By Alexandria Hoff


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Halloween is a week away. It’s the perfect time of year to turn off the lights and turn on a scary movie.

And that’s exactly the assignment one Rutgers professor handed out to his medical students after he won a huge contest. This is no trick.

‘Tis the season of scary at Terror Behind The Walls inside Eastern State Penitentiary. Visitors are here for the horror but when we asked about horror films, the crowd was divided.

“I just don’t like to put myself in that mindset,” one woman said

“When it comes to horror movies, I like the emotion behind it. I like being scared, I like the jump thrills,” one man said.

The emotion behind it, interesting, because that’s what Dr. Anthony Tobia, a psychiatry professor at Rutgers University,  is looking for.

“Bringing up those emotions is actually part of the didactic in the curriculum,” Tobia said.

Out of 500,000 applicants, Tobia was chosen as the winner of a unique contest offered by USDish.com. It’s been dubbed the Stephen King Challenge.

“We have to watch 13 Stephen King films before Halloween. We have to chart our heart rate, our sleep log — we have to post that,” Tobia said.

Credit: CBS3

Tobia is also incorporating the films into his own teaching of medical students, where King’s characters are now serving as a fictional case study into mental illness.

“I think our group can find teachable moments in all horror films,” he said.

How about those who want to try horror films but feel too anxious about identifying with the films’ victims?

“In those cases, if individuals want to give it a retry, an active effort to identify with the antagonist will actually give them a different perspective and many occasions we are told by our students that anxiety levels significantly reduce,” Tobia said.

Tobia and his students started watching the films on Monday. They have seven more King movies to go.

By the way, the prize for watching the 13 films is $1,300, which he says will be divided among his students.

Alexandria Hoff