The Fear of Fear Itself (and Other Esoteric Phobias)

Ransom Riggs

And you thought you were the only one who was "afraid of natural bodies of water because there might be shopping carts down there" (like this guy) or harbored a debilitating fear of lumpy foods, like this UK toddler who downs more than a dozen yogurts a day to compensate. Well, maybe you are -- but you can be certain that you're not alone when it comes to having esoteric phobias; for every thing, place, activity or concept in the world, it seems, someone's got a fear to go along with it. We're not interested in relatively common fears like hydrophobia or agoraphobia -- this is a list devoted to the weird, the rarely-documented, even the possibly-made-up; and if you've got one yourself, please share with us! We found a lot of these on sites like unusualphobias and phobiac, which encourage user-submitted phobias of the first-person-narrative variety; always good for a laugh, probably though not definitely true -- and usually not things you're likely to find in psychology textbooks.

Chronohypochondia: the fear of traveling back in time only to contract a now-curable illness which you die of because your time machine breaks down. One sufferer explains: "I have a fear that somehow I'll go back in time and get stuck there, then get some illness that we have cured now (like polio or the plague), and die from it all the time knowing that if I was here in time I would be saved. So, I've always wanted to learn how to make penicillin just in case." (We suggest you stay away from cheaply-made time machines from now on.)

Classicsphobia: the fear of Renaissance paintings, looming Greek and/or Roman statuary, and Greek gods in general. One lost soul confesses one of the strangest combination phobias we've ever encountered:

Hi, I have a very unusual fear, I have a fear of renaissance paintings. It sound weird I know but thats not all... along with that I have a fear of statues that are well done ( like big statues of people, mostly the greek statues), representations of jesus...and arches and domes (I can't stand under them if they are too big.) I also fear greek gods, very random I know but I fear Poseidon coming out of water when I'm in the pool or the beach... and I'm also scared if i'm under a big sky, by myself ... like a field or a place with no trees or buildings covering the sky ... I get scared that Zeus is going to come down from the sky. It's allllll SO weird, I know, but it has taken over my life because I can't go into many places because of it. On top of that, I have heard of no one with any of these fears. Please -- if anyone has anything like what I've mentioned email me and let me know because that would re-assure me. Thanks, L.

Hyper-specific numerophobia: fear of the number 211. I can relate to this a little: when I was younger, for several years I was convinced that the number 333 was stalking me. It seemed like every time I looked at the clock, it was 3:33 PM (or, more rarely, AM), and it appeared frequently on receipts and the like. I wouldn't qualify it as a phobia, however; more of a compulsion, like this sufferer:

"Somehow I developed the fear of dying while reading a book between pages 208-211, the odds of my death increasing with each number/page. This has generalized into a fear of the number 211 -- when I pass a digital clock around 2:11 I nervously check to see if the fatal number has passed or not. If it is 2:11 I'm compelled to wait till the "danger" is passed, at 2:12 [before resuming whatever I was doing before]."

Garthbrooksautophobia: fear of dying in a car crash while country music is playing on the radio. I better let the phobiac explain this one: "I have a fear of being in a car crash, and as I'm dying trapped in the wreckage, the radio gets stuck on a Country & Western Station, and I can't get to the radio to switch it off or change the station. I don't want to die like this! I've had this phobia since the age of 17, I'm now 36. - R.S." (We're assuming R.S. doesn't appreciate country music.)

Beepaphobia: fear of beeps, bells etc. This one's downright existential; sufferers seem to equate the irritating beeps that surround us in modern life (microwaves, timers, watches, phone rings) with some kind of existential countdown, signaling the eternal rundown of their personal life-clock. Here are two separate accounts of this fear:

"OK, I'm 15 and I have a fear of beeps! No kidding -- when something beeps (oven, alarm clock, etc.) my heart starts racing and I get all nervous and irritated. rrggg... it's soooo annoying!"

Howdy, I must drop a line stating I can concede with the fellow who is terrified with the sound of beeping. For several years I have thought that the justification was past due deadlines or the urgency of it all, but in the end I think I may be nuts. Whether it's the alarm on my clock or the beep of someone's cell I can't handle the constant "beep" or meep meep" of it all. I've come to the conclusion that each one signifies a notch in the belt of my demise. As though the timer has gone off for the end of my life & someone's neglecting it only to surprise me in the end. The last time a friend used a timer (was baking us a cake) I freaked out & stabbed him with a fork (he's ok, though he only makes Jello for us now). Is there a name for this? Sweet god it sucks.

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