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'I'll Never Have a Clown in My House!' Frightening Movies and Enduring Emotional Memory
Unformatted Document Text:  Frightening Movies 6 occurred, there was no specific suggestion that they should be included. In addition, although all students were asked to write a paper, they were given the option of writing about someone else’s reaction if they themselves could not recall having experienced one. Students’ permission was solicited to retain their papers for later analysis, with the assurance of confidentiality. This article is based a collection of 530 papers that were written from the fall semester of 1997 through the spring semester of 2000. It is notable that although the students had the option of writing about someone else's fright reaction, almost all of them (93%) wrote about their own experience. It is also interesting that even though they could choose to write about any type of content that had been frightening, the overwhelming majority (91%) of students selected fictional or fantasy content rather than the news or a documentary. In other words, most of the students wrote about something that was the product of an author's imagination rather than something that had actually occurred. The age at which viewers were exposed to the scary program or movie ranged from 2 years to adulthood. Several programs and movies were named by large numbers of students. The ten most frequently chosen media productions are listed in Table 1. There are undoubtedly multiple reasons why a particular production would appear on this top-ten list beyond the fact that it was extremely frightening. The more successful or widely seen the program or movie, the greater its chances of appearing in the top ten. In addition, timing of release is a factor, although with the wide distribution of films on video, and frequent showings of popular movies on TV, perhaps not as much as would have applied in the past. As can be seen from Table 1, the release dates of these presentations range from 1973 to 1999. In this article, I explore reactions to the top four films on the list, Poltergeist, Jaws, The Blair Witch Project, and Scream, in detail. This is not just because they are the most frequently mentioned, but because they represent an interesting variety: Two were rated PG ("Parental

Authors: Cantor, Joanne.
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Frightening Movies
6
occurred, there was no specific suggestion that they should be included. In addition, although all
students were asked to write a paper, they were given the option of writing about someone else’s
reaction if they themselves could not recall having experienced one. Students’ permission was
solicited to retain their papers for later analysis, with the assurance of confidentiality.
This article is based a collection of 530 papers that were written from the fall semester of
1997 through the spring semester of 2000. It is notable that although the students had the option
of writing about someone else's fright reaction, almost all of them (93%) wrote about their own
experience. It is also interesting that even though they could choose to write about any type of
content that had been frightening, the overwhelming majority (91%) of students selected
fictional or fantasy content rather than the news or a documentary. In other words, most of the
students wrote about something that was the product of an author's imagination rather than
something that had actually occurred. The age at which viewers were exposed to the scary
program or movie ranged from 2 years to adulthood.
Several programs and movies were named by large numbers of students. The ten most
frequently chosen media productions are listed in Table 1. There are undoubtedly multiple
reasons why a particular production would appear on this top-ten list beyond the fact that it was
extremely frightening. The more successful or widely seen the program or movie, the greater its
chances of appearing in the top ten. In addition, timing of release is a factor, although with the
wide distribution of films on video, and frequent showings of popular movies on TV, perhaps not
as much as would have applied in the past. As can be seen from Table 1, the release dates of
these presentations range from 1973 to 1999.
In this article, I explore reactions to the top four films on the list, Poltergeist, Jaws, The
Blair Witch Project, and Scream, in detail. This is not just because they are the most frequently
mentioned, but because they represent an interesting variety: Two were rated PG ("Parental


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