Without the pretense of danger, a haunted house won't work. The threat has to feel real, even though every precaution is taken to ensure that the customers aren't actually hurt. But even though the actors are trained not to knock people down or accidentally cut anyone open with chainsaws, the patrons walking through the haunted house have no training at all, and a part of their brain thinks that they're about to die.
The nature of haunted houses is to taunt the instincts of strangers, gambling on flight instead of fight. And while most of us respond to mortal terror by screaming and cowering, there are some people who surprise even themselves by responding with fists. In a real-world scenario, these people could be heroes, but in a haunted house, it's decidedly less brave when they punch in the teeth of a 16-year-old girl in face paint. Customers don't just punch, either -- they elbow, kick and sometimes even bite the staff who startle them, losing all sense of logic and momentarily fighting for their lives.
"I'm learning so many terrible truths about myself right now!"
Even stranger, it's not always just an impulsive response to danger. In some cases, the customers are genuinely angry for being startled and decide that the person responsible deserves to be hurt. In an interview with the Huffington Post, a man who trains actors specifically for haunted house performances said, "I know one actress who scared a guy and he forced his way through a back door so he could hit her in the face." To be clear, that man paid to be scared, got what he paid for and was so mad about it that he went out of his way to hit somebody in the hopes that it might make him feel better. That's like walking out of a horror film and kneeing the ticket vendor in the gut because the movie was so good.
It sort of steals the fun of a haunted house knowing that it might be the only place where the saying "They're more scared of you than you are of them" might actually be true.
If you live in the United States, you may have noticed that in 2007, daylight saving time changed slightly. Instead of ending in the last week of October, it now ends in the first week of November. The decision was made by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act, a bill that was presented as a way to conserve energy, giving everyone an extra hour of daylight in the afternoons. Never mind the fact that every study conducted on saving energy this way suggested that the change would have absolutely no benefit, and might even result in more energy consumption.
Well, it turns out that the date change had little to do with saving energy and almost everything to do with Halloween. Though it sounds like the scheme of a supervillain, at some point candy companies figured out that the best way to sell more sweets each year wasn't to give everything a gooey center, or to invent new flavors, or even to change their marketing campaigns in any way: It was to control time.
No one was pushing harder to extend daylight saving time through Halloween than the candy industry, because it meant effectively making Halloween longer for trick-or-treaters. While a little extra light for collecting candy may not seem that substantial to you, for an industry that makes over $2 billion each year on the holiday alone, it can result in a small fortune.
So while everyone complains that Valentine's Day and Christmas are corporate-controlled holidays designed to cram merchandise down the throats of everyone silly enough to play along, at least those industries never bullied Congress into adding an extra hour just to sell more shit.
Remember that when you celebrate Halloween this year. Regardless of what you or your children decide to dress up as, we're all technically going as slaves to the candy industry. Enjoy your extra hour.
"Here, please enjoy this metaphor."
For more from Soren, check out 4 Tips for Fixing Up Your New Home (That's Clearly Haunted) and The 5 Dumbest Supernatural Questions Ever Googled (Answered).