For as long as we've gathered by campfires to tell ghost stories, humans have always loved a good scare. From the splatter flicks of the 70s, to Japan's obsession with drowned girls, to creepy modern experiences like the overnight ghost hunt at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the horror industry has thrived across time and cultures. Our obsession with getting scared is obvious to anyone who visits ScareHouse, a haunted house in Pittsburgh that is annually ranked among the scariest in the country, and has become a booming attraction with nearly 150 employees and lines wrapping around the block. It even has its own sociologist, who conducts surveys and observations to make its performances ever more terrifying. Her name is Margee Kerr.
In this surprising, scary, entertaining book, Kerr puts her expertise to the test. Not merely content to observe others' fear, she confronts it in the form of things like skydiving, paranormal investigations, and a visit to Japan's infamous "suicide forest." In her willingness to explore the world's scariest attractions, Kerr shows why we seek out terror even when there is plenty to fear in everyday life. Whether she's dangling by a cable from a 116-story tower or experiencing New York City's "Extreme Haunt," BlackOut, in which participants are handcuffed, forced to crawl through dark tunnels, and given a gun and told to shoot someone, Kerr parses the elements of fear with humor and the precision of an expert.
Along the way, she takes a personal journey that leads to valuable insights about what we fear--and what it says about who we are.
Margee Kerr has a PhD in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh, where she currently teaches. She is also a nationally recognized expert on professional haunted houses and works year-round for the ScareHouse haunted house, analyzing data on customers and employees to make its attractions scarier. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Parade, Atlantic Monthly, and NPR's Science Friday, among other places. She is also is the coinvestigator on the country's first-of-its-kind study measuring fear in the real world, collecting data on how the brain and body responds in real-life threatening situations. She lives in Pittsburgh.