Study shows haunted attractions can boost mood, decrease stress

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- They're called " extreme haunts" - where scare-actors are allowed to grab or even restrain visitors who sign a waiver. And they're growing in popularity.

With so many scary things happening in the real world, it might seem strange that people continue to seek out these chills and thrills.

But the lead researcher in a new study says there's an upside to venturing into the dark side.

"Fear is often a toxic force in society, but I personally have always really enjoyed doing scary things," said sociologist, Margee Kerr.

Kerr is a sociologist who studies fear. She analyzed people's responses before and after walking through the Scare House, an extreme haunt in Pennsylvania.

"So I wanted to understand why we would want to engage with something that is largely negative," she said.

The spine-tingling experience improved moods, decreased stress and increased confidence. While it seems unlikely, some of the benefits were similar to meditation.

"These very intense emotional experiences ground us in our body and are related to decreased reactivity, kind of checked out in a good way," said Kerr.

But how far is too far for a fright?

"For fear to be fun, it does have to happen within an environment that is relatively safe," said Kerr.

She says choice and agency make all the difference.

"People are enjoying the moment where they can have fear more in their own control," said Kerr.

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