Margee Kerr is a fear junkie. Roller coasters, haunted houses, heights, abandoned prisons, ghosts (well, maybe), even death—she confronts them with the relentlessness of a zombie Terminator. . . . Kerr goes deep into the biological and scientific definitions of fear, rather than dismissing the experience solely as an emotion. . . . “Every organism, from the fruit fly to the human, has a defense or threat response,” she reminds. “It’s one of our survival circuits.” Carlos Lozada, review of Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear by Margee Kerr, Washington Post, October 22, 2015
Dr. Margee Kerr is a sociologist who conducts research on fear, specifically how and why people engage with scary material. Dr. Kerr is the co-investigator on a first-of-its-kind study that measures how the brain and body respond to “fun-scary” experiences like haunted attractions, paranormal investigations, and thrill rides. She works as a consultant for attractions and museums and is the author of Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear, named as a must-read by the Washington Post.
For Tuesday Evenings, Dr. Kerr presents “Scream: Why we love, or loathe, thrills and chills,” delving into the many ways we choose to scare ourselves—from haunted houses to roller coasters to ghost stories around the campfire—and the social, physical, and psychological benefits that can follow. Drawing upon her essay for the book Misty Keasler: Haunt, she brings her findings back to Misty Keasler’s photographs of haunted houses that are featured in the Modern’s special exhibition.
Image credit: Misty Keasler, Abaddon Hall, Haunted Overload, Lee, NH, 2016. Archival pigment print, 60 x 60 inches. Courtesy the Artist and The Public Trust