Safety and Fear: How to Seek Thrills Safely this Halloween

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"To really enjoy a scary situation, we have to know we're in a safe environment," Dr. Margee Kerr told The Atlantic. "It's all about triggering the amazing fight-or-flight response to experience the flood of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine, but in a completely safe space."

Dr. Kerr is a recognized expert in fear and works as a staff sociologist for a haunted house in Pittsburgh. She notes how people often jump into the air or scream at a spooky shock and immediately burst out laughing. Because we know the threat or danger we reacted to isn't real, we're free to indulge in the rush of a good fright—and then move on.

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Spooky young couple in Halloween costumes in a cornfield standing one in front of the other and holding hands

Image: Vuk Saric

5 ways to stay safe at Halloween attractions

Because the sense of safety makes fear fun, here are some tips to keep you and your fellow ghouls safe at haunted houses, spooky corn mazes, and other holiday haunts.

  1. Keep your friends close: Part of what makes getting scared fun is doing it with your pals. Terrifying ourselves along with our most trusted buddies is the safe way to get your scream on. Keep track of one another, never leave a friend behind, and rely on your besties to help keep track of valuables, watch over drinks, and catch you if you fall over from fright.
  2. Note the exits: Before you enter your labyrinth of horror, identify all the exits. If you can rely on your noggin, take mental notes of how to get to the doors, including any obstacles you might run into. If you're worried the terror may chase away all your functioning brain cells, snap a pic on your phone to help guide you if you need to make for the exit later.
  3. Shed some light: Haunted houses and after-dark corn mazes count on creepy ambiance to raise your heart rate—but that usually means it's pretty dark. Be prepared with a flashlight, glow sticks, or your phone. Lighting your way can help you avoid tripping hazards, locate your pals, or make you feel a little better (especially if you're running from a deranged chainsaw dude in the pitch dark among rows of abandoned corn.)
  4. Dress the part: I know you've been waiting all year to wear your Dr. Frank-N-Furter getup out on Halloween. But those platforms aren't sturdy footwear when walking through a corn maze or running from a horde of the undead. As much as it may pain you, wear supportive footwear, dress warmly if you're outside, and make sure masks or makeup don't obscure your vision (peripheral or otherwise). I promise the pain of compromising your costume is nothing compared to a rolled ankle (or worse).
  5. Leave the kids out of it: You may be wondering about my obsession with haunted corn mazes. We took my young son to one by accident one year, and he was literally frightened out of his shoes and glasses by a chainsaw-wielding madman. Do your research before you head out, and make sure the place you're going is kid-friendly. If it isn't, either leave them behind (with a responsible caregiver) or find a more suitable scary attraction.
Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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