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2023 in Review at the Recreational Fear Lab

2023 was another good year for the lab - here are some of the scary and fun things that happened during the year.

2023 was another fine year for the lab. A high point was the immensely successful Third Annual Aarhus Workshop on Recreational Fear, which was held on August 9. The acclaimed author Joe Hill gave an amazing keynote on the art and craft and value of scaring people with words. You can watch Joe’s keynote, along with most of the other brilliant presentations, on our YouTube channel.

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Joe Hill giving his keynote “Living in Fear: The Art of Horror” at the well-attended Third Annual Aarhus Workshop on Recreational Fear.


We were also engaged in a range of outreach activities. Thankfully, the public still seems to be very interested in our work, and apart from a whole bunch of public lectures throughout and beyond the country, we had an interactive outreach booth at the Danish Science Day, where guests could try a VR horror game and have their fear levels measured, and a similar booth at the national Fantasy Festival where we also gave guests the chance to measure their morbid curiosity and figure out what type of horror fan they were. We love these opportunities for outreach, for sharing with the public some of our research findings and engaging folks in our work. We are also getting a good amount of media interest in our research, with recent coverage in media such as Wall Street Journal, Discover Magazine, Salon, Daily Express, Bloomberg, Le Monde, ITV, El Pais, BBC World Service, Yahoo News, and BPS PsycCrunch as well as engaging in a fun collaboration with legendary amusement park Liseberg in Sweden, in the shape of the “Peak Fear Experiment.”


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The lab’s booth at the annual Science Day in April 2023, getting ready for horror-hungry guests with a cameo appearance by Mr. Piggy.


We’ve also shared new research with the scientific community, with a bunch of publications in 2023. For instance, we published a paper on the relationship between mental workload and jump scare intensity, we published a paper on the psychology of creepiness, we published a book chapter on horror movies from a predictive processing perspective, we published a paper on the voice of evil, and we published a paper on Stephen King’s writing style. We expect to publish several new research papers in 2024 – stay tuned for more.

Halloween is always a high point of the year for us, not least since that’s when we do our annual haunted house study. Ever since 2016, we’ve done a haunted house study on-site at Denmark's scariest haunt: Dystopia Haunted House in Vejle. In previous years, we have looked at the strategies people use to manage their fear, we’ve looked at how different kinds of horror fans benefit from playing with fear, and we have looked at the relationship between fear and enjoyment. Much of our previous research has focused on psychological benefits of recreational fear, but this year we initiated a new collaboration with brilliant colleagues from Aarhus University Hospital to look at potential physical benefits of playing with fear. Is it good for the immune system to be chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac in a haunted house?