Author talks are one of my favorite perks. While work obligations mean I often can’t attend, I was glad to have caught this week’s visit by Mathias Clasen. Clasen has been writing books on horror movies for Oxford University Press, and his talk strangely made me feel less alone. Let me explain. First of all, lots of people came. Yes, Halloween is merely days away, but I get accustomed to thinking I’m the only one who watches horror. Nobody close to me does. Learning that many colleagues enjoy the genre was a boost. Clasen runs the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University. Their survey of Americans found that 55 percent liked horror films. I’m actually in the majority, which felt affirming.
The Recreational Fear Lab studies various aspects of why people seek things that make them afraid. This ranges from thrill seekers to those who cower in the corner of a theater to watch the latest slasher. There were several takeaways from his talk. One was that two main types of people subject themselves to horror: “adrenaline junkies” and “white knucklers.” Adrenaline junkies are pretty self-explanatory—they like getting scared for the rush of it. White knucklers, on the other hand, enjoy steeling themselves from fear while subjecting themselves to it. They try not to scream, but keep control. I was putting myself in the latter category when he mentioned that further research had revealed a third personality type: the dark copers.
Dark copers are those who use horror as therapy for themselves. I immediately knew this was my group. Some people, for whatever psychological reasons, find horror movies therapeutic. They help us cope. Interestingly, and in line with other materials Clausen has published, horror is good for people. It has many benefits and if we deprive children from any stressful situations in their young lives they tend towards neurotic behaviors when they’re faced with stress as adults. The Recreational Fear lab is a place for the scientific study of voluntary fear experiences. They operate by grants and have many programs of study from a variety of disciplines. And some of them watch horror. Perhaps because when I started this blog I tended to write mostly about religion, I suspect many of my readers don’t really care for the horror posts. They’ve been there from the beginning, however; my first month I wrote about werewolves, zombies, and Barnabas Collins. Religion and horror are closely related, even if it makes me feel a bit alone to say so.