Addicted to novelty since 2001

What’s More Shocking, Seeing or Hearing?

Here in Vancouver, my relatives have kindly put me up in their large and convenient guest suite in their building. There’s not wifi in the suite, though, so I regularly visit their apartment to check email and the like.

Last night I got in after midnight, and went up to their apartment to use my laptop for a few minutes. For no particular reason, I didn’t turn any lights on.

One of my hosts woke up and walked into the living room with her back to me. She didn’t see me. I’ve got about five seconds to decide how I should startle her: by speaking up or by just letting her turn around and see me (it’s dark, so I’d have kind of a ghostly glow from my laptop screen).

I opted to speak up, and, yes, I scared her. I accidentally do that to people quite often, even in broad daylight. Either it’s my deep voice, or I’m unintentionally sneaky.

In that situation, which way would you prefer to be shocked? Aurally or visually?

9 Responses to “What’s More Shocking, Seeing or Hearing?”

  1. Dave

    I’d go for visually. If someone turned on the lights, I’d be slightly startled and shocked, but comforted by the fact that at least I could see what was going on. A voice or noise in the dark would be alarming and frightful.
    Still, we’ve all been there. The worst feeling is when you’ve been thinking about how to handle it so long that alerting the person to your presence at all seems creepy.

  2. Laura

    Yikes! Poor host! I think I’d probably be glad for the way you did it too because if you said something in a friendly tone and identified yourself as Darren, she’d recognise you immediately. Without the lights on, if she only saw the outline of a guy sitting in her living room, she probably wouldn’t immediately realize it was you and would think she had an intruder!

  3. col

    I’m with Laura! I’d rather have you say something than suddenly see a shadowy figure. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve screamed very loudly!

  4. alexis

    I agree with both Col and Laura. Speaking up is better than just letting someone see you.

  5. Michael Kwan

    I opt for visually. I remember during my high school days, my mom would wait in the living room for me on nights that I came home late. She’d suddenly sit up in the dark and say “You’re home so late” or something to that effect. Her drowsy voice was much more unsettling than her presence.

  6. Andrew Ferguson

    Only hearing something is far scarier than just seeing something. We rely on our vision strongly to shape our definitions of reality and lock something into a particular shape.

    This is why horror films where the monster is never visible are so fun to watch.

  7. Brian El

    Last night I got in after midnight, and went up to their apartment to use my laptop for a few minutes. For no particular reason, I didn’t turn any lights on.

    Darren, this sounds highly suspicious — what systems were you hacking into and what data were you retrieving?

  8. MikeT

    Sound is much better than sight for me, but it also depends on proximity. A sudden noise or vision right next to me will completely freak me out, but one across the room isn’t nearly as bad.

  9. raincoaster

    You should have put on a fake voice and sat with your back to the screen so she wouldn’t know it was you. Then say something like, “Laura, we have come for you. Make peace with your god.”

    Also, you are so, so lucky your friends don’t live in the US. You’da been shot.

Comments are closed.