What Happens To Your Body When You Go Through A Haunted House


We all know what happens to your mind in a haunted house attraction — well, unless you black out from sheer terror and wake up an hour later whimpering in the parking lot, crouched in the fetal position, like I do. But as anyone who's enjoyed (or endured) one knows, in a haunted house, your body is on red alert the whole time, beginning with your anticipation in line and continuing throughout all the (hopefully fake) chainsaw brandishing and scarecrows come to horrifying life. In fact, you've probably noticed that it takes a while for your heart to stop racing afterward. (The nightmares, of course, will haunt your sleep forever. Can you tell haunted houses aren't my thing?)

Most historians credit Walt Disney with creating the first modern haunted house, Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, which opened in 1969. (Disney died in 1966, but according to Smithsonian.com, he first approved the project more than a dozen years before it opened.) Prior to Haunted Mansion, haunted houses were far cheesier or low-budget, but once the Disneyland attraction opened, the kind of haunted attraction familiar to modern audiences caught on. Fast forward several decades and haunted houses are a wildly popular industry unto themselves.

So what exactly goes on when you creep through one of these attractions? Here are nine things that happen to your body when you choose to have your pants scared right off.

Your Amygdala Is Activated

According to Bytesize Science, when something gives you a jump scare, your amygdala and thalamus are activated in the brain. The amygdala is responsible for releasing neurotransmitters that trigger a rush of adrenaline and other stress-related hormones.

You Freeze Or Jump

Dr. Abigail Marsh told BytesizeScience that one of the neurotransmitters released by the amygdala is carried deep inside your brain. This area causes you to involuntarily freeze or jump.

Adrenaline Is Released

The hormone adrenaline is released during moments of fear and excitement, and haunted houses have both in spades. Once your amygdala recognizes the source of stress — like, say, a chainsaw-wielding monster popping up beside you — it sends signals to the adrenal glands on your kidneys. These glands then dump adrenaline into your bloodstream, where it gets to work putting you in fight-or-flight mode.

Your Pupils Dilate

Haunted houses tend to be dark, so your pupils are likely dilated in the first place, but one of adrenaline's many effects is pupil dilation. According to ABC News, this lets more light into your eyes and allows you to see better.

Your Blood Flow Changes

A hormone similar to adrenaline, norepinephrine, affects your blood vessels in different ways depending on where they're located. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, vessels in your extremities constrict, while those in your liver and skeletal muscles dilate. Essentially, your body is directing more blood to large muscle groups — the stuff that will help you get away if necessary.

Your Heart Rate Increases

At the same time, adrenaline causes your heart to start pumping harder and faster, which raises your blood pressure. According to Tech Insider, this increase in heart rate may be why you feel shaky.

Your Breathing Increases

To provide your body with extra oxygen as your heart speeds up, your breathing rate also increases.

Glucose Increases In Your Blood

While the liver releases more glucose than normal, adrenaline and cortisol work together to make certain organs less sensitive to insulin. The end result is a bunch of extra glucose floating around in your bloodstream, waiting to be used up.

You Start To Calm Down

After the initial flight or fight response, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and returns your body back to normal. Well, until a killer clown jumps out in front of you and starts the process all over again.

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