Editor’s note: A version of this column first ran Oct. 26, 2016, on islandpacket.com.
Some people get high off fear.
This is a very good fact to know if you’ve ever been called a baby for not wanting to visit something called The House of Human Torment ... or to watch “Dateline” at night.
I know my life would have been vastly different had I learned early on that some people have brains chemically predisposed to enjoying the sensation of being scared.
I spent far too many years assuming that a love of ghost stories equated to extreme courage, and that I was somehow factory-damaged for being terrified by terror.
Turns out some people have brains that tell them, “That statue of the Virgin Mary supposedly cries tears of blood! Cool!”
And others have brains that say, “(No time for screaming, faint now!).”
I can’t speak for all scaredy-cats over the age of 40 (who are repeatedly told to get over their fears and stop acting like a freak all the time), but as it is almost Halloween, I do feel compelled to share some helpful advice for friends of the frightened.
1. Save your lies for Facebook. There’s a better way for you to spend 15 minutes of your time than trying to convince me that the obvious horror movie you want me to watch with you — that features a murderous person who believes a skinless medical doll is alive and also his best friend — “isn’t scary.”
2. “No” means “no.” It also means that if you continue to tell me the story about the ghost who lived in the attic of your childhood home — despite me shaking my head and verbally expressing my continued unwillingness to listen — I will abruptly end our friendship. Oh, and I’ll tell everyone it was because I found out you have Justin Bieber’s wedding photo tattooed on your upper arm and thought it “a bit much.”
Additionally, if you decide to continue advocating for the ghost in your attic by telling me he’s a “nice ghost” in a last-ditch effort to get me to listen, then Justin has also filed a restraining order against you ... twice.
3. Define “psychological thriller” and tread carefully. Is it Natalie Portman turning down cake, staying out too late and dancing “Swan Lake” a little too intensely for her own good? Or is it Brad Pitt finding Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box?
You decide how much you like your car with unbroken windows.
4. There is only one answer to the question “Want to go on a ghost tour in Savannah?” See No. 2.
“But it’s in a hearse!”
“My friend hates scary things, but she loved this tour!”
So sorry I wasn’t clear before. SEE NO. 2.
5. Things that aren’t funny:
- Pretending to see something that isn’t there
- Talking to the thing you’re pretending to see that isn’t there
- Saying “Did you hear that?” and moaning when I look away from you
- Telling me this house/hotel/bar/restaurant/school/theater/workplace is where the Whatever Slaughter happened after I’m already in it
- Tip-toeing up to my back and tapping me on the opposite shoulder that you’re standing behind
- Tip-toeing up to my back and saying my name in a normal voice as if you were there the whole time
- Turning off the light of the room I’m still in
- Pretending Civil War hospital history isn’t a ghost story
- Telling me you see dead people
- Telling me you are a dead person
- Writing “Help” in my steamy bathroom mirror while I’m in the shower
- More episodes of “Scooby Doo” than you’d think
- Sharing fun facts about serial killers like Pee Wee Gaskins
- Promising you’ll come to the church basement bathroom with me but then secretly leaving so that I’m all alone with a life-size statue of a woman who MIGHT BLEED OUT OF HER EYE HOLES