Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why Do We Love This Horror Stuff So Much?

I've read many stories in my lifetime, and these stories vary as widely as the human experience-- everything from comics to biography. But the ones that stick in my head as vividly as the time I read them and shoot a rapid pulse into every part of my body were penned by writers like Poe and King. 

When I want to explore my greatest fears I read The Tell Tale Heart or The Cast of Amontillado or The Shining. Brrrr.

King says that people read horror to explore death through fiction. And to some extent I think he's right. Reading about death has a therapeutic release. It allows us to be anxious and fearful, but at a safe distance. 

He also maintains that horror appeals to us because it gives us a chance to experience emotions our society demands we keep under close control. (King, 47, Danse Macabre). It's wrong to kill and to torture, but inside a horror story, we're free to watch and feel those terror-inducing acts through characters.

But here's something even more primal, and it's what I think is at the root of our love for horror. I found the following quote HERE if you want to read more.

"If you go to your video store and rent a comedy from Korea, it’s not going to make any sense to you at all,’ says literature scholar Mathias Clasen based at Aarhus University, ‘whereas if you rent a local horror movie from Korea you’ll instantaneously know not just that it’s a horror movie, but you’ll have a physiological reaction to it, indicative of the genre."

Horror crosses cultural barriers, and it's timeless. Our pre-historic ancestors whose greatest fear was being eaten by another carnivore. (Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara) are at the root of our craving for horror. It's human nature to be fearful. Surviving depends on it, so stimulating the amygdala (fear's command center) shoots our adrenaline to full flight mode, and we live to hunt another day. What better way to stimulate this part of the brain than to read or see a good horror story, but today from the safety of our home?
If you think about it, most horror tales focus on characters who are about to be eaten by some creature. Think Tremors or The Rats or Jaws. With stories that have human-type predators, they come equipped with over-sized claws like Freddie Krueger or dreadful teeth and a love of Chianti to pair with human liver like Hannibal Lecter.

Just writing that shook up my amygdala, and I'll leave the lights on a bit longer tonight.


I hope you'll pick up a copy of Tick Tock A Stitch in Crime and stir up your own amygdala. Eleven writers have offered up horror, crime and some thrillers for your reading entertainment.


  1. Death and love are universal regardless of the language. We know those elements despite any language barriers.

  2. I read quite a few Stephen King novels in high school - and they scared the bejeepers out of me!!! Still have nightmares about a few of them! :)

  3. I read horror when I was younger, but not anymore. Too scared. I don’t like triggering that amygdala anymore. Lol.


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