News Tip: Experts Available to Comment on Aspects of Halloween

Topics include fear, horror films and witchcraft


Scott HuettelAssociate professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University.

Huettel's research focuses on understanding the brain mechanisms underlying economic and social decision-making.

Quote:"Halloween presents a paradox: People pay money to be shocked -- both emotionally and physically -- by haunted houses and scary movies. Why do people actively seek to be frightened?

"This paradox unravels in light of research from neuroscience. The brain's reward system responds not only to experiences themselves, but also to anticipation of future experiences and to reflection upon past experiences.

"We feel physiological stress when watching a scary movie, to be sure, but we know in advance that the stress is artificial and temporary -- and thereafter we will have the happy experience of discussing our shared fear with our friends."

Horror Films

Neal BellProfessor of the Practice, Theater Studies, Duke University

Bell teaches "The Dramatic Monster," a theater course about the changing shape of monsters in plays and film.


"Though some horror films can be a vacation for the brain, the great ones are truly disturbing and thought-provoking. It does seem perverse that you go to the theater to experience an unpleasant emotion -- fear. But it's safe fear. You can let yourself get scared and know at the end of it you can escape back into the more familiar horrors of 'real' life."


Thomas RobisheauxFred W. Schaffer Professor of History, Duke University More:

Robisheaux is an art historian of early modern Europe with a focus on cultural history, popular religion and the Renaissance. He teaches courses on European history; magic, religion and science; and religion and society in early modern Europe. He is also the author of "The Last Witch of Langenburg: Murder in a German Villages."

Quote:"We are always looking to make sense out of events that present themselves as chaos and confusion, especially if those events impinge on our lives in a very direct way."The witch is just a variation on the bigger term of 'the other,' " Robisheaux says. "Societies almost always locate their fears, real or imagined, in those who seem to embody the opposite of all that is valued."