UW Bothell Horror Class Thrills Students

Students carve pumpkins at Truly House.

One of the haunts for the horror class is the Truly House. (Gavin Doyle photo)

By Zachary Nelson
A horror class at the University of Washington Bothell is causing excitement around the school. Gavin Doyle’s course, Dead Things & The Art of Fear in the Written and Spoken Word, has become a popular Discovery Core class for first-year students.

They study a historical overview of horror. They delve into the psychology of fear. They even create a zombie survival guide. Not surprisingly, the students are eager to participate in group ghost storytelling and talk about their favorite scary movies.

Lauren Petri, a first-year student described her first day. “Since this was my first college class ever, being able to meet new people and have new experiences doing something I was interested in felt like a great starting point,” she said.

Doyle, who is an instructor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, remembers his college days and how he could get tired of just listening to lectures. “One of the best parts about my horror class is being able to get away from the standard lecture format and teach hands-on material including weekly discussion groups where students lead,” he said. “I also do field trips and events around campus.”

Natalia Stern, another first year student in the class who is interested in interactive media design, loved the field trip to the Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle to explore the “Scared to Death” exhibit.

“A student in our class had the idea of going to check out this exhibit, and professor Doyle approved it. It’s so cool that one of the students got to suggest an idea that actually added to the value to the class,” Stern said. “If you couldn’t make the field trip, the make-up assignment is giving the class a real haunted tour around campus. Even the make-up work is fun in this class.”

Petri loved the pumpkin carving event the class held before Halloween at the scenic — and some say haunted — Truly House located on campus. “It was a lighthearted, fun event. We all got together, carved pumpkins and drank cider,” she said.

She also described it as a good way to make friends and said she was grateful for the chance to check out a new area on campus.

That is exactly the kind of takeaway Doyle was hoping his students have. “These students are going to be going to school together, and I want them to form bonds with their peers. It’s important to form a sense of community on campus,” he said.

Doyle was delighted when UW Bothell first approved his idea for a Discovery Core class on horror. “I love Discovery Core because faculty get to do passion projects, and I have always loved horror films and storytelling,” he said. “The idea of Discovery Core classes is to teach students new to college about an interesting subject while also allowing them to discover more about the school.”

To teach students about how to access resources at the campus library, Doyle had the students search for horror stories as part of a research project. Students also had an assignment to take pictures around campus, which they later used to create a scary story.

“Discovery Core is one of the most powerful programs the University of Washington Bothell has,” Doyle said. His students couldn’t agree more.