No, really, why?
When I was conducting research for my dissertation, I was faced with this very question. As a person who creates horror fiction, I had never really considered the reasons why horror fiction was popular. I just knew I liked writing it and people liked reading it. But when you stop and think about it, the idea of willingly buying material that will, in the end, have you looking over your shoulder for next few days is kinda, well, weird.
Or is it?
Here’s what I came up with (enjoy a bit of my dissertation – I promise, it won’t bore you to tears.. at least not this part! LOL!):
Why do people want to be frightened? Why do they want the adrenaline rush or a good fright to course through their veins?
Because fear of what will happen to someone else is provides a sense of escapism. The person engaging in the act of reading, watching, or attending a frightening event knows they are experiencing something fictitious that won’t affect them in any way after it is finished. This provides a sense of adventure that people have always and will continue to crave.
Some researchers think that people like creatures such as werewolves, zombies and vampires because they embody the primeval threats that our ancestors encountered. Reliving such events and relating with our ancestors in that way is, on some levels, appealing and considered a challenge, even if we don’t readily realize it as such. The lack of understanding of what our ancestors endured creates a sense of fear that is base and pure. It is the horror author’s singular responsibility to determine how to tap into that fear – that desire for a shock to the system – and cultivate it as an ongoing interest.