Tag Archives: Halloween

The Witchy Season

by Kirsten Weiss

(Note from Kass:  What a great mash-up of posts/thoughts on witches. I especially LOVED the article about casting spells with emojis!)

witch's hands holding a pumpkinHalloween is coming! And that means… witches!

Even out of the Halloween season, witches just don’t seem to be going out of style. This summer, Vogue devoted a week to witches in its online magazine.

And the TV show Riverdale is resurrecting Sabrina the Teenage Witch (though no doubt Riverdale’s will be a darker version than the cheery original). Books and movies about witches aren’t going away.

Crystals, Tarot cards and smudge sticks are, if not everywhere, easy to get your hands on. And you can even cast spells using emojis!

Or, you can take a more academic approach to the craft, and take a pseudo-university course on Magic in the Middle Ages. (I got the certificate, because… who wouldn’t want a certificate in Magic in the Middle Ages?)

Witchcraft has hit the mainstream, which probably means it’s about two seconds away from being passé. Still, I can’t stop myself from plotting my next witchy book in my Doyle Witch cozy mystery series. I might be missing the top of the market by the time it comes out, but there’s just something about a witch that appeals.

Is it the magical powers? The mystery? The cool clothes?

All of the above?

What do you love (or hate) about the witchy season? Tell us in the comments below!

(Another Note from Kass: this blog will be on hiatus next week while we move the site to a new host. Please stop back on the 31st for a whole bunch of cool, true-life ghost stories!)

pic re: Kirsten's series

 

The Witches of Doyle Trilogy of Cozy Mysteries

Three sisters. Three mysteries. Three love affairs.

In a small town where magic lies hidden in its foundations and forests, three sisters must master their powers and shatter a curse that threatens to destroy them all.

Bound, Book 1 in the trilogy, is free through Halloween!

 

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone.  Her experiences abroad gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective urban fantasy/mystery series, the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries, the Rocky Bridges mysteries and the Witches of Doyle cozy mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Stick-to-Your Ribs Weather

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

As the weather gets cooler (and yes, it’s even cooler down here in Florida now), one has the urge to eat something hot and filling, and then curl up with a good book by the fire. We’ve got the good books covered for you (see below 🙂 ), so for this month’s group post, we thought we’d share some of our fave cold-weather/Halloween recipes.

We even have drinks and dessert. First up, K.B. Owen with a cocktail (a nonalcoholic drink recipe is at the end).

candy corn traffic cones

(photo by Daniel Lobo CC-By 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

 

At Halloween, candy corn inspires a lot of things, from traffic cones to socks…

candy corn socks

(photo by Eli Christman, CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

 

But this is the first time I’ve heard of a candy corn drink.

Sounds yummy!

Kathy’s Candy Corn Shooters

Pour 1/3 oz Galliano liquer into a shot glass.
Carefully pour 1/3 oz orange curacao on top, so it floats.
Top off with 1/3 oz whipping cream.

Now for the main course (before we get too plastered)…

Kassandra’s Shrimp* Jambalaya

Like my protagonist, Kate Huntington, I’m not much of a cook, but even I can use a slow cooker. Here’s my favorite version of jambalaya, made with shrimp! (I looove shrimp.) Also I’m a lazy cook, so I have modified this a bit to make it easier.

*Can also be made with 2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces (or with both, in which case use 1½ lbs of chicken and 1 lb of shrimp).

shrimp jambalaya

(photo by Cliff Hutson CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Ingredients:
1 tbs canola or olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (fresh or frozen)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
1 cup chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
2 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp from a jar of pre-minced garlic)
1 14-oz pkg of turkey kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/4-in. slices
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cans (14½ oz) diced tomatoes with green peppers and onions, undrained
1 can (14 oz) fat-free chicken broth
1½ to 2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs chopped parsley
1 tbs hot sauce

Instructions:
Sauté onions, green peppers, celery and garlic in oil-coated pan, until tender. (I’ve been known to just throw them in the cooker un-sauteed; like I said, I’m lazy)
(If using chicken, brown 4 minutes on each side in pan, then put in cooker)
Put onion mixture and everything but the shrimp in the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours.
Taste, add additional hot sauce if you like it spicier.
Add shrimp, cover and cook on HIGH for additional 15 minutes or until shrimp are cooked (I use precooked shrimp, but still cook for 15 minutes to be sure heated through)
Serve over long-grain rice.

Serves 6-8 people. For hubs and I, we get 3-4 meals out of it. Freezes well!

Shannon’s Lentil Sweet Potato Chili

For the vegetarians in the crowd, here’s Shannon Esposito’s fave cold-weather dish.

sweet potato chili

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
2 28-oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried green lentils
2 tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
diced avocado for garnish, optional
fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish, optional

Instructions:
Add all ingredients (except garnishes) to slow cooker. Mix well.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.5 hours
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

And for dessert, we have a great cookie recipe from Kirsten Weiss… Yum!

Kirsten’s Halloween Spice Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

pumpkin cookie

Possible decorating option! (photo by Pacian commonswiki, CC-BY-SA 3.0 unported, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Icing Ingredients:
2 egg whites
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
Food coloring: black, yellow, green, and pink or red

Instructions:
You’ll need cookie cutters for these, preferably Halloween-themed cats and moons and bats. But you can also just cut them into circles and go wild with the decorating.

Whisk the flour, allspice, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Set it aside.
In another, bigger bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until the ingredients are light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and egg and beat them into the butter mixture.
Set the mixing speed to low and add the flour mixture. Beat until the ingredients come together as a dough.
On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and divide it in half. Press each half into a thick disk, wrap them separately in plastic wrap, and put them into the refrigerator for about an hour, until they’re firm.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
With parchment paper, line two cookie sheets.
Roll out one of your dough disks on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 1/8” thick. Cut out cookies with your cutters and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with the other disk.
Bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned.
Remove the cookies and set them on cooling racks.
When they are room temperature, make the icing.
With an electric mixer on high, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Keep beating the mixture until it is shiny and thick.
Add more sugar or water to get the right consistency for the icing to spread easily.
Divide the icing between small bowls and add food coloring.

Decorate your cookies!

And now the nonalcoholic liquid libation, again from Kathy…

gummi worms

(photo by Tiia Monto CC-BY-SA 3.0 unported, Wikimedia Commons)

Magic Potion

Ingredients:
Creepy Crawler Ice Ring (instructions below)
1 cup boiling water
2 sm packages lime-flavored gelatin
3 cups cold water
1½ liters (48 ounces) lemon-lime soda, chilled
½ cup superfine sugar (this kind dissolves better, but you can use regular sugar)
Gummy worms, for garnishing cups

Instructions:
Prepare Creepy Crawler Ice Ring one day before serving:
1 cup gummy worms
1 quart lemon-lime drink, such as Gatorade®  (the brighter green, the better)
Lay gummy worms along the bottom of a 5-cup ring mold, then fill with lemon-lime drink.
Freeze for 8 hours/overnight, until solid.

Now prepare punch:
Pour boiling water over gelatin in heat-proof punch bowl; stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in cold water.
Add lemon-lime soda and sugar; stir well.
Before serving, dip bottom of ice mold in hot water to unmold ice ring. Float in punch bowl.
Serve cups of punch garnished with gummy worms, if desired.

Makes 10 servings

Sounds awesome! I’m wondering if you could make ice cubes instead of the ice ring, if you weren’t going to serve it in a punch bowl. Maybe one gummy worm in the bottom of each section of the ice cube tray…. Hmm, that would be a cool way to serve to guests. *makes grocery list with gummy worms and Gatorade®*

What’s your favorite cold-weather recipe?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Shannon has a brand new cover for her spooky thriller, The Monarch.

the-monach-kobo

Fate seems to have mistaken Anne Serafini, a forensic photographer, for superwoman and she’s not amused. After being stabbed, witnessing a friend’s murder and shooting a man in self-defense, Anne realizes she’s been Fate’s puppet all along.

Now she’s chosen Anna Maria Island to try and take back control of her life. Unfortunately—when a murdered girl washes up on the beach—Anne understands, once again, Fate has chosen this place for her.

When Anne’s two eccentric aunts decide it’s time to let her in on the family secret, they tell Anne she is the latest fourth-generation woman in her brown-eyed family to be born with green eyes and a paranormal gift.

Anne’s gift is being in the wrong place at the right time. The gift of serendipity. But, the gift is also a curse. Each green-eyed woman has died before her twenty-eighth birthday.

Anne will turn twenty-eight in three weeks.

Can she embrace her gift and help stop this budding serial killer? Or is he the tool Fate will use to fulfill the family curse?

Click here for buy links.

And for Halloween, I have re-published my standalone ghost story/mystery novelette, Echoes

book cover of Echoes, A Story of Suspense

James Fitzgerald is looking forward to a weekend getaway with friends at the country house that once belonged to his parents. Instead he walks in on a bloodbath. And a cryptic message on a shower curtain points to him as the killer.

The small town sheriff is smarter than he looks. He knows he doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest… yet.

Virtually under house arrest, James tries to distract himself from his grief and worry by investigating his parents’ backgrounds. Maybe he can find an explanation for the strange fainting spells he’s been having. Soon he is wondering if it’s sometimes better to let sleeping ghosts lie.

Click here for buy links.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Are You More a Trickster or a Treatee? (and a new release!)

created on tagul.com

word cloud created on tagul.com

For Halloween this year, we asked our authors to share some childhood memories, specifically to answer this question:

Which did you prefer, playing tricks or getting treats? Here are their answers.

Kirsten Weiss:

I was too busy scavenging candy to play any Halloween pranks. Trick time = less treat gathering time, though the folks who gave out raisin boxes on Halloween definitely deserved some payback.

I mean, seriously? We’re going to be healthy tonight? I don’t think so.

Given my candy maximization focus, it’s weird that the treat that always delighted me most in my pillowcase full of loot was Smarties. I think they’re basically sugar + fruit acid, so I’m not sure why I find them so appealing. Plus, they’re super small. Purely from a mercenary perspective, I should have been going for the full-sized candy bars. But nope, it was always Smarties, followed by their tangier cousin, Sweet Tarts.

Smarties (R)

Smarties (R)

Kassandra Lamb:

When I was a kid, I loved trick-or-treating, but not so much for the candy. I was more into the costumes, and the excitement of being out after dark without adult supervision. This was back in the days when parents naively thought kids were safe in their own neighborhoods. I was allowed to go out with just my older brother to look out for me.

My mom made our costumes and they were pretty neat. Often she came up with some theme, like Lone Ranger and Tonto (I was younger so guess who was saying Kimesabe).

I'm the one in the middle with the dorky clown hat. And no, my mother didn't let us go out alone when we were this small; that was later when we were in elementary school.

I’m the one in the middle with the dorky clown hat; big brother’s to the right. (Don’t know who the kid hogging the limelight in front of me is. And no, my mother didn’t let us go out alone when we were this small; that was later, when we were in elementary school.)

When I was a teenager, and my brother was now beyond such juvenile pursuits as trick-or-treat, I went in more for tricks. My friends and I would come up with excuses to get out of the house (collecting for charities was my favorite, and I did collect money for them, but I did so after school before my parents got home so I could go wild that night). Looking back our “tricks” were pretty lame. Mostly we rang doorbells and then ran. Occasionally we toilet-papered the trees in people’s front yards. Again, the appeal was mostly about the forbidden fruit of being out after dark, footloose and fancy-free of adult supervision.

Vinnie Hansen:

My brothers pulled legendary Halloween pranks like moving an outhouse to the downtown hill. But I was a good kid, hustling to Mrs. Wampler’s house because she gave out full-sized Hershey’s bars. I also liked homemade treats such as candy apples.

photo by photogmateo CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

photo by photogmateo CC-BY 2.0

Mrs. McKay gave out popcorn balls. She may have been a teacher, but she didn’t get the concept of Halloween. When you rang her bell and said, “Trick or treat?” she said, “Trick,” and she expected you to do a trick to receive her treat.

I went into her carpeted living room and stood on my head. I guess she deemed that satisfactory because I received a popcorn ball wrapped all fancy in colored cellophane.

K.B. Owen:

I don’t have much memory of Halloween as a kid, because I was usually sick with asthma during that time of year (I remember one Halloween in the hospital, all us kids were given paper grocery bags, markers, and scissors to make masks). I carved my first pumpkin at age 22.

11700834_10207866511490704_3801784215681188918_oSo for me, the fun of Halloween really got going with my kids! And we’ve had a grand time: making a PVC skeleton we put out every year, concocting decadent goodies, and yes…carving pumpkins! Here’s one of my fave pics, of my now-14-year-old, getting in on our pumpkin-carving action by sampling the goods.

Shannon Esposito:

Trick-or-treating in rural Pennsylvania meant my parents had to drive us around in the car because the houses were miles apart. It was always freezing anyway, so the heater was welcomed. Needless to say, we didn’t get much candy, but we didn’t mind because one of the houses belonged to the Sarrises. They own Sarris Candies, which makes the best chocolate in the world (OK, maybe just in the US). Every year they gave out pure chocolate suckers shaped like pumpkins, cats, ghosts… whatever, it didn’t matter. They were all delicious.

And if you were lucky, there were enough costume-clad kids that you could sneak back around and snag another one. Often they would recognize you and give you a stern look, but it was worth the try.

They don’t know it, but they’re responsible for one of my favorite family traditions: On Easter and birthdays, our family members send each other Sarris chocolates. A piece of childhood wrapped in chocolate. Nothing sweeter.

photo by The Culinary Geek of Chicago, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

photo by The Culinary Geek of Chicago, CC-BY 2.0

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

How about you? Did you prefer tricking or treating as a kid?

Or do you still go trick-or-treating as an adult? (I know some people who do.)

 

Please check out Kirsten Weiss’s new release, the grand finale of the Riga Hayworth series. Her books are pretty spooky. They make great Halloween reads!!

Also, she’s having a Halloween blog party today. Check it out for more fun Halloween posts!!

THE HERMETIC DETECTIVE, A Riga Hayworth Mystery

A Monstrous Assassin. A Metaphysical Detective.

Housebound with five-month-old twins, Riga Hayworth just wants to get back in the metaphysical detecting game. But when she’s called to help an elderly woman, haunted and alone, a deadly threat follows Riga home. Can Riga prevent a tragedy and protect her family?

The Hermetic Detective is the seventh and final book in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels. Buy this book to finish the epic series today.

Amazon    Kobo    Nook

Kirsten Weiss worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of The Metaphysical Detective mystery series and the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang. We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Spooky Nights

by Vinnie Hansen

As night falls, we advance toward the 100-year-old mausoleum in the cemetery. There is no electricity. Candles and a kerosene lamp light the way.

vINNIES POST mausoleum

Me reading by lamplight

Vinnie reading by lamplight

Here in Santa Rosa Memorial Park, I join seven other mystery writers to read our spooky stories in the echoing marble chambers.

Even though we are competing with the Giants playing in the World Series, the annual event draws a standing-room-only crowd.

No one rose from the dead around us except in our tales.

However, two nights later, at the Dead Writers Costume Party, three local Santa Cruz writers used an Ouija board to conjure up Edgar Allan Poe. Asked what he wished he’d written about, Poe replied: H-O-E-S

Three "dead" authors conjuring up a 4th one.

Three “dead” authors conjuring up a 4th one.

vinnies post HP Lovecraft

This delightful evening, a fundraiser for the Young Writers Program, featured H.P. Lovecraft as an animated host.

I resurrected my Emily Dickinson outfit for the evening. Before I retired as a teacher, I would wear the costume when teaching Dickinson. I’d stay in character for the entire class, in spite of questions like, “Are you a virgin?” and “What’s it like to be dead?”

I also rubbed shoulders with the lovely Beatrix Potter who brought along her hedgehog and Peter Rabbit.

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with "Beatrix Potter"

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with “Beatrix Potter”

Among others in attendance were Kurt Vonnegut, Dashiell Hammett, Mark Twain, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, and an imposter Emily Dickinson. Authors were invited to read and I recited “my” poem:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

If you had gone, which author would you have impersonated? Why? And which author would you have wanted to contact in the Great Beyond?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Halloween Haiku, Just for You

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

party logo of New Orleans cemeteryOur own Kirsten Weiss is hosting a Hoodoo Halloween Blog Party this weekend to celebrate the upcoming release of her new book, The Hoodoo Detective. She also suggested we do a haiku post for Halloween, so we decided to make this our contribution to her party.

photo of pumpkins

And since this was Kirsten‘s idea, she gets to go first:

Footfalls crush dried leaves
Pumpkins cast malformed shadows
Gimme candy now.

 

Shannon discovered she was even more mathematically challenged than she’d thought. It’s 5, 7, 5, Shan. She finally nailed it:

Brillant red leaves

(photo by Mckelvcm CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

Confetti of gold
Flutters, falls, lands on hard earth
Creates skeletons

 

And from Vinnie:
Closure:
Time of ripe walnuts
my sister’s hope shimmers like
golden aspen leaves.

 

Along similar lines, I chose to contrast the autumns of my years in Maryland with those of my new home in Florida:

red apple hanging from branch
Crisp air, brilliant leaves,
Plucking apples from the trees–
Autumns of my youth.

Black cats and palm trees,
Ghosts and gators and brown leaves–
Southern Hallowed Eve.

And another from the poetic Vinnie:

For Micah:
Like a genie or
sunflower, wispy and bold,
magic, dancing gold.

And if you prefer spooky…

painting of moon in the trees

19th century painting by Stanisław Masłowski

From Kirsten:
Brooding autumn wind
shivers skeletal branches
clawing at the moon.

From Kathy:
Eve of All-Hallows
brings moon-cold fog, wisp-fingered,
circling huddled souls.

*shudders*  That sent a shiver down my spine.  And finally some fun images:

flying witchFrom Vinnie:
Fall:
Crows bombard the street
with walnuts, then strut and pluck
the sweet exposed meat.

From Kathy:
Battered, bruised flyers
need night-vision goggles, or
headlights on broomsticks.

Heroes, ninjas, ghosts:
“Get candy, get candy, get-”
Mission accomplished.

Check out the other posts at ParaYourNormal, then try your hand at your own autumn/Halloween haiku in the comments.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from the crew at misterio press!!

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Why Is Being Scared Out of Our Wits Fun??

Halloween will be here very soon–that time of the year when we celebrate all things creepy and scary. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why we humans enjoy being scared out of our wits?

spooky jack-o-lanternAs a psychologist, I had my theories about this, but since it’s not my specific area of expertise, I did some research as well.

As I suspected, it all revolves around the part of our nervous system called the autonomic nervous system. This system has two branches: one that controls arousal and one that controls relaxation. I’ve discussed this aspect of our nervous system before, as it relates to stress.

But there are a couple other things we need to know about it before we can answer the question: why is being scared out of our wits fun?

1.  The arousal side is triggered not just by things that are threatening, that scare and/or anger us, but also by things that are exciting in a positive sense. Our hearts race and we get a little shot of adrenaline when we think about that big party we’re going to this weekend, and on the day of the party, even more so.

two chincillas in party hats

Let the party begin! (photo by Melissa Wolff, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia)

2.  We humans need varying degrees of arousal throughout the day. We need calm times when we can rest and recuperate, but without some degree of arousal at other times, life would be totally boring and we would eventually slip into depression.

Research says that we naturally seek our own optimal level of arousal (which varies from individual to individual). When our arousal level is too low, we feel bored and seek more stimulation. When it is too high, we feel a bit overwhelmed and seek less stimulation.

Now with that basic info, let us look at why being scared is fun:

No harm, no foul:  When we are scared by something we know is not real (like a horror movie) we experience the adrenaline rush from the fear as enjoyable. But the key is that we have to know there is no risk of harm.

For example, hubs and I watched an episode of Criminal Minds the other night in which a killer is stalking college women. He breaks into a house while one of his victims is babysitting and kills her. This was ‘fun’ stimulation for us sixty-somethings who know that the risk of some crazed killer breaking into our house is minimal. But a young woman who is babysitting, alone in a house at night (cue spooky music), she might not want to be watching this show!

Clinical psychologist, David Rudd, told the online science magazine, livescience, that people “…may well scream but quickly follow it with a laugh since they readily recognize there’s no chance for real harm.”

Novelty:  We humans are wired to attend to novel things. Paying attention to something that is different in one’s environment was a survival necessity in more primitive times because that change in the surroundings (like the jungle suddenly going quiet) might mean there is a threat nearby.

Environmental psychologist, Frank McAndrew, explained it this way in the livescience article: “We’re motivated to seek out this kind of [novel] stimulation to explore new possibilities, to find new sources of food, better places to live and good allies. People enjoy deviations from the norm—a change of pace, within limits.”

Another well known psychology website, PsychCentral, agrees with these two reasons but adds a couple more:

Lingering arousal:  The high level of arousal from the fear leaves a lingering state of arousal that heightens other emotions. So if you are having a fun evening out with friends or home with your mate, the arousal from the horror movie, haunted house, etc. will increase your feelings of enjoyment of other aspects of the evening as well (Okay, I know where some of your minds went re: the home with your mate scenario. LOL).

Sensitivity to arousal:  Each individual’s nervous system is wired in its own unique way. Some people are more easily aroused than the average person, and others are not all that easily aroused. Those who are less easily aroused are likely to seek more intense stimulation, in order to achieve their optimal level of arousal.

Night of the Living Dead movie posterOur mp author, Catie Rhodes, loves horror!! On the other hand, if I were offered the choice between watching a horror movie or having a root canal, I would probably opt for the root canal. At least then I would be given Novocain to dull the pain!

In a WebMD article on the subject, Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, combines this variation-in-arousal aspect with the novelty-seeking component. “Through movies, we’re able to see horror in front of our eyes, and some people are extremely fascinated by it. They’re interested in the unusual and the bizarre because they don’t understand it and it’s so different from our everyday lives.”

(I’m curious to hear how Catie feels about this theory, especially since she is particularly fascinated by ghosts! 😉 )

The challenge:  Dr. Farley has studied people who have what he has dubbed a “type T” (thrill-seeking) personality. They thrive on the kinds of experiences–bungee jumping, for instance–that most of us would consider terrifying. They’re not just in it for the adrenaline rush, however; they also crave the feelings of accomplishment that they have overcome these scary challenges.

Now to all these theories, I’ll add my own:

The rebound effect: The autonomic nervous system operates like a teeter-totter. What goes up must come down. To whatever degree we are aroused, we will experience an equal level of relief and sense of relaxation after that arousal fades.

We scream, and then we laugh… and then feel relaxed afterwards, oddly enough. Playwrights understood this as far back as Ancient Greece. Get the audience to experience intense emotions and they will be pleasantly drained at the end of the play. They dubbed it catharsis.

I hope you’ve found these explanations interesting and not so demystifying that they’ve taken the fun out of being scared – especially since I have a new release out, my own little mystery/ghost story.

Catie critiqued it and said it was “quite creepy.” Please check it out.

And then talk to us about why you enjoy having the @#*& scared out of you. What’s your favorite kind of Halloween spookiness?

book cover of Echoes, A Story of SuspenseECHOES, A Story of Suspense

James Fitzgerald is looking forward to a weekend getaway with friends at the country house that once belonged to his parents. Instead he walks in on a bloodbath. And a cryptic message on a shower curtain points to him as the killer.

The small town sheriff is smarter than he looks. He knows he doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest… yet.

Virtually under house arrest, James tries to distract himself from his grief and worry by investigating his parents’ backgrounds. Maybe he can find an explanation for the strange fainting spells he’s been having. He finds out more than he bargained for, however, and starts to wonder if sometimes it’s better to let sleeping ghosts lie.

Available at:   AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE     KOBO     iTUNES

P.S. We’re having a BIG HALLOWEEN PARTY over on Facebook this Friday (4-7 eastern time… or longer if the virtual cocktails hold out 🙂 ) You all are invited so come on over and join up so you get notification on Friday when the fun begins!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

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