Why Do People Believe Halloween Is So Scary?


By Alexander Pralea, Editor

Over the past millennia, the date October 31st has always held in special place in the eyes of the West. Originally an agricultural holiday emphasizing the closeness of the earth with the spirit world, All Hallows’ Eve has long evoked fear and mistrust. This is especially true in the modern era, in which unsubstantiated theories on the dangers of Halloween have been reported. If one pays attention to Hollywood and its recent film about Pennywise the Clown, one would think Halloween equates to the apocalypse. Contrary to these rumors, Halloween is a safe holiday that only frightens due to psychological reflexes inherited from the hunter-gatherer period.

During their periods of “fluff”, untrue filler pieces, the members of the media tend to propagate myths about Halloween. These myths include that of contaminated candy and that of rampant kidnapping. While constantly debunked, many people still heed these messages of fearmongering. Why? It turns out that people love hearing bad news, and the news surrounding them is mostly negative. For every positive story the media reports, it posts a whopping seventeen negative articles. With all this bad news, people who focus solely on the bad news tend to make irrational decisions. This is not their fault; humans are hardwired into attracting themselves to the bad news. The propensity extends from the primal instincts necessitated in the rough-and-tumble life of the Stone Age, in which humans dealt with life-or-death scenarios on a daily basis. Any bad news took foremost importance as ignoring it could spell disaster. This way of thinking endures even in modern times, as proven by recent studies. According to studies published in Psychology.org, humans are more likely to rely on the negative portion of the brain, meaning they are more sensitive to bad news. This constant barrage of negativity causes a release of more and more stress hormones, which further compounds the effects.

Another theory, also from Psychology.org, attributes the pervasiveness of negative news to the fact that most new sources report about areas of greater population, such as cities. Cities, by virtue of their status as large and diverse metropolitan areas, serve as homes to more terrifying and dramatic news and crimes. This probability theory, as it is known, produces even worse results in combination with a tendency to concentrate on the negative.

While parents should ensure their children know basic safety rules, they should not go overboard. Reacting too strongly to a mass shooting, though well-intentioned, often has no effect other than to aggravate the child and prevent him or her from having a fun time. Do not fear that this reaction is abnormal; it is completely natural. According to psychology, humans naturally incline themselves to bad news, which surrounds the world through social media and traditional media. But just remember if you feel terrified this Halloween: bats will not kill you, and nor will sharks.