Your heart is pounding, your hands are clenched, and terror permeates your very being. You are scared to death, petrified to look at the screen, read any further or continue to watch the actors on stage - but it does not get any better than this!
Do some people get an endorphin high from being scared? Yes, some researchers do believe that the typical physical reaction to suspenseful movies, books or plays results in the release of opiate endorphins. Addiction to suspense is tied up in biology. That is, the story revs up the body’s sympathetic nervous system, inducing stress and anxiety. In some, the stress is a welcome thrill even if it makes you scream. Speaking of screaming did you know that the term bloodcurdling dates back centuries to medieval times. Recent studies show that extreme horror scenes from plays, books and movies often increase a blood clotting factor in humans! This may be in preparation to stop bleeding in a real crisis.
The payoff comes when the story is over. We are flooded with a sense of relief, which makes us feel good and safe once again. Perhaps we are all just looking for the same thing—a periodic jolt to the nervous system and a roundabout peek at our innermost fears, all within the comfort of a secure environment.
To quote Neil Gaiman as to why we love a good ghost story: “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re still here, still safe. That nothing strange has happened, not really. It’s good to be a child again, for a little while, and to fear — not governments, not regulations, not infidelities or accountants or distant wars, but ghosts and such things that don’t exist, and even if they do, can do nothing to hurt us.”
Prepare for an endorphin high, get ready for blood curdling screams and keep an aspirin handy to ensure your blood keeps flowing when you come to the Playhouse this October.