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Is the Written Word Scary?

I’m interested in an idea that I’ve seen pop up a lot recently with regards to fear. Specifically, do you find the written word scary? Do you find films scary? Or rather do you find them, relatively speaking, scarier than written stories?

(Also let’s avoid “I never get scared” comments because my list of 'badass internet strangers' is simply too long and I can't afford to buy a bigger house to keep it in. So if you are a superhero who has never once experienced fear because of some unique personality quirk then just keep it yourself. Mm'kay?)

But do you agree with the statement that the written word can never be scary? I feel as though this perspective comes from the—bullshit— idea that only jump scares are frightening. Yeah sure the red face scene in Insidious is frightening, but so is the ominous tone of Lovecraft. It basically requires you to insist that only jump scares count as scares and that’s just ridiculous. I don’t believe that the written word cannot be scary just because it can’t startle you. Furthermore, if the written word can never be scary then why in hell are creepypastas and Stephen King so damned popular!? They’re clearly scaring someone.

But I must admit I don’t get scared reading creepypastas, and it’s not why I read creepypastas either. I read them for the imagination. It’s the same reason I have an interest in horror regardless of medium. Horror, more than any other genre (for me at least) is imaginative. It can do ridiculous things. While most blockbusters can’t pull away from the three act hero’s journey, films like paranormal activity never leave the fucking house. I read and watch these things and I feel exposed to ideas that I don’t get to see anywhere else and I enjoy that. This is why I often place a premium on originality. It’s why I’ve bought Junji Ito’s entire bibliography (barring the cat stuff) in the last year. It’s why I get the significance of Lovecraft. It’s why I like creepypastas in the first place (that dogmeat apocalypse story is fucking insane) and why I’m on entry 1400 of the SCP wikia (whew, that’s been an ordeal of varying quality).

So do you read creepypastas to get scared? Do you believe the written word is flat out inferior to movies when it comes to fear in general? Or is it just for jump scares? Do you think the written word can ever achieve a jump scare? And do you feel the same about comic books which share certain qualities with both literature and film? Are they also exempt from the jump scare? There are lot of ideas floating around on this topic, I'd love to hear some of yours.

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