A zombie terrorizing a town or a costume dripping with fake blood is exactly the kind of scary fun that Lila McGinn loves. The 10-year-old has watched just about every episode of The Walking Dead and is already practicing her makeup skills so she can dress up as a bloody bride this Halloween.
“It makes me feel nervous and excited,” Lila says.
Her excitement is physiological: According to pediatric neuropsychologist Sam Goldstein, fear can increase adrenaline, which intensifies feelings of alertness, energy, and strength—something that might explain why haunted houses and scary movies can be such a draw for some. And sociologist Margee Kerr, who’s also a fear specialist and haunted house consultant, adds that the right kind of fright can actually be mentally good for children as well.