Boogey-Dog, Thrill-Seeking and Halloween

My dog cracks…me…up.

A few weeks ago, we were strolling the neighborhood when a dog rushed to its fence then ran to and fro alongside it, barking as we passed. Being deaf, Zoe couldn’t hear the dog and her highly sensitive sniffer was fixated on fragrant grass. When the dog finally caught her attention, she lurched up in the air, like a ghost-spooked kid in a haunted house. With her face and body weight like magnets to the pooch, I guided her on.

The next day, she headed straight for that house and sort of tiptoed toward it with her head low, eyes glaring. The dog rushed to the fence for an encore performance. Zoe duplicated her previous response—totally freaked out, as though she had no clue what was coming. The spooked “kid” walked had purposely into the booby trap.

It happened again the next day, the next day…and the next.

On the cusp of Halloween, the daily run-and-spooks have me thinking. Like people, Zoe isn’t merely seeking fear. She seems to dig the anticipation, the feeling of everything else falling away, leaving only the present, heart-pounding moment. And she doesn’t want or expect to get hurt. At 90 strong pounds she could definitely hold her own if the fence weren’t there, but that’s not the point. It’s the exhilaration she’s after, and perhaps the later calm. After leaving boogey-dog’s terrain, she gradually calms to a state of bulldog zen.

Many of us are drawn to suspenseful, everything’s-at-stake stories for the same reasons Zoe is drawn to that fence. We long for intrigue and anticipation, the vanishing of other matters in our lives, if even for a short story-soaked time. We want to feel as though our lives are on the line, without actually going there. It’s what lures many of us into reading, watching and writing stories, and what compels many writers to convey personal beliefs and world-changing ideas through fiction.

Yet for others, thrillers, horror flicks and haunted hayrides rank up there with root canals and food poisoning in desirability.

There are people who have a tremendous need for stimulation and excitement,” says Stuart Fischoff, a professor of psychology at California State University. It can also be counterintuitive, as the highest levels of anxiety during films are linked with the desire to seek them. Strong feelings make suspenseful films, books and TV cathartic.

Yes. All of that. Yet you couldn’t pay me enough to get on a bungie cord, deep-water diving board or speeding motorcycle. I suppose we all find thrills in different places.

More Thrill-Seeking Facts

* A few studies have shown that males are more into scary stories than females. (Yet more evidence that I may be part-guy. ;-P)

* For a big chunk ‘o change, $1,500 to $4,000, you can pay a New York company to arrange your abduction with details of your liking, from being tied up and gagged to having as much fear inspired as possible.

* When The Exorcist hit movie screens in 1973, several adult watchers experienced such intense distress, they landed in the hospital.

* Freaky films can rev the sexual engine, says Dr. Joanne Cantor, a researcher and professor of communications at the University of Wisconsin. After the movie, sensual glances and touches can be more stimulating. Cantor recommends psychological thrillers over gory chainsaw flicks, particularly if you’re hoping to turn on a newish partner. 😉

* For kids, Halloween provides a safe way to explore and experience fear, knowing it’s all make-believe. It can also help kids manage pent-up stress, says researcher and University of Colorado professor, Leon Rappoport.

* Americans get a thrill from dressing pets up. We’ve spent $370 million on pet costumes this Halloween season, a 40 percent increase since 2010.

Are you a thrill-seeker? Is your pet? Would you go so far as to hire someone to abduct you? (Yipers.) Share the wealth!

Leave a comment

40 Comments

  1. I don’t like the spooky scary stuff any more. I like thrills though–a good rollercoaster, book, or movie. As for my dogs, the little dog wears whatever clothing creation my daughter comes up with. The big dog, not so much. Both love the thrill of protecting the house from anyone who walks on the sidewalk or when any sound in the house makes them think someone is walking by the house.:-)

    Reply
  2. Catherine Johnson

     /  October 29, 2012

    So that’s why my neighbour where we used to live had five kids lol, she always watched scary movies 🙂

    Reply
    • LOL! If their house is overloaded, perhaps you should loan them some dry documentaries. 😉

      Reply
      • Catherine Johnson

         /  October 29, 2012

        😉 They are back in New Zealand and now I’m in Canada. if she could have she’d have had more, she’s an awesome mom.

  3. Coleen Patrick

     /  October 29, 2012

    Pay to arrange your abduction? Wow, that’s some serious fright threshold. I don’t need big bucks to be scared. Last week I screamed when I saw a black, “eight legged” dust bunny on my floor. 🙂 Happy Halloween August!

    Reply
  4. Love love love a good, scary book–not gory, but suspenseful, emotion-riddled howling good fun. HATE roller coasters in person, and not so much into spooky reality stuff. It’s the vicarious thrill of movies and books that I enjoy.
    Magical-dawg I think likes to get revv’d up. Just the smell of something interesting (coyote? snake? TURTLE, SCORE!) will do it for him. He’s not particularly thrilled with dress up, but will tolerate it with a resigned look. *s*

    Reply
  5. I love to be thrilled as long as I don’t have a freakin’ heart attack in the process! 🙂 No abductions for me. That borders on loony tunes..

    Reply
  6. I’m not a fan of the horror category of television, movies, or books, but I LOVE roller coasters! I’d much rather experience a physical thrill than a mental one (mostly because my imagination is so big that horror gives me nightmares for days, whereas when the roller coaster is done, it’s done. No more scary).

    Reply
  7. I love scary movies (like Amy said, though…not gory) just spooky, ghosts and the paranormal. I’ve been trying to find more kids Halloween movies to watch with my boys, I can’t wait until they’re old enough to watch the really scary ones!

    And I can’t believe there’s a company out there that will kidnap you…or people that would want to be kidnapped?! That’s definitely going too far in my book.

    Reply
  8. “We want to feel as though our lives are on the line, without actually going there.” There HAS to be truth in this because the posts that get the most traffic actually provide this kind of journey for the reader.

    And I love a scary story (and movie) waaaaaay more than my hubby who refuses to indulge in either. I guess we are sisters in the bond here. Or brothers. IYKWIM. 😉

    Reply
  9. prudencemacleod

     /  October 29, 2012

    Hmmm, perhaps that fence is the doggy version of the roller coaster. 🙂

    Reply
  10. Your Zoe cracks me up, too! She’s such a sweetheart. I love that she races to the fence just to be scared. What a clever pooch. Ever since I was 13 years-old and saw Phantasm, scary stuff is worse than root canals for me! That’s way I always dress up as a princess or other glittery creature. I get enough heart-stopping moments just being a mom.

    Reply
  11. I watched two horror movies AND had a wisdom tooth extracted last week. Must be a glutton for punishment! 🙂

    Reply
  12. I’ve gone through phases where I wanted more of the adrenaline stuff–scary movies, extreme sports, roller coasters. But I think I must be getting old…because most of that doesn’t appeal to me anymore. 🙂

    Reply
    • LOL They do say that the need for exhilaration is high in teens and may tame down with maturity. I wonder if that’s because high school’s boring. 😉

      Reply
  13. A so-so written thriller with a good story will seduce me more than a beautifully written character-driven novel. I’m not necessarily proud to admit that, but that’s just the way it is. The same goes for movies–I need quick-paced action to keep me interested. Films with a lot of talking, talking, talking won’t appeal to me as much. 🙂

    Reply
    • You may have just put your finger on one of the fundamentals differences underlying the comments between my beta readers for my WIP…. 🙂

      Reply
      • Yes, I bet depending on where one stands on the spectrum between plot-driven and character-driven novels, beta reader insights could be quite divergent.

    • I’m the same darn way, Carrie. My brain has never latched onto non-suspenseful stories well. I doubt I could write one for the same reason.

      Reply
  14. Roller coasters are fun. Scary movies, especially graphic ones, are not. 🙂 And pay to be abducted? No thanks! The idea reminds me of the “Castle” episode a few years ago with the “spy-cations.” And that didn’t turn out so well for one character. 😉

    Reply
  15. No, thank you on the abduction. That just sounds really expensive, not to mention uncomfortable, to me. I do love to read a good suspense novel or watch a good thriller though.

    Reply
  16. Nope not me. I avoid scaring myself like the plague

    Reply
  17. OMG Zoe cracks me up. WHAT a cutie pie!!!

    My poor little Tess would have cowarded away, drooled from the nose and started vibrating uncontrollably. She has a slight issue with anxiety. LOL!!

    I would say I am thrill seekers to a certain degree. Back in the day, absolutely. I think it’s part of the reason I would toss my life up in smoke periodically. Just to create drama, tension and angst. LOL!! I would go on the highest, most dangerous rides and wanted to ride every roller coaster ever built.

    Now…I’ve tamed a bit. I like to keep my life calm, steady and peaceful but I still like me a little thrill periodically. Rappelling down the edge of a cliff, white water rafting down class V rapids…oh yeah!!! I still hit the coasters but it takes me some time to get warmed up before I hit the big ones and there are now some that I wouldn’t dare go on.

    Personally, I think I’ve found the right balance…a happy and peaceful life with a dash of periodic “holy SH*T” to keep the blood pumping! LOL!!

    Reply
  18. But I would definitely NOT go for the abduction. Now that’s just plain CRAZY! LOL!!

    Reply
  19. Your dog is adorable! I love dogs with wrinkly pouty faces.

    And I’ll totally watch scary movies with you.

    Reply
  20. Hi – not exactly on this post, but I’m delighted to be able to pass on the Reality Blog Award! Congratulations.

    http://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/passing-the-reality-blog-award-to-those-who-deserve-it/

    Reply
  21. Love that dog! We definitely have to meet.

    And people actually PAY to be kidnapped “to their liking??!!” Shut the front door. People never cease to amaze me…

    Reply
  22. My wife hand me the credit card bill & nothing tops that scare (and suspense).

    Reply
  23. mgmillerbooks

     /  October 30, 2012

    I ingested horror for years until I started working at a horror mag, but “too much of a good” thing” has left me a little apathetic toward it now. But just look at the effect the kidnapping for hire story had on everyone here. There’s definitely something to be mined from that…maybe a new August McLaughlin thriller? Happy Halloween, August & Zoe!

    Reply
  24. I’m a coward, I’d never go in for the fake kidnapping thing!

    Reply
  25. Love Zoe! You should film that and put it on YouTube so we can all see it. 🙂

    Do I ‘do’ scary?’ Nope. I’m a gutless wonder…and not ashamed to admit it.

    Reply
  26. Not much of a thrill seeker myself but I loved the story about Zoe!

    Reply
  27. Running from Hell with El

     /  October 31, 2012

    Pay someone to be abducted?!! LOL–hell no!! Gah! I suppose I am an adventure-seeker. I like to drive fast, explore new places, and experience thrills via the great outdoors. But I don’t like other thrill-seeking scenarios that just bring terror–like haunted houses.

    Loved the story about your dog! That made me giggle. And this is one of the best reasons I’ve seen for the existence of Halloween.

    Reply
  28. Kourtney Heintz

     /  November 1, 2012

    I’m definitely not an adventure seeker. I think herniating a disc at 22 took any desire for risk out of me. I do love your dog though, seeking a very safe scare. 🙂

    Reply
  29. Zoe is so adorable! Love your post. I love horror movies and “that feeling” you get from scary books and movies.

    Reply

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