Does fear generate feelings of passion? Do we need to cuddle when we're scared?
These and other questions have been getting timely studies underway, just in time for Halloween and it appears that there are significant links to horror and romance. Special events and excursions to spooky locations like The Great New York Walking Ghost Tour, or A Louisiana Cemetery Tour are just two of thousands of examples that pop-up during this time of year.
With tongue in cheek promotions like, "Your daily routine is filled with scary sights -- your rent check, the mobbed 1 train, the water your hot dog was floating in -- but for a bone-chilling, Halloween-worthy fright, you have to seek out the paranormal", walking tour, amusement park and good old fashioned haunted houses act as unwitting partners in forming new bonds and closeness between long-time and newly introduced couples. After a day of apple picking, you can drop into a haunted-house at Barton Orchards and I've seen my fair share of people running-out from fear, into the arms of their partner. You can see the look on some of these peoples faces as if to say. "thank you young man in a skeleton/zombie costume for sending my special someone into my arms!"
It's dark, it's damp and it's cold, perfect!
The days get shorter and the clothes get thicker and for all of this covering-up and lack of exposure, it seems that the snuggling increases. I often felt that the fall and winter months were more romantic specifically because we had to use more of our imagination about what lies under the various layers of clothing. This is doubly true for the darkness that takes over our once long summer days, where we have to focus a little harder to see our special someone. These facts about the fall and what happens when we are scared, actually sets us up for ideal romantic moments.
You see, once our adrenaline starts to rev-up because of the dark and the cold, we are already primed with a heightened sense of awareness of whats going on around us, even if we can't see it well. By being scared, apprehensive and more intense, we increase certain hormones that convert into those feel good, sexually promiscuous hormones. Once the initial fright subsides and the snuggling and protective holding takes over, then the dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and other feeling moderators change our moods and feelings.
Our brains get more engaged when they are under stress, tension and fear
The City College of New York recently did a study that showed how our brains become more engaged and aroused. The same hormones that stimulate our sexual desires are also apparently the same ones that peak our attention when watching horror movies and during scary experiences. Additionally, when we see the same horror movie or experience the same fright numerous times, the stimulation subsides, just as our own intimacy does over time with our significant other, unless we change things up. A key feeling is being tense where the higher that tension is, the more likely we are to seek safety and comfort in a suitable partner (along with all of the usual ancient brain stimulants and signs we seek in a partner).
A fiction and horror writer Dawn Napier, noted that, "horror fans like scary movies for the same reason some people like to be spanked, others like to bungee jump, and others like spicy-hot food that burns the heck out of their mouths. It's the rush of brain activity that makes bad stuff feel good."
Mark Fenlason, Production Designer for Killer Kids on the Bio Channel noted, "if you just tease your audience and do not deliver you have failed to "feed the need", and that's wrong." That need is very similar to the fix that those who are addicted to drugs or other items feel. Again, it is related to the hormones being secreted by arguably, our largest sexual organ, our brain.
Best selling horror authors also know this truth and Michael Swanson, author of The Angel Baby, related how he used to take girlfriends to scary places like cemeteries so that they would get a little closer. Even as a teenager, he knew how to get some intimacy out of a cheap thrill. Movie producers know this all to well and have upped the tension to drive more of the testosterone and estrogen in a couples enjoyment of a horror movie or other thriller oriented entertainment events. Is there any wonder that costumes have become far more revealing and sexually provocative? The evolution of Halloween as an opportunity for intimacy, passion and romance has been recognized by product marketers and branded holiday companies. This isn't a new trend as we can see from the classic comic book The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. It's been far more refined and we can expect to see far more promotion of horror for couples associating the tension, excitement and fear with the opportunity for selling products and services related to intimacy. The secret is out and anyone who understands the complex relationship between Halloween, horror and romance will enjoy this time of year with that special someone.