Here's a powerful thought about what makes things scary, from that dark rides story:
People have told me that if you’re scared by something that’s not that scary, it has more of an impact on you. You say, “Wow, I can’t believe that thing made me jump out of my seat.” Compared to what I’ve seen on TV, on video games, or at an IMAX theater, if this little thing makes me jump out of my seat, then I guess it’s pretty good.
As a kid, one of the most frightening sounds I ever heard was in the Laff in the Dark Pretzel ride we had at Crescent Park. It had an actual car horn installed at the very end of the ride, just before you went out into daylight. You saw your last figure, and you were in darkness. You could see a little bit of a crack between the two doors. You’d think, “OK, we’re going out.” And all of a sudden, a Chrysler Imperial car horn went off. Instantly, you went back to that time you were trying to cross Pawtucket Avenue, and some car sped up and almost hit you. That would play to your emotions, a simple thing like that.