Ever since man sat around the campfire tucking into roast Mammoth burgers we’ve shared frightening tales of terror and dread for the enjoyment of our peers.
So why is it that humans feel the need to hear tales that may unsettle, repulse and revolt?
The reasons may be many but here’s a list of five big reasons I can think of:-
1 – Survival.
Like most forms of horror such as stories, video games and movies, the human animal feels the need to test themselves to see if they are up to the challenge and get through the story in one piece – at least mentally rather than physically.
Are they brave and/or strong enough to make it to the end or will they be forced to quit before the ultimate end?
Nothing tests our ability to survive more than the rollercoaster ride we jump aboard when reading a good horror story.
2 – Experiencing an extreme range of emotions.
For the sheer range of emotions a person can experience you will be hard pressed to find any other genre of writing other than horror that can be cover the entire emotional spectrum.
From pity, love and humour at one end of the spectrum to disgust, hatred and dread at the other these feelings as well as every other in between may be experienced while reading your favourite horror story.
3 – The Adrenaline Rush.
Reading a horror story can pump more adrenaline through the reader’s body than a ride on the scariest fairground ride. If an author can adequately describe the horror their hero feels while having a limb severed the reader will also feel every slice of the butcher’s blade as it happens.
It’s just damn thrilling to read a good horror story and adding the fear factor can create a heady brew of emotion that’s hard to beat.
4 – Facing and overcoming our own fears.
We’re usually pretty uncomfortable facing our own fears but if we can do so via the proxy of a hero in a book then it makes those fears more palatable. If that same hero can overcome those fears on our behalf and emerge triumphant then those horrors might, just might, be less scary to us in our own lives.
Whether it’s snakes, clowns, spiders, death, pain, a monster hiding under the bed or whatever; if we can get someone else to overcome those fears on our behalf through the pages of a book then we’re happy for them to take the risks for us. After all, we’ll be along on the journey with them every step of the way so we’re being brave too – aren’t we?
5 – Controlling our fears.
It’s rare that in real life you can experience extreme fear or revulsion while maintaining the ability to control it at the same time. Fear is usually interwoven with a sense of vulnerability caused by a definite lack of control in events developing around us.
With all good horror stories we can experience the thrills of abject helplessness whilst maintaining the ability to draw back at any point when we feel we are in danger of falling into the hellish abyss of our emotions. That degree of terror combined with the ability to stop it if it gets too much is a rare and exciting thing indeed.
Yes, there are a wide range of other reasons for reading horror stories but I think these five are pretty much universal.
© Colin Lawson Books