL / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Haunted houses can turn your stomach, but also turn a profit. While the Halloween horrors are not for everyone, many people continue to go back year after year.
After all, this is a season filled with ghosts and goblins. We wanted to take a closer look at what scares people and the anatomy of fear itself.
Our first stop, the backstage lab of the Terror of Tallahassee haunted house attraction. It's where the horrors of Halloween are born, with the help of its mad scientist, Kurt Kuersteiner.
"People are most scared about is the things that they don't understand or they don't know what to expect," says Kuersteiner.
He's opened the doors to the Terror of Tallahassee for almost 20 years now. He's in the business of bringing fear to paying customers.
"It's an interesting profession to be in because you see a lot of unexpected results from people," says Kuersteiner.
Film Director Roy Kirkland has a different approach to scaring people than Kuersteiner.
"There's something about being scared," says Kirkland. "You know, it's hard to describe."
Kirkland is a Valdosta-based movie director. His latest work is the horror film, Spook Bridge.
The film is based in Quitman during the 1920's. It tells the real-life story of a slave owner's daughter who married an African American man and was lynched at the bridge. People say, she still haunts the bridge to this day.
Just ask Kirkland.
"Its one of the creepiest feelings I've experienced in my life," he says. "When I was on the bridge during the daylight and night... you're there with a group of people, however, there's something that comes over you, and it's hard to describe."
But for educators at Chapman University, fear is easy to describe.
"Fear in general is hardwired into our system," says Dr. Ed Day, Chair of Sociology at the University.
Dr. Day, together with Dr. Christopher Bader, study our top frights.
"You can safely suggest that your average American believes in something paranormal," says Dr. Bader.
They're now releasing their 4th survey of what Americans fear the most. Things like snakes, clowns and zombies typically make the list.
"The problems is, modern society are fears aren't attached to reality in so many cases." explains Dr. Bader. "We fear things that aren't actually, or rarely, going to actually kill us."
Which is true for our most common fear-- according to the study.
"The top fears for Americans have been corrupt government officials," says Dr. Day. "In fact, it's the only fear that more than half the nation points to. In our 2016 survey, it was 61%."
Yes, the government. Which might be why we're so willing to watch a scary movie or pay to experience it ourselves.
"A fantasy horror is fun," says Kuersteiner. "And I think that's the secret to everyone who comes to a haunted house. They know it's fake and it's fun."
And it's a scare that's memorable long after Halloween has passed.