Published by PublicAffairs on September 29, 2015
Cover image and summary from Goodreads:
No one studies fear quite like Margee Kerr. A sociologist who moonlights at one of America’s scariest and most popular haunted houses, she has seen grown men laugh, 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.
Fear is a universal human experience, but do we really understand it? If we’re so terrified of monsters and serial killers, why do we flock to the theaters to see them? Why do people avoid thinking about death, but jump out of planes and swim with sharks? For Kerr, there was only one way to find out.
In this eye-opening, adventurous book, she takes us on a tour of the world’s scariest experiences: into an abandoned prison long after dark, hanging by a cord from the highest tower in the Western hemisphere, and deep into Japan’s mysterious “suicide forest.” She even goes on a ghost hunt with a group of paranormal adventurers. Along the way, Kerr shows us the surprising science from the newest studies of fear—what it means, how it works, and what it can do for us. Full of entertaining science and the thrills of a good ghost story, this book will make you think, laugh—and scream.
I was really interested in reading this book because I used to be a big wimp, but over the past few years, I’ve really started to enjoy reading scary books and watching scary movies. And my favourite television shows, Supernatural and The Walking Dead, aim to scare people, and I love that. So I was curious: why do some people, including myself, like to be scared? And why do I enjoy some scary things (books, movies, TV shows), but not others (rollercoasters, haunted houses)?
This was a fascinating read, and I could not put it down. It touched on so many aspects of fear – biological and evolutionary and sociological – and had me really interested in reading about what people in different cultures find scary.
It was also fun to read about Kerr’s own experiences on roller coasters and haunted houses around the world, an abandoned prison, the CN Tower’s Skywalk, and the infamous ‘Suicide Forest’ in Japan.
As much as I love reading about the paranormal and supernatural, I don’t actually believe in any of that. So reading about various scientific explanations for what’s happening when people believe that they’re experiencing paranormal or supernatural phenomena was really interesting.
I was totally captivated by the section on death and fear of death. A lot of that hit really close to home for me, and I’m not scared of much, but death/no longer being alive really freaks me out (and spiders!). There was also a lot of really interesting information on anxiety.
I don’t tend to read much non-fiction but I raced through this book. It was totally fascinating, informative without being dry, and entertaining. I loved it. Highly recommended!