In the spirit of horror movies, this will be a two part series
Scaring people is big business and this year is sure to break records as Halloween is celebrated on Friday, October 31st. This will generate record numbers of parties and trick-or-treaters as Halloween grows in popularity. How big is the business?
The National Retail Association gives us the numbers:
Total Sales of costumes, candy, and decorations: $7.4 billion ($6.9 in 2013)
Children’s Costumes: $1.1 billion (#1 Princess, #2 Animal, #3 Spider-Man, #4 Frozen Character
Adult Costumes: $1.4 billion (#1 Witch, #2 Animal, #3 Batman Character, #4 Pirate
Pet Costumes: $350 million (#1 Pumpkin, #2 Hot Dog, #3 Devil, #4 Bumble Bee)
Percentage of Americans attending a Halloween party: 33.4%
(approximately equal to the number of people who attend worship on a Sunday)
78% of 18-24 year-olds will dress in a costume (73% in 2013)
Perhaps the most interesting number that comes from their data is 33 million Americans will visit a neighborhood haunted house, a Halloween themed zoo, or a haunted theme park. What are people looking for? The more realistic the better. Universal Studios in Orlando gives us a flavor of what is offered. Their Halloween Horror Nights features experiences like, “The Walking Dead”, “Dollhouses of the Damned,” “Giggles and Gore, Inc.”, “Cannibal Colony”, and “Bayou of Blood.”
Why are people, primarily young adults and teens, flocking to these venues? According to The Haunted Attraction Association, in a press release on “The Psychology of Fear Final”, there are four primary reasons people like to be scared:
First, a longing for sensory experience and satisfaction. The adrenaline rush that comes from navigating a maze of zombies in real life rather than on a video game is irresistible to people who long for things that are real. Using millions of dollars of state-of-the-art special effects, haunted theme creators amp up the sound and the images to create a life-threatening experience.
Second, people desire to experience something outside of the ordinary. John Edward Campbell, Assistant Professor at Temple University, says the pleasure people feel after surviving a scary experience, “provides a cathartic effect, offering you emotional release and escape from the real world of bills and mortgages and the economy and relationships.”
Third, its safe entertainment. While people know they will be frightened to death, intuitively they know they are still safe. So rather than feeling fear, they feel excitement.
Fourth, people are curious. The dark side has always had its appeal and haunted attractions look to fill the bill with the most elaborate experiences they can design.
While young adults and teens find their way to these venues, programs catering to children look to fit the bill by offering specials on TV like “Toy Story of Terror” and the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
The Disney Channel seeks to grab the attention of its young viewers by offering Monstober, a full month of Halloween themed TV shows and movies. Nickelodeon tries to do it one better with Shocktober, which features “Haunting Halloween Specials all month long.”
So brace yourself for the days ahead. Images of ghosts, witches, and screaming victims are sure to fill our imaginations as TV networks and horror venues seek to deliver the most scares per minute whether its on our screens or in a theme park, zoo, or haunted house near you.
So what’s the take away?
American young people are seeking vivid experiences, ones that grab hold of them and tell them they are alive, even if they have to slaughter vampires, kick ghouls, and run through mazes of terror to discover their hearts are still beating.
Coming up next week: iKids & Halloween 2: The Spirituality of Boo.