Why do kids love scary stories?

Many children love horror stories, the scarier the better. Folk tales in all cultures deal with scary subjects. One of the most familiar source of scary stories are  the Grimm Brothers who in their Fairy tales managed to bring out many of the subconscious fears of children to the foreground. Children’s fear of abandonment by their parents, the fear of the bad step mother, giants that like eating children.. etc. Similarly, in our Arab culture we have a vivid source of scary stories that deal with bloodthirsty Ghouls ghosts etc.

Parents, all agree and I am one of them, that scary stories are not good for children. There is no doubt that children under 8 are very impressionable and some of them will be affected by watching scary  movies . This will be manifested by nightmares, bed-wetting and overall anxiety.

For the older children, there is a certain thrill in “getting scared” and some of them seem to seek it all the time. It is interesting to delve deeper into why children especially timid ones are fascinated by anything scary.

On a personal level, one my daughters as a 10 year-old child insisted on reading “scary” stories  and watching scary movies.
My first instinct as a mother was to forbid it, but then I started to think about her need to do that. This brought me to the realization that she was using the scary stories to make sense of the fears in her life. In a way she was  facing her rational and irrational fears through these stories. It was like a cathartic experience for her, similar in a way to our need to watch sad movies. We prepare ourselves with a box of tissues to watch a sad movie then cry our eyes out. Afterwards, we feel rested and relieved.

Perhaps the seeds of the story “ One Dark Night” was planted then. It is not a scary story as the title may imply but it deals with the consequences of watching scary movies.

In the story, Jumana convinces her younger sister Jude to watch a scary movie with her . The two girls jump and gasp and hug each other during the showing of the movie and afterwards their vivid imagination makes them see a big monster scratching at their kitchen window, only to realize that it is none other than Milo their cat.

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