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I've asked this question allot, and I've discovered it all depends on who you ask.
I doubt there is any objective standard to measure which is more frightening, the living or the dead.
This is psychological horror, dread and fear of the unknown, versus visceral horror and fear of dismemberment and death.

To me, I see someone wielding a knife and I believe I could be just as intimidating and equally dangerous to their well being.
After all, I am the same as they are. I am perfectly capable of being the thing that individual is afraid of.
I am not as scared of a psychopath or serial killer, or the random acts of violence committed by gangs, because I can at least defend myself.
The fact that they can bleed, or suffer pain, or limp from a broken bone makes them less frightening to me.

However, supernatural entities intent on causing hurt, might not be as vulnerable.
It might be like dangling above a shark tank filled with hungry jaws waiting to snap closed around me.
How do you fight a great-white shark when you are alone in the middle of the waters?
A malevolent spiritual being (Or its equivalent) doesn't need to necessarily obey the same rules we do.
Can't hide, can't run, can't fight. And who's to say your suffering will end with death?

Of course, this is simply my opinion based on the idea of choosing what type of evil I would RATHER face.
If I was made to decide which of the two I would rather deal with, I would choose the one I understand and could fight back.
The police can't help with the dead.

My wife on the other hand finds the idea of ghosts or spirits laughable and cannot fathom being scared of anything but a chainsaw wielding madman.
This is a practical approach to fear, because she imagines one does not exist, she will not entertain the thought.

Which do you find more frightening?
A chainsaw wielding murderer intent on killing you, chasing you through an abandoned house.
Or a chainsaw murderer wielding intent on killing you, chasing you through an abandoned house... Who is already dead.
Lucien Astor
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I have always thought this quote from the introduction to the Dunwich Horror to be thoughtful:

"Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimaeras - dire stories of Celaeno and the Harpies - may reproduce themselves in the brain of superstition - but they were there before. They are transcripts, types - the archtypes are in us, and eternal. How else should the recital of that which we know in a waking sense to be false come to affect us all? Is it that we naturally conceive terror from such objects, considered in their capacity of being able to inflict upon us bodily injury? O, least of all! These terrors are of older standing. They date beyond body - or without the body, they would have been the same... That the kind of fear here treated is purely spiritual - that it is strong in proportion as it is objectless on earth, that it predominates in the period of our sinless infancy - are difficulties the solution of which might afford some probable insight into our ante-mundane condition, and a peep at least into the shadowland of pre-existence. - Charles Lamb: Witches and Other Night-Fears"
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Granted it was back in the 70's but seeing a little girl possessed by a demon and turning into a monster was the most terrifying,frightening thing I've ever seen. I saw it on a 50 foot movie screen Smile

Honestly, I could never watched that movie again. It did inspire me though Smile
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Stoltz got to it before I could. The unknown is infinitely more terrifying. Not knowing what you face engages imagination, fear and dark fantasy. Living/dead - simply states of being. The concept of not knowing what you face can create paralysis...
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The,Dead !

You can make the living,the dead! Via,different methods...

Then, there is both...Megan, scared me at a very young age!
We,camped out in a friends yard after seeing this! My friends,older sister's boyfriend,thought he would have some fun! He,ran across the yard, and jumped through the tent door! He,Thought! He jumped in the backside of tent,with no door! Wiped, the tent out! LOL
It was not, funny then !
"If you watch Godzilla backwards, it's about a big ass lizard who helps rebuild a half burnt-down city, then moonwalks back into the ocean"
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On 2012-11-25 11:59, Dr Spektor wrote:
On 2012-11-25 10:59, DrTodd wrote:
Freddie Kruger is terrifying...if your dream it, it happens...kept me awake for days ....

I concur that living are more terrifying

Hannibal Lecter
The villain in Silence of the Lambs...'it puts the lotion on its body...'

That was Buffalo Bill Todd...tch tch

Hannibal was terryifing as were the nazis etc as what appears to be enlightened civilized people can demonstrate how quickly the beast is within us and in certain contexts all morals and ethics seem to dissolve into the banal murderous violence the human race has never escaped... we all still have the reptilian brain... and that is truly terrifying

Yes I know doc, I was trying to say both are scary, Hannibal and Bill...came out wrong :-(
Eddie Garland
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“Here is a list of terrible things,
The jaws of sharks, a vultures wings
The rabid bite of the dogs of war,
The voice of one who went before,
But most of all the mirror's gaze,
Which counts us out our numbered days.”
-Clive Barker
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Of the three examples in the OP I find "The Shining" to be the scariest.

It seems like a lot of opinions are based on assumptions as to what a ghost can or can't do. If a supernatural evil force has telekinetic powers it could do anything it wanted to you and have no physical vulnerability to exploit. I don't see any reason why one or the other would be inherently scarier than the rest if taken to it's extreme. The fear of pain, death, etc. could (it seems to me anyways) could come just as strongly from any direction.

Still for me psychological horror mixed with supernatural is tops. Insanity whether as the cause or effect or both is very scary. The Lovecraftian horror of your whole sense of reality and the nature of the universe collapsing is pretty good too.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Todd Robbins
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It would be fun to combine the two. If you did the Fairy Goblet on yourself or the Kirkendall Philosopher's Stone and while in the midst of the transformation did a bit of a reading, hinting at all the terrible things you will do with that information ("I'll be visiting you tonight at your home in Glen Cove"), it could be a rather terrifying experience for the audience.
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The cross-over between foretelling someone's doom or making a promise to visit them in their bed one night...

There's a line where it blurs I'm sure...
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The evil of the human mind is tangible. People know it exists. There is no doubt. Its confirmed as real. With the spirt or paranormal, there is doubt and mystery, that when pushed to ultimate fear, the mind can justify that it may just be imagination... that it may not be actual. I think there is a small window of escapism with paranormal that doesn't exist with human evil.

For example - the movie Hostel. Its brutal. Sadistic human triggered fear. You are locked in a room and tied to a chair with a maniac infront of you holding a power drill... there is no escape. no "maybe".

I do like the idea of blending the two - a human sadist influenced by what appears to be paranormal... is he crazy, or possesed? you don't know... but you do know he is there in front of you.
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Todd Robbins
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On 2012-11-26 09:55, mmreed wrote:

I do like the idea of blending the two - a human sadist influenced by what appears to be paranormal... is he crazy, or possesed? you don't know... but you do know he is there in front of you.

I think this has great possibilities for bizarre routines. We tapped into this a bit in Play Dead. The audience was locked in the theater with the spirits of some not very good people AND the man who gleefully called them forth. It was hard to tell who they were more afraid of.
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