seal  Purdue News

October 2, 2003

Halloween story ideas

Purdue University experts talk about Halloween-related topics, including the history of the holiday and if violent images on TV makes it harder to scare people.


Expert can talk about history of Halloween

While the witch is a common Halloween character, she was just added to make the holiday a little more interesting, says a Purdue University history professor.

"The superstition that Halloween has anything to do with witchcraft is a popular myth," says Melinda Zook, an expert in European history, specifically England. "Halloween has a lot to do with fertility, the harvest and the souls of the dead, but not witches."

Zook also can talk about the origins of Halloween and how the holiday has been modernized.

CONTACT: Zook, (765) 494-4122,


What does it take to still scare us?

Even after a steady stream of media images that depict war and terrorism, Americans are not immune to a good scare, says a Purdue University expert in mass media.

Glenn Sparks, a professor of communication, says emotional desensitization to scary media themes is certainly a possibility, but it varies from person to person.

"There are a vast number of things that can cause us to feel a basic threat to our sense of well-being," Sparks says. "For example, a person who is about to take a baby-sitting job may suffer anxiety after watching a media depiction of a baby-sitter who is being terrorized by a potential attacker. Consequently, when these themes are represented in a believable scenario with compelling acting and vivid images, there is still plenty of potential for TV and movies to scare us."

Sparks has conducted many studies that examine emotional reactions of children and adults to frightening or upsetting media depictions. Some of this research has resulted in tips for parents on how to deal with their children's fright reactions to media.

"Parents of children who are 5 years old or younger ought to pay particular attention to the visual appearance of movie or TV characters and try to prevent exposure to things that look ominous or threatening," he says.

CONTACT: Sparks, (765) 494-3316,