Why do you think zombies are scary

Horror clowns and zombies also keep the research busy

Many people are not entirely at ease with clowns - this is not only true on Halloween. Where this fear comes from and whether Knobli actually protects against vampires: Scientists have taken a close look.

On Halloween they come out of their hiding places: vampires, zombies, ghosts and witches. The fact that the fear distance has to be somewhat larger this year due to the corona may not prevent Monster from attacking.

It's good who is equipped with garlic against a vampire attack - at least that's what the vernacular says. Is there anything to it? These and other horror myths put to the test:

Can you keep vampires off your neck with garlic?

Snacking on Knobli in the hope of warding off Dracula's nocturnal visit - that could turn out to be a fatal mistake. Because the white growth is known to be able to make human blood healthier and thinner. For vampires it might be the purest feast.

Years ago, two Norwegian researchers examined the behavior of bloodsuckers towards the fragrant tuber. "Due to the lack of vampires, we used leeches instead," write Hogne Sandvik and Anders Baerheim in their 1994 study.

The animals had to choose between a hand smeared with garlic and a clean hand. The result: two out of three voted the stinky sick. In addition, it only took them about 15 seconds to attach to the garlic hand - the clean one took three times longer.

In the case of another bloodsucker species, the mosquito, laboratory studies have not been able to determine any influence of garlic, as the American Mosquito Control Association writes: neither as a repellent nor as a lure. Will vampires end up behaving differently from leeches or mosquitoes? Wait.

Why do clowns seem creepy to some people?

There are horror clowns like Pennywise from Stephen King's cult novel "It" or the nasty Batman antagonist "Joker". These figures were specially designed to spread fear and terror. But also the supposedly nice jokers who form balloon figures and stumble clumsily over their own square flippers make one or the other sweat on the forehead. The pathological fear of clowns even has a name of its own: coulrophobia.

The US psychologists Francis T. McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnke found in their 2015 study on the nature of creepiness ("On the Nature of Creepiness"): Many have a queasy feeling about characteristics that are often attributed to clowns - for example when the behavior of a counterpart cannot be predicted or facial expressions and gestures cannot be correctly interpreted.

McAndrew writes that unusual features such as excessively long fingers, protruding eyes or a strange smile in and of themselves did not increase the feeling of horror in the survey. "But strange physical characteristics can reinforce all other weird tendencies." The test subjects found clowns the most gruesome - in front of taxidermists, sex shop owners and undertakers.

But that's only one side: studies also show that clowns can have a positive effect on the recovery of sick children, for example. And horror veteran Stephen King once wrote: "Most of them are good, cheer up the kids, make people laugh."

Why are zombies walking so weird?

In the cinema, zombies are usually shown as slowly trotting, stiff dowsing rods, driven by the urge for fresh meat, chasing after their victims with outstretched arms and choppy steps. In films like “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), the victims usually only blessed the temporal when they were surrounded by a whole horde.

What's going on in the brains of the undead? The two US neuroscientists Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek answered this question in their 2014 book "Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?" («Do zombies dream of undead sheep?»).

Because the monsters head specifically for their victims, the two researchers believe that the areas in the cerebral cortex that are important for movement sequences - the motor cortex - are largely intact. But from the clumsy step and rigid movements, they conclude that the so-called basal ganglia or the cerebellum may no longer function properly. Just like with Parkinson's patients, people with tics or ataxia sufferers, in whom the fluid interplay of movement sequences is disturbed.

Researcher Voytek made it clear: "No type of brain damage could make something like a zombie possible."

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