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Video: Why People Pay To Be Afraid At Knott's Scary Farm

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Knott's Scary Farm (Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)
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Some people love being scared, as evidenced by the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead and the droves of people who pay to have monsters jump out at them in haunts. A new video surrounding Knott's Scary Farm looks at why that is. Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park first became Knott's Scary Farm in 1973. It's the biggest Halloween attraction held at a theme park in the U.S. Every year, people line up to wind through tight corridors full of monsters and haunting scenery. While some guests are shrieking and clutching their friends at every turn, others seem more in awe of set design, or respond to their nerves with grins and laughter. Some are mostly just started by a sneaky actor in a horrifying costume, while other guests seem to be truly terrified—even with the knowledge that werewolves and zombies aren't real.

Christopher Bader, professor of sociology at Chapman University, says in the video from OC Weekly and HalloweenEveryNight.com that the University's "Survey of American Fears" showed that, "Nearly 10 percent of Americans say they're afraid or very of afraid of zombies…or clowns," Bader said.

"Part of fear is that fear creates excitement, fear creates adrenaline," Bader continued. "It's just a matter of how you channel that energy."

Roller coasters, zip lines and mazes, he said, allow people to experience the rush of fear without feeling like they're not in control of the situation. Being trapped in a room with people that actually want to hurt you isn't any fun, but actors who swing fake axes at you is all the heart pounding without any of the actual danger.

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Daniel Miller, a maze designer at Knott's, says he thinks it's cathartic for people to be scared.

Dr. Margee Kerr, a sociologist at ScareHouse in Pittsburgh, told the Atlantic that while not everyone likes being afraid, she doesn't "think it's a stretch to say that no one wants to experience a truly life-threatening experience," and that the fight or flight response can sometimes feel, well, "great." She added:

New research from David Zald shows that people differ in their chemical response to thrilling situations. One of the main hormones released during scary and thrilling activities is dopamine, and it turns out some individuals may get more of a kick from this dopamine response than others do. Basically, some people’s brains lack what Zald describes as “brakes” on the dopamine release and re-uptake in the brain. This means some people are going to really enjoy thrilling, scary, and risky situations while others, not so much.

There's also the potential confidence boost, she said, when people make it all the way through a haunt.

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Chapman's Survey of American Fear, Wave 2—conducted in 2015—found that most people were afraid of man-made dystopian futures, it seems. The study found that top fears included corrupt governments, cyber-terrorism, corporate or government spying and biological warfare. Though, 33 percent of respondents said they were afraid of reptiles—not sure if that's actual reptiles or Lizard People.

Related:
Your Ultimate Guide To Halloween Mazes, Shows And Extreme Haunts
Photos: Inside This Year's Deranged Knott's Scary Farm