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FRIGHT CRISIS
by Brick Walters, 10/22/99

Listen (RealAudio 3.0)

DC: With Halloween becoming a very large industry, the people who work in it have come up against their first industrial crisis.
Brick Walters reports.

(sfx: howl)

Brick: On a moonlit October night, in the darkest recesses of a rickety old house at the end of a deserted street ...

(sfx: creaking door)

... an eight year old girl and her brother push open a doorway clearly marked ... "Beware." Waiting behind that door ... a stranger ... an overweight middle aged balding man who is desperate ... and hungry.

Roger: (scary) Bleaughghahhummmamaauamandhdl!

Faith: (dryly) Who are you?

Roger: I'm the MAD SQUEEZER! I squeeze people to death! And I'm going to get YOU! Bleaughghghghghghghghgh!

Faith: OK. I don't care. Or better yet, get him first. He's my brother ... I wanna see his eyes bug out.

Roger: Very well then ... I'll squeeze you BOTH!

Faith: (fading) (laughs) Right. I won't hold my breath! Come on, Alex ... let's find something REALLY scary.

(sfx: howl)

Brick: The Mad Squeezer is a 44 year old chemical engineer, Roger Hughes.

Roger: After those two left ... I wept. I ... it makes me so sad to see that children cannot be frightened any more ... (tearing up) ... by a simple gruesome threat!

Brick: What's going on? I asked Valerie Murgatroyd, senior analyst for the Feelings Foundation, a center for the analysis of National Emotive Trends.

Valerie: (jumpy) The fear threshold is too high. It's a matter of conditioning and stimulus. We get used to the stimulus ... and it takes more and more of it to get a reaction.

Brick: So you're saying it's just harder to scare people today?

Valerie: That's ... AGHGH! What's that!

Brick: It's the microphone.

Valerie: Of course. Sorry. It was suddenly in my face.

Brick: Would you feel more comfortable if I stepped back?

Valerie: (relieved) Yes! Thank you.

Brick: So scaring people ... is harder?

Valerie: (off mic) Overall ... yes. They've been desensitized.

Brick: (annc) Desensitized by slasher movies and the evening news, surveys show Americans have become the hardest people on Earth to scare. And yet, at the same time, they are also the most frightened.
How can this be true? To pollster Frank Stein, it makes perfect sense.

Frank: Look! The numbers! The numbers will tell you the story! The numbers talk! They do!

Brick: What do the numbers say?

Frank: What do they say? They say that people are afraid! They're afraid every day! Car alarms are up! Home alarms are up! Listen! Listen to what the numbers are saying. Personal defense class enrollments ... up!
Concealed weapons laws ... up! These numbers all say FEAR! FEAR is UP!

Brick: But the people who are in the profession of trying to scare people ... filmmakers and haunted house operators ... say the audience is too tough. Too cynical.

Frank: Yes! I already know! The numbers told me. People aren't afraid of the professional ghouls and haunted house demons and art film maniacs!
It's the amateurs! They're the ones! The professionals don't stand a chance against them. Amateurs have ruined horror for everyone!

(sfx: large heavy door slams shut)
(sfx: cackle)

Brick: The so-called "Fright Crisis" has led to low morale in Hollywood and behind the scenes at haunted mansions all over the country.
Aside from the entirely predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth, there is little one can do about it ... unless your name is Heather Romping.

Heather: We changed our Hell House around COMPLETELY. No more witches, no more bones, out with the cobwebs and the vampires and the chain saws! Traditional spooky images are too far removed from the most frightening things in most lives!

Brick: So when a person enters your "Hell House," what do they see?

Heather: A backed up toilet, a baby that won't stop pooping, a refrigerator full of last June's leftovers, an executive staff meeting waiting for you before it can start, a car with two flat tires, lots of weeds, a pregnant cat, a basement waterproofing contractor, a dentist and an airline ticket agent.

Brick: Yiii. This is all about US. We don't fear the supernatural ... we fear ourselves.

Heather: And it goes downhill from there.

Brick: And the response has been ...?

Heather: Good. The state mental health department tried to shut us down. Twice. You can't buy publicity like that.

Brick: (annc) (dramatic) Is this the way of the future for fear in America? And should we embrace it, or recoil in horror? One thing is certain ... our reaction determines what happens next. If we embrace this "new" fear, it may force people in the fear industry to come up with something worse. If we recoil in horror, we must ask ourselves ... "what have we become?" Out in the field, I'm Brick Walters.

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