From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: haunted houses
23 Jul 2003
It is my semi-educated guess (I am just an undergraduate) that the response to "scary" stimuli perceived by certain brain structures, including the amygdala, is to increase the levels of certain hormones in the blood. These hormones (including epinephrine and neuroepinephrine) and their associated by-products, along with the mental readiness to respond to fear, can and do elicit a "fight-or-flight" response in most individuals that are ready to be freaked out. This is almost the same response as one has to a ride on a roller coaster, or to an encounter with a stray dog. The body (the brain included) is tuned into a state that allows for the safer absorption of physical punishment, the more effective exertion of force by the muscles, and the more effective high-speed processing of incoming stimuli. This state happens to be pleasurable to many people, especially those who term themselves "adrenaline junkies." So bam!, that's why most people who enjoy haunted houses, ghost stories and the like, actually enjoy them. At least I believe that's as far as it goes for me.
comment: You're probably right to suggest that the human love of being scared is rooted in our evolutionary biology.