The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

For The Thrill of It

The fall season brings thrill-seekers to spooky sights
Neal Wong
Tommy Netzband talks in front of the former home of cult leader Jim Jones during his Haunted Haight Walking Tour in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 7, 2023. (Neal Wong/Xpress Magazine)

Standing in the middle of Buena Vista Park, a small crowd listens to static transmitting from the small electromagnetic field transmitter. They wait, hoping for something to try and contact them from the spirit world.

Tommy Netzband’s REM pod is seen on the ground during his Haunted Haight Walking Tour in San Francisco, Calif. On Oct. 7, 2023. A REM pod is a device that radiates an electromagnetic field. Netzband claims that they may light up when they detect ghosts. (Neal Wong/Xpress Magazine)

The crowd makes its way around the neighborhood, listening closely to the creepy stories they are told on the Haunted Haight tour. As it gets dark, the stories seem to feel scarier. On edge, the smallest abnormal sound makes the group jump.

As the fall season begins, the temperature drops, fog begins to roll in and Halloween looms ever closer.

Why do people go out of their way to get scared? 

Thrill-seekers watch horror movies, listen to ghost stories and walk on haunted tours, for the adrenaline that they might experience something paranormal. While in a controlled setting, the feeling of fear can be enjoyable. 

“People like novelty,” said SF State psychology professor Gaurav Suri. 

“There is a built-in search for novelty,” said Suri. “With what Halloween is doing, it’s giving you the novelty of fear in a controlled environment. So you’re experiencing it but you’re experiencing it in safety.” 

When a person gets scared, their fight-or-flight instincts get triggered, which causes a person to experience many different side effects. There is a release of adrenaline that a person might seek out, said Suri. 

“We are experiencing increased heart rate, we are experiencing sweat, we may experience changes in breathing [and] we may experience the arousal of adrenaline. All those combination factors cause the fear response that we experience,’’ said Suri. 

Back on the Haunted Haight Walking Tour, encountering ghosts and fear is something that professional paranormal investigator, Tommy Netzband has become very familiar with. The program took Netzband nine months to perfect, and he has been sharing his paranormal knowledge with San Francisco for the last 20 years.

Tommy Netzband gives a short presentation on his iPad during his Haunted Haight Walking Tour in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 7, 2023. (Neal Wong/Xpress Magazine)

“Everyone experiences fear a little differently,’’ said Netzband. “Some just completely freak out and run, some freeze, some go in shock — there are so many facets of being scared.”

Residual hauntings are the most common kind of hauntings, according to Netzband. This kind of haunting is a trapped or imprinted memory or energy that hosts an environment. A residual haunting most often occurs when something traumatic happens in the space.

“Aren’t ghosts in our minds?” asked Netzband. “Absolutely, I think they work through our minds, if we are consciously connected through our consciousness.” 

Only 10% of the cases that Netzband is called to investigate are concluded to be true paranormal activity. 

SF State has had its own rumors with the potential of being haunted. The on-campus murder of Jenny Low Chang in 1977 remains unsolved, and the 13th floor of the Towers at Centennial Square dorms leaves students feeling uneasy. 

“When walking through the HSS building, it gives me an eerie vibe, I don’t feel alone there,” said Sierra Bradford, a fourth-year psychology student. “I just always feel like there is someone around each corner, and maybe there might be or maybe I might be paranoid.”

“Towers was also that same energy when you would go down to the first floor,” continued Bradford. “It was always very dimly lit and cobwebs on every corner, you know, it was very disturbing for my spirit.”

The effects of being scared may be different for everyone, but it is an experience that is uniform. Some people feel fear with a great force, while others are unfazed. 

Andi Campos, a fourth-year SF State psychology student, enjoys the eerie and spine-chilling feeling she gets from being scared and often finds herself gravitating toward media with ghostly themes. 

“I’ve had lots of family stories passed down and I feel like I bring that onto myself because I am always watching scary movies, and scary shows and scary podcasts,” said Campos.

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About the Contributors
Sydney Williams
Sydney Williams, Social Media Editor
Sydney Williams (she/her) is the social media editor for Xpress Magazine. She is a transfer student at SF State majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. Sydney is originally from Bakersfield, California, and resides in San Francisco. She previously served as the opinions editor and lead page designer on CSU Bakersfield’s student-run paper, The Runner. Sydney hopes that she gets to learn and grow while being on Xpress magazine this semester. During her free time, Sydney enjoys listening to music, crocheting, and traveling.
Neal Wong
Neal Wong, Staff Photographer
Neal Wong (he/him/his) was born and raised in San Francisco, attended Washington High School, where he performed as a lead in multiple plays and a musical and is currently a photographer for Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine. His photos have been published by the San Francisco Bay ViewSan Francisco Public Press, and Mission Local. Neal also created and teaches an SFSU Experimental College course titled Adventures in SF, which takes students on weekly field trips to little-known, interesting places. His hobbies include cooking, traveling, and reviewing places on Google Maps.

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