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When Times Are Tough, We Crave Scares

(CBS) --  At the "Statesville Haunted Prison," crowds are dying to spend 35 bucks just to get in.

"It was so scary absolutely nuts, " Angie Zaberniak tells CBS 2's Vince Gerasole.

Producers have their work cut out for them. When John La Flamboy with Zombie Army Productions first began producing haunted houses, a zombie oozing guts was enough to send crowds running.

"Now, 15 years later, kids walk up and they touch the guts, they poke the guts and they go, 'Is that silicone or latex?'" he says.

Take the plot at "Statesville," where more than 100 creepy-looking zombies have taken over the prison.  The actors get in the face of visitors, who are sometimes more amused than frightened, challenging them to escape.

"They're coming for a show," La Flamboy says.

Horror right now is quite a show.  This summer theaters were alive with the living dead of "World War Z."  The twisted plots of "American Horror Story" are now in their third season on television

And with 16.1 million viewers for this year's premiere, the zombies of "The Walking Dead" logged the highest ratings ever for a basic cable drama.

Columbia College's Brendan Riley teaches a course on zombies, horror-cinema and history.

"I think there is a desire to be scared right now because it relieves tension," he says.

And apparently in history, when times get difficult, Americans have flocked to horror for a good scare.

For example, the suspicions of '50s-era McCarthyism led to paranoia films like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The civil unrest of the late-1960s coincided with the emergence of the horror classic "Night of the Living Dead." And since the 9/11 attacks and the economic downturn, faster and more threatening zombies are calling to the masses.

Researchers say our reaction to a good scare is similar to how we respond to humor.  It releases endorphins in our brains, which make us feel good.

So don't cover your eyes.  The solution to tough times might be scaring away your fears.

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