The Durham Museum

Why do our hearts race, our knees shake, and our bodies sweat when we are scared? Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear, a new exhibit developed by the California Science Center, explores this universal emotion that can save our lives. Through fun, interactive challenges, you can experience fear in a safe environment and discover the science behind your physical and
emotional responses.

“We all experience fear, but many people do not understand why,” according to Dr. David Bibas, California Science Center Curator of Technology Programs and exhibit organizer for Goose Bumps! “This is the first comprehensive exhibit on fear that engages visitors with fun experiences that trigger an authentic fear response and then motivates them to learn how the brain and body work together in response to danger.“

Goose Bumps! begins with the Fear Challenge Course, where you can face four common fears in a safe environment. The first challenge, Fear of Animals, dares you to reach into concealed terrariums that might be the home of creepy-crawly creatures, on loan from The Henry-Doorly Zoo. In the next room, Fear of Electric Shock, you may feel your heart pounding as you anticipate getting zapped by a jolt of electricity. In Fear of Loud Noises you can test this innate fear that helps keep you out of harm’s way. Finally, the Fear of Falling challenge allows you to experience a sudden loss of support and then watch a video recording of your reaction to the backwards drop.

Another exhibit highlight is the Fear Lab, a section which explores the brain’s structures and pathways that drive the fear response. Meet Mr. Goose Bumps, a larger-than-life figure that illustrates, through animation, how the brain and body work together in response to danger. Real brains and brain slices preserved through the process of plastination are on display showing similarities in a key fear structure in the brains of humans and animals.
Other thematic areas in the exhibit include:

Faces of Emotion – You can explore the facial expressions of fear and other emotions that may be universal in humans. Cutting edge software is used to analyze and identify your facial expressions.

Fear in the Wild – A put-yourself-in-the-picture immersive video game allows you to explore common responses to danger, including freeze, flight and fight. Discover how fear helps all animals, including humans, stay alive.
Fear and Society – Some fears spread beyond the individual and become stronger as more people become afraid. A short film and exhibit displays how our collective fears are represented and transmitted through media and pop culture.

Coping with Fear – While a certain amount of fear is normal, some anxieties can get out of control. Find out what fears are common at different stages in life and learn about ways to help children move past their fears. Watch interviews with patients suffering from anxiety disorders to understand what happens when the fear system goes awry.

“Thriller” Dance Lessons

Sunday, October 13 and 27, 2PM
Professor Josie Metal-Corbin returns to The Durham Museum to bring even more fun to Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear. Join Josie and her team of instructors to learn one of the most iconic dances in recent history: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” No mere mortal can resist the perfect opportunity to add a little extra treat to your next Halloween party. Lessons will take place in the museum’s Swanson Gallery.

“Why Do We Fear the Wrong Things?”

presented by Dr. Joe Brown
Tuesday, October 15,
5PM Reception, 6:30PM Lecture

People face new problems every day. We often need to solve our problems quickly and without complete information. So we take educated guesses, or use intuition, basing our decisions on previous, similar experiences. However, our own narrow scope of experiences can lead us to biased solutions. In this program, Dr. Brown will show how we use this mode of problem solving – called heuristics – in estimating risk, and how this routinely leads us to overestimate some risks and underestimate others.  

Joseph Brown received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Michigan State University and is a professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He has published articles on attention, skilled performance and memory. He has been awarded the UNO Award for Excellence in Teaching andcurrently holds the Schumacher Chair of Ethics.

Durham Fear Faculty
Are you looking for a unique educational experience? Volunteer for the “Durham Fear Faculty” and spend time in our current traveling exhibition, Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear. The Fear Faculty will assist our visitors as they come face to face with their everyday fears and overcome these challenges. Volunteers will need to take part in a brief training session and commit to a minimum of 20 hours in the exhibit. Contact the museum’s education department at 402-444-5027 or

Union Station’s GREAT HALL-oween Haunt
Tuesday, October 29, 5-7PM
Halloween will arrive early at The Durham Museum. Bring your children in costumes and enjoy fun crafts and activities while viewing the current exhibit, Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear, created by the California Science Center.