Essence Atkins (left) and Marlon Wayans in "A Haunted House"
There are plenty of obvious reasons to love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday because the whole thing centers on our fear of the dark. Zombies, vampires, ghosts and the puppet from "Saw"—it's all about what lurks in the shadows and what comes out when the lights go out.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm afraid of the dark. I've never been able to walk into a dark space—especially a bathroom or hallway—without flipping on the switch first. And this is coming from someone who tries to lead a reasonable, skeptical lifestyle.
I don't believe in the supernatural in the least, and I remind myself of that whenever my heart skips a beat. But I can't help feeling as though something ghoulish is going to appear in front of me or a phantom hand is going to reach for my ankle.
It seems natural for us human beings to be afraid of the dark. It probably comes from the days when we were out in the wilderness, when we weren't exactly at the top of the food chain just yet, keeping our eyes peeled for saber-tooths or worse. We were being hunted from the shadows, and we knew it. So we began peering into the darkness and imagining claws and teeth lunging for our throats. It's probably what kept us alive, since the cavemen who avoided the dark altogether never got pounced on and eaten, and they survived long enough to pass on that scared-of-the-dark gene.
In fact, it's safe to say that you and I are here today because our ancestors were scaredy-cats.
Now that cavemen have evolved into apartment-men and condo-men, and the saber-toothed tiger is long gone, we're still afraid of the dark (old habits die hard), but now we imagine the things we've been taught to imagine from movies—zombies, vampires, ghosts and the puppet from "Saw."
That's why our fear of the dark flares up worse after we've just watched something scary or heard a halfway decent ghost story. You go from being somewhat nervous about the dark on most nights to being damn near sure there's something staring at you from the opposite side of the room.
We trust our eyes and ears too much, which is why every ghost story involves the phrases "outta the corner of my eye" or "I heard."
Which brings me back to why I like Halloween so much. I'm not on the lookout for saber-toothed cats, and I don't believe in ghosts or anything supernatural. And though I still get scared out of my skin, because I don't believe in those things, there's a sort of security in being afraid of the dark. I'm able to enjoy being afraid of the dark because I know that, at the end of the day, there's really nothing lurking in dark corners.
I know I won't see something terrible staring at me from the hallway mirror, but I still avoid contact with it when I pass it at night. And I know there's no devilish creature waiting for me in the bathtub, but I still flick on the light switch first.
Hector Luis Alamo Jr. is a RedEye special contributor.
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