Nothing sucks the joy
out of something fun like a thorough scientific examination. It
follows, then, that the Halloween Season, widely recognized as the
most fun of all seasons, will take a great deal of sucking before it
is rendered joyless, but I am determined to try. I am frequently
told I suck a great deal. Only last week my parole officer commented
that I could 'suck the chrome off a trailer hitch', but it occurs to
me now he may have been speaking of something else. And so I ask the
question: Why do we like horror?
This picture of a scientist peering into
should prove I am serious.
From scary movies to thrill rides, from eerie tales told around the
camp fire to kisses from your Great Aunt Helen who appears to be
slowly transforming into a 'dude' in her old age, people love to be
scared. And this is no recent phenomenon! Cave paintings in Lascaux
France clearly depict our ancient ancestors jumping out from behind
rocks to frighten their comrades, unless I dreamed that or perhaps
made it up. Less deniably, medieval peasants are known to have said
the Black Plague was a great deal of fun if you were one of the ones
who didn't catch it.
Throughout early recorded history, people have enjoyed public
torture and execution as entertainment, but is this because they
enjoyed being scared, or because most people are creeps? It must
be said that few Christians reported that being eaten alive by lions
and the Romans watching, while certainly entertained, had no real
reason to be afraid.
If however, we turn our sights on France in the 1890's, we can
examine the practice of inducing fear for the sake of entertainment
quite closely by studying "De Teatre Du Grand Guignol". Literally
translated "The Theater of the life-sized puppets you can rent by
the hour" - disappointed patrons, once inside, found nothing of the
sort. They didn't remain disappointed for long though, because it
turned out the only thing the French liked better than copulating
with large, wooden dolls was simulated mutilation, murder,
cannibalism and actors pretending to have forcible sex with large
wooden puppets until fountains of fake blood shot out their wooden
This small French theater looks innocent enough,
again, French people pee in the street and eat snails.
Early Grand Guingol plays were shocking only in that they were
social realist affairs. They caused quite an uproar simply by
presenting whores, criminals, vagrants and other Parisian low life
onstage as characters, instead of just waiting outside for the
audience to encounter. Soon though, noticing that moments of staged
violence seemed to sell a lot more popcorn than plot, dialogue or
acting, the owners began measuring success by the number of patrons
who fainted during the show. As a publicity stunt, a doctor was
hired to treat sensitive audience members. House playwright Andre
DeLorde, (called "The Prince of Terror" by the press) collaborated
on several plays with his therapist, the experimental psychologist
Alfred Binet (called "Alfred Bidet" by schoolyard bullies). For
three decades, a series of directors upped the ante with ever more
bizarre acts of atrocity and innovative special effects. If you can
imagine a Gallagher performance where the front rows are showered
not with pulped watermelon, but with fake blood, plaster bone
fragments and raw pig intestines, you should tell your therapist so
they can increase the dosage of whatever medication it is you take.
A poster for the play "Le Cercueil flottant", which
means "The Floating Coffin" or "The poorly
A typical evenings entertainment, "The Lighthouse Keepers", went
something like this: Two brothers having sex with prostitutes in a
lighthouse accidentally extinguish the beacon. Ironically, their
Mother is in a boat which now has no way of seeing the rocks the
lighthouse usually illuminates. How do they know this? If I read
French I might know, but probably not. They can't run downstairs and
yell, as the Drunken Lighthouse keeper is so irresponsible he not
only uses the lighthouse as a brothel, he also (for not entirely
clear reasons) locks his clients in. One brother goes mad and blames
the situation not on his own whoring or the Lighthouse Keeper's
pimpish affection for locks, but the fact that one of the whores
took the Lord's name in vain early in the first act. He slits her
throat and throws her out the window. The Mother's boat crashes,
killing all onboard, and the brothers fall into a religious frenzy
and set the remaining prostitute on fire. As the lights go down,
they pray over her smoldering corpse.
The audiences loved it, just as in modern times people flocked to
see terrifying, plotless movies like 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre',
'Hostel' and 'The Prince of Tides'. The question then and now is,
why? Few people enjoy actually being afraid. What schoolchild, when
told by a menacing lout that they will 'see him after school' says,
"Hey, SWELL!" Who among us, in the instants before an unavoidable,
potentially deadly auto accident, finds themselves thinking "Hey,
Life, quit flashin' before my eyes, I'm trying to ENJOY THIS!"
I wanted a picture of a terrified driver about to crash,
but then I found
this inexplicable picture of a soldier sharing Coke
and showing his
tattoo to a Maori warrior and thought you'd want to
Carolyn Palmer, a psychology professor at Vassar College in
Poughkeepsie who studies the ways young children understand danger,
believes it is because of our innate need to explore and master
threatening situations. A well-reasoned theory perhaps, but since I
found it by Googling the phrase "Why do people like being scared"
and copied the first paragraph without reading it, I don't really
know. On the other hand, it was in the New York Times, a source I
have never come up with when Googling things like "Asian Tentacle
pornography" and "why do people like Gallagher", so can we really
consider them a reliable source on terror?
Gallagher fans can be separated into two distinct camps:
Those who enjoy being terrified and wicked retards.
On further analysis, by which I mean actually reading what I cut-and-pasted into the last paragraph, it becomes obvious this theory is
what scientists call 'a steaming load of crap' or sometimes 'hooey'.
If you want to 'explore and master threatening situations' which
would serve you better? Curling up with a DVD of "Dawn of the Dead"
or walking naked through a city park at night with a wad of twenties
taped to your wiener?
The question shouldn't be "Why do people like being scared?", it
should be "Why do people like watching and/or doing stuff that WOULD
be scary if not for the fact that they know they are TOTALLY SAFE?"
Bungee-jumpers do it for the adrenaline rush, but very few of them
will give you money to shove them off a cliff with dental floss
strapped to their ankle. It should be taken into account that this
holds true even though when talking about bungee-jumpers you are
already drawing your statistical sample from a cohort of people that
are almost exclusively stupid.
As a pastime, this ranks right up there with
nuts over a cheese grater.
The reason that people enjoy simulated fear as opposed to real fear
is simple: they are pussies. Still, though the actual threat level
is very low indeed, Halloween has become a multi million-dollar
industry, rivaling Christmas and surpassing Gallagher concerts. Safe
or not, the question of why people enjoy simulated fear is still a
good one, and I say this because to get paid my article needs to be
longer than the 1300 some odd words it is at the moment. Thankfully
for all of us, not much longer.
Recent theories suggest that the modern social phenomena of seeking
simulated fear for the purposes of entertainment fulfills the same
function as religion. In horror and religion, the metaphysical and
transcendental merge. Both allow us to explore our own mortality,
both examine issues of good and evil, the very disposition of the
mortal soul. This theory has many big words in it, but does that
make it true? Yes. Ask yourself this: If I tell you a very popular
fictional story involves loads of violence and the dead rising from
their graves, am I talking about a George Romero movie or the bible?
And if I describe a tormented teen who every full moon is
transformed into a ravening beast that turns out to be a terrific
basketball player, are we talking about Teen Wolf.. or JESUS CHRIST?
1985's thinly veiled cinematic Christian
a young Michael J. Fox. Ironically, this film sucks.
Perhaps the question is simply unanswerable. I like this idea
because it gets me off the hook as far as a conclusion goes. And the
idea of being literally 'on' a hook is, I think we can all agree,
pretty scary. I am reminded of an ethnically offensive joke from my
childhood that ends with a hideously maimed Asian-American prison
escapee saying "Rooky, Rooky, balls on Hooky." Irrelevant, yes, but
it still brings a smile to my face, even today, especially if I
imagine the joke being told by Gallagher moments before he is
inexplicably set upon by gigantic spiders and torn to shrieking
pieces as he pleads for his life, pleas that the cold, alien minds
of the spiders would find amusing if only they could understand
anything beyond the insatiable hunger for living human flesh, which
is all they know.
YOU FOUND SCARY-ASS TRADING CARD #2!
COLLECT ALL SERIES II CARDS
FOR A SURPRISE!
*copy this URL
down, you'll need it once you've found all 19 cards!*
In the 1972 made for TV
movie, "The Night Stalker", Darren McGavin played Carl Kolchak,
a down on his luck, wise-ass reporter covering a series of murders
that turned out to be the work of a vampire. A series followed in '74,
but the premise—Reporter covers mysterious unsolved crimes which
invariably turn out to be the work of monsters—turned out to be hard
to sustain. Nonetheless, Kolchak left his mark on a generation of 70's
kids, among them Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files,
who's said Mulder, Scully and company were inspired by "The Night
Find all 19 Series II "Scary-Ass
Trading Cards" this September and October (2007) and you'll not only get a
special secret final 20th card emailed to you, but you'll automatically be
entered to win a Halloween prize pack from I-Mockery! Cards will
be placed in random new I-Mockery articles during the months of
October. Simply copy the URLs of each card down into a text file
whenever you find them.
Once you have
collected the URLs of all the cards, simply email them to
email@example.com with the subject line
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special 20th card emailed to you and you'll be entered to win a
Halloween prize pack which may include masks, DVDs and more!
Remember, the cards MUST say "Series II" on them
or they will not be counted.
NOT email the actual card
graphics to us. We only want you to email us the URLs of
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If you enjoyed this
piece, be sure to check out:
Death's Head Terror!
My Daughter's Halloween-Themed Birthday Party!
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