Sociologist Margee Kerr moonlights at one of America's scariest and most popular haunted houses. She has seen grown men cry and push their loved ones aside as they run away in terror. And she's kept careful notes on what triggers these responses and why. She joined guest host Dave Schrader (email) to discuss the surprising results from her studiy of fear — what it means, how it works, and what it can do for us.
In her quest to take a comprehensive look at the physical, psychological, and existential aspects of fear, Kerr visited haunted house attractions around the world, skydived, experienced isolation in a prison cell at a haunted penitentiary, and journeyed to the Aokigahara Suicide Forest in Japan. "People like doing scary things... it's an opportunity for self-discovery," she said.
Fear is a universal human experience that is different for every person, Kerr continued, noting the same stimulus can produce different reactions. These differences reflect an individual's past experiences and genetic stress sensitivities, she added. "For people who go into a situation looking to get scared, it can be cathartic and people do feel better afterwards," Kerr revealed. The fear response can also create a sense of 'bondedness' in couples who have a close relationship. However, if there is an underlying distrust between two people, it can increase defensive behaviors, she explained.
During Open Lines, Brendan in Seattle recounted a frightening sleep paralysis event in which he felt a tingle on the back of his head, heard scratching in the wall next to his bed, then watched as a grey alien-looking entity emerged into his bedroom. "This translucent figure kind of pushed its head through the wall and startled me... they're typically standing on the floor over me," he said, noting there was another translucent figure by the bed. Brendan admitted he threatened to kill them, his roommate heard the noise and came in to check on him to find no figures but the bedroom unnaturally cold.
Daniel from Tulsa told Dave about the time he survived a bear attack. Daniel reported he was living in Alaska and heading to his favorite fishing spot when he accidentally frightened a bear. The bear charged, Daniel stood his ground and fired a gun in front of its face to scare it away. "He took a chunk out of the back of my leg with a claw," Daniel said. Nicole in Sacramento believes she has been experiencing bilocation—momentarily appearing and disappearing at certain places. She shared incidents from her home and gym that may indicate some strangeness is happening. Nicole wondered if she could learn to consciously control it.