When True Crime & Halloween Meet: Why We Are Obsessed With the Dark Side

Available for Interviews: Dr. Hope Umansky

Dr. Hope Umansky is an American Culture College Professor with a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

What Dr. Hope can say in an interview on
Our Obsession With True Crime /Halloween:

Human beings are obsessed with Halloween and true crime because we are always in the proverbial “heart of darkness” (from Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella) in our minds—and this has a deep Freudian meaning—celebrating the ID—our most animal and dark nature that has no gatekeeper or impulse control.  

    • From one perspective, we want to know what is in our subconscious and unconscious minds. These dark impulses are unconscious because we are by nature animals. People want to explore these thoughts without acting on them to see how someone snaps or to think about what would make them lose control.
    • Children want to express being terrified as part of their ID or unconscious or subconscious minds as they become more developed and their impulses are less tangible. It is a way for children to explore morality and the deepest dark in an archetypal fairy tale mode—like the big bad wolf or the wicked witch. These archetypes live inside us and Halloween provides permission for us to creatively express those archetypes as they live inside all of us.
    • Human beings have a need to know what our primal, animal natures are capable of and what makes us have better impulse control. How could anyone be pushed over the edge into planning a murder or becoming a serial killer? What about a crime of passion? Humans want to vicariously live out those dark thoughts, even as children dress up for Halloween, as they are primal and archetypal. Children want to play a character or someone they are not, and enjoy trying on different identities. This is one day where kids can try on a “darker” version of themselves to “see” what it feels like. We like to watch Halloween movies or true crime drama, too. In Mexico the Day of the Dead is a holiday that people observe in order to pay their respects to friends and family who have died—and can take on a humorous tone. 
    • This is why Halloween is one of our guiltier and primordial pleasures. It allows us to play in the “heart of darkness” for a day, express a frightening archetype or mythology,  and then we pack up these archetypes and shove them out of our daily awareness until the next year or the next show. How else do we define it as normal having limbs with blood hanging from the trees by our front doors, eyeballs in bowls, skeletons, and bloody stuff everywhere as fun?! It is fun because our human nature needs to express these darker thoughts and impulses through archetype as an indulgence we can then pack away.
    • True crime has exploded as a genre recently, although it has always been a niche in mysteries, TV, movies, etc. because we want to explore these stories through a safe distance, or in creative expression (like dressing up for Halloween), or going to a haunted house knowing you will be scared. It is because we want to explore human beings’ darker, more primitive natures without committing to them or enlivening them in our regular lives. Additionally, in true crime stories, we want to explore the worst of our human natures as a measure of exerting some control over us, as well as be able to recognize a psychopath in our lives, or even as a way of maintaining control over our own rage and deeper, usually subconscious or unconscious impulses.

We will always be fascinated by people’s pathological or seemingly instant lack of conscience. Whether unconsciously or consciously, human beings realize that the line is really thin between right and wrong; good and evil; kindness and compassion over power, violence, and corruption. Our Hearts and Minds want to know on a primordial level, how terrified can I get? How dark can I go? Do I relate to these criminals or darker forces? It is one of the deepest mysteries humans have about morality.


Interview: Dr. Hope Umansky

Dr. Hope Umansky, a.k.a. Dr. Hope, is an American Culture College Professor and an author on educational reform, equity, inclusion, social justice & American culture. Her column, Dr. Hope On Point represents the intersection of historical context and popular culture, with an emphasis on the complex human experience.

Hope Umansky, PhD, offers a unique psychology-based perspective on the questions and events that weigh heavy on our hearts and minds.

Jo Allison
Managing Editor
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

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