Why do we like scary things? It's one of those great questions about humanity that we may never have a definitive answer for. Considering how fear governs so much of our lives – fear for our safety and the safety of our loved ones, fear of our security, financial and otherwise – it seems surprising that we'd willingly seek out experiences designed to make us feel afraid.
And yet, not only do such experiences exist, those who create them make a lot of money scaring people.
Personally, I don't think it's the scary things that really, truly attract people. On the surface, it might seem that way, but that feeling is just so unpleasant, I can't imagine too many thrill junkies are actively looking to live through it. I think what people love, more than anything, is that feeling after they're afraid – the moment when they're able to look around and realize that everything is going to be OK.
Now, Walt Disney World may not be the biggest purveyor of frights (surely Universal has them beat on that front), but that doesn't mean there aren't some top scares at the Vacation Kingdom.
Let's look at a few:
5. Haunted Mansion – the Stretch Room
As you'll see as this list goes on, there are different kinds of frights that feature in Walt Disney World attractions. And while there are only a few “peekaboo”-style gotcha moments on the Haunted Mansion, the entire attraction exudes a sense of spookiness and trepidation.
But there is one moment that stands above the rest in terms of fear, and it happens to come right at the beginning. To fully appreciate it, you really do need to take a step back and understand how the Haunted Mansion tells its story in total.
As guests approach the Mansion's exterior, it has already begun its storytelling. Between the gothic architecture, the faint howling, and the foreboding queue area, guests are treated to a kind of ordinary uneasiness – the same feeling you might get when you're home alone, or when you have to get up in the middle of the night.
In the queue, guests see gravestones and other typically-morbid sights, but ultimately, nothing inherently metaphysical.
It's not until the guests move into the famous stretch rooms that the show truly gets underway, and it is in this moment that the Haunted Mansion delivers its most terrifying beat. With guests primed and on-edge following the extended storytelling action of the exterior and the queue, the stretch rooms do their stretching and the Ghost Host does his hosting – all culminating in that one breathtaking thunderclap, the illumination of the overhead skeleton, and the blood-curdling scream (as well as the screams of the fellow guests).
It's the first supernatural encounter visitors to the mansion have, and it's easily the most frightening. In terms of singular moments of fear at Walt Disney World, that's tough to top.
4. It's Tough to Be a Bug – Hopper's Attack
But, let's try!
What never ceases to amaze me is how many people are completely unprepared for the experience of It's Tough to Be a Bug at Disney's Animal Kingdom. And so, for anyone thinking about enjoying this attraction alongside your children, here's a word of warning: This is a very, very intense show. There are in-your-face effects unlike what you might see in a 3D movie at your local multiplex. It's even too intense for many adults.
But while termites and tarantulas are freaky, the most insane moment of this attraction has to be when Hopper, the Pixar film's antagonist, sets his army of hornets and spiders to attack the audience.
On his command, the lights go dark, loud buzzing sounds emanate from the theater's soundsystem, enormous black widow spiders descend from the ceiling, and it all culminates in a pricking sensation in your back – simulating a hornet sting.
Does that sound unpleasant? Probably! But many things sound unpleasant when written out in plain language like that. Rest assured, however, it is quite terrifying – and most certainly one of the scariest experiences on Disney property.