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  • Writer's pictureDouglas James Troxell

When Being Scared Stops Being Fun

One of my earliest memories reading is going to my elementary school library and hunting for the latest Goosebumps book.

Night of the Living Dummy

Monster Blood

Say Cheese and Die!

I loved reading a chapter before bed, scaring myself silly, and then curling up under the covers in the dark.

As I got older, I transitioned to more mature works of horror from the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. My exposure to the horror genre expanded into films and video games. I'd stay up late and watch classic horror films like The Evil Dead (Groovy...) and Nightmare on Elm Street or I'd turn off all the lights and play a few hours of Resident Evil on my Playstation. Being scared was fun.

Now if I want to be scared all I do is turn on the news.

Maybe it's the difference between being a kid and being an adult. Maybe it's the price one pays for being aware of what's going on in the larger world. But the bottom line is that being scared just isn't as fun as it used to be.

There were two events that changed the way I felt about fear in my teenage years. The first was the school shooting at Columbine and the second was the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The Columbine Massacre in 1999 changed everything about what it meant to be a student in an American school and its effects are still felt to this day. It wasn't the first school shooting, but it was the most sensationalized. I was a ninth grader in middle school at the time. The rest of my educational career was constant bomb scares and evacuations. Now it's gotten so bad that my children receive active shooter training in their elementary schools. Think about that: six-year-old children learn what to do if someone enters the school with the intent of killing as many people as possible. If that's not terrifying, I don't know what is.

Then there's the granddaddy of them all. The event that changed everything in America: the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I view America in terms of two eras: Pre-9/11 and Post 9/11. I remember America before 9/11. I was a senior in high school. I remember people generally being happy and feeling safe and having a general sense of unity. Then one September morning, my history teacher walked into my math class and announced that the World Trade Center had been attacked. After that, America was a place of fear and terror and mistrust. In some ways, we've never recovered.

Fear isn't fun anymore. Now it keeps me up at night. Maybe fear can only be fun before you learn that monsters are real and there really are dark forces hiding in the shadows or maybe the world is a more terrifying place now that modern technology brings all the terrifying events of the world straight to our television and computer screens.

Regardless, I miss those days. I miss the days when a living dummy in the pages of an R.L. Stine book was the most terrifying element in my life instead of wondering if I should send my son to school wearing a bulletproof backpack.


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