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I went on a ‘Blood & Tears Walk’ to find out what the horrors of the future will hold

Beware the rise of the 'business psychopath'...

Every year on Halloween, thousands of us don copious amounts of fake blood and pale facepaint to immerse ourselves into the world of horror. This year, I signed up to the ‘Blood and Tears Walk', hosted by abnormal psychology researcher Declan McHugh, to see if he could explain why so many of us love to be scared, and even pay for the privilege.

Declan has run this tour for 18 years. He’s informed and chilled over 50,000 people. The walk, as he put it, is a ‘smorgasbord’ of nasty material throughout the ages, incorporating execution sites, conspiracy theory, and of course, serial killers. He calls it a a two hour-long "interactive experience".

The Blood and Tears Walk sets off in London.
Off we go!

Why do people pay to be scared?

It’s the immersive experience that keeps people coming, says Declan. Unlike the “pre-packaged and pre-digested horror we get through the TV screen” (a version of horror he describes as “comfy scary”), Declan takes people out of their comfort zone. Certainly at no point on the tour did I feel ‘comfortable’. “I came on this tour to be thrilled,”, said Andreas, another member of my group. “And there's nothing more chilling than being told these horrifying stories in the places where they happened.” He described the appeal as a “grim attraction” that all of us feel towards the “dark side of our psyche.”

How do the economics of an age play into the horror that comes out of it?

A lot of the horror that comes out of a historical period is related to social norms of how humans should (and shouldn't) be treated. It's a common thing to call the age between the Tudors and Queen Victoria "the good old times", but Declan reminded us that the value of life at this time was "cheap...very, very, cheap" (as in, people-commonly-being-disemboweled-in-public levels of cheap). The grim conditions he conjured up in our minds' eye were unsettling enough to remind us to be grateful for how much more 'expensive' life has become (through things like advances in human rights and people's empowerment.)

Another phenomenon that's related to how our societies and economies are structured is serial killing. Declan is fascinated by them. Research by him and others seems to show that people who become serial killers tend to have suffered a particularly ‘toxic’ combination of circumstances in their early lives. “People love to believe that serial killers are beyond human,” says Declan. “It’s comforting to think that those people are not like us.’ But in fact, the path by which people transform into individuals capable of committing such atrocities is often laden with societal isolation, as well as years of physical and sexual abuse.

What will the horror stories of the future contain?

It seems there’s a new brand of psychopath in the making, known as the ‘business world psychopath’. It’s a term for those who conduct their abuse in a corporate way, with the ability to cause virtually all forms of misery just short of death.

Another horror-inducing phenomenon on the rise is the transition from serial killers to mass murderers, made possible through technological advances in the arms industry. Mass murderers (described by Declan as those who go to a public place and kill as many people as possible in “the last throes of their desperate world”) are only able to carry out their acts of evil because the weapons for them to do so are mass-produced and readily available on the black market. The psychology behind this form of murder has been vastly under-researched, particularly in comparison to the psychology behind serial killing.

Perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that most ghost tours draw on a world we’ve left behind. The motivations behind horrors of the past were as difficult to understand back then as mass murder and ‘business psychopath’ behavior are now. As we work towards a better understanding of the circumstances that create the possibility for horror, we might be able to create a world in which horror is confined to a ghost tour, rather than our daily lives...

Check out the rest of Economy Explores: Horror

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?