What Scares YOU?!


Photo (c) Copyright 2015, New Media Investment Group.

It is almost Halloween. The Just Born Candy Company (the fine folks who bring us Marshmellow Peeps!) have Ghost, Tombstone, and Pumpkin Peeps (as well as some pricey limited edition flavors) out right now. They don’t have Spider Peeps. I consider that to be a good thing, for the reason set forth below.

Long time TKZ visitors will recall that I have blogged on the topic of fear and what scares you and me. Given that we are approaching Halloween, I thought that we might visit it once again, giving our more recent visitors a chance to weigh in as well. Fear is a great inspiration for writing. Take what you fear most and write about it, spinning the topic out to its worst case scenario. I have three major fears: 1) spiders, 2) spiders, and 3) spiders. I apparently have some notoriety in this regard as, when one does a image google of me, a couple of pictures of spiders appear within the montage of America’s Most Wanted posters. How nice. I also don’t care much for heights or closed-in places. Put me in a spider-filled coffin suspended fifty feet in the air and you might as well kill me. In fact, if I’m ever in that position, please do. I spray the interior and exterior of my house twice a year with an insecticide called Suspend (and a tip of the fedora to Carl Causey, husband of author Toni McGee Causey, for that suggestion!) but, as this article in the Friday morning news demonstrates, the spiders in my house and their homeslices have merely withdrawn and are regrouping on a bridge in Columbus, five to ten thousand strong, planning a flank attack even as I type. I’m waiting for you, demon spawns, with a sprayer full of Suspend and cleated boots and a twelve-gauge shotgun. I don’t care what the guy in the video in the article says, about how interesting they are, or how their fangs aren’t sharp enough to pierce the skin of a human being. Is he nucking futs? He’s gonna let one of those things get close enough to you to determine whether or not its fangs will break your skin? Not me.

There was a time during the past year when I was driving over that bridge twice a night, every night. No more. The current occupants are probably busily weaving the largest web you’ve ever seen, even as they chitter, “{{{wherrrzzz Joezzzz?}}},” ready to drop it on me as I drive by. It won’t happen. Obviously, I won’t be traversing that route until the temperature is somewhere south of zero and they are all curled up in a glare of ice. And those folks who are walking on the bridge to get a peek at what five thousand spiders — at least — look like? Unbelievable!

So what scares the living daylights out of you? Have you written about the topic of your (ir)rational fear? Do you plan to?


38 thoughts on “What Scares YOU?!

  1. No, I don’t blog about what scares me. However, my husband calls me the spider whisperer because there isn’t one who’s gotten away from me yet. Thwack! Perhaps I should charge for my services. 🙂

    • The Spider Whisperer, huh? That’s great. If you go into business, Sue, I could probably keep you busy and employed for years, though that Suspend seems to do the job. If you come to Columbus bring your tap shoes and I’ll give you a tour of the Main Street Bridge. Thanks for stopping by and sharing our mutual distaste for the things.

  2. Good morning, Joe.

    Probably my biggest hidden fear is being alone. Working with people all day (in my day job), I’m glad to come home to peace and quiet in the evening. But I was reminded yesterday and today how lost I am without my wife. Home on the couch with intestinal flu that hit her inner ear and stirred up her vertigo to the pioint she can’t move, she suddenly looks so helpless and is unable even to sit at the table with me or climb the steps to the bedroom. I sound like a newly wed, but we’ve been married for 19 years. And she is my best friend. Being without her would be unimaginable.

    And, yes, I’m writing about it. In my work in progress, the premirror moment psychology (JSB) is fear of being alone.

    Great post. Hope you keep those spiders away.

    • Good morning Steve. Thanks for stopping by and sharing those very intimate thoughts. I hope your wife has a speedy recovery. Vertigo is frightening — it’s like your inner gyroscope came a cropper. She’s lucky that she has an excellent physician at hand. Take care and thanks again.

  3. On a night safari in Kruger National Park, some of us got the courage to sit on the front hood of the open jeep as we drove through the savanna. It was pitch dark except for our headlights. Now and then the driver would turn off the lights so we could see the glowing eyes from a herd of something ahead, or so we could feel the full impact of the lions’ roar echoing through the night. Were they close? Were they hungry? We didn’t know. Yet all was calm in the jeep until we drove into a giant spider web woven across the path. OMG, the mad scrambling and blood-curdling screams to outdo any lion’s roar.

    • My husband and I spent a month on safari in Zimbabwe. Set in the center of a game reserve, we had been informed of the dangers of being outdoors at night, even day time required precautions as a couple had been mauled to death by lions two weeks prior to our visit, not to mention hippo, another very dangerous animal.

      My husband is a retired police officer and not easily frightened. He insisted we walk from the Boma (eating place) to our chalet without an escort after diner. I imagined lions in every shadow ready to pounce and devour us. That two minute walk was one of the longest in my life.

    • Nancy, I assume that Charlotte wasn’t home when Hurricane Nancy and her entourage came through! I would have been scrubbing myself raw for days after something like that. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I am wondering if you’ve seen the Castle episode where the bad guys seal a plastic bag filled with spiders over Castle’s head to torture him for information. This scene would probably give you nightmares. No, I do not write about things that scare me. I read the newspaper when I want to get scared. The books I choose to read, as well as the stories I write, are a means to escape from reality.

    • Ummm…no, Nancy, I have not. All someone would have to do is TELL me that they were going to do that to me and I would give up my dog and sainted mother. I have heard about a similar torture which reportedly originated in the Philippines known as the “rat in the box,” which doesn’t sound too pleasant either, but I could probably last, oh, at least fifteen seconds with that one. Thanks for the warning. I won’t be binge-watching Castle anytime soon.

  5. Hi Joe,

    Can’t say that I have much that scares the heck out of me. I’ve swum miles in rivers and the Pacific Ocean, hike amongst 9000 foot peaks, and trekked in the desert. I have what I consider the rational fears that most trail-runners have of things like rattlesnakes and mountain lions, but generally they don’t stop me from heading out the door. Bear sightings inspire awe.

    For my day job, six days a week, I walk roofs in all kinds of weather, take apart electrical panels, clamber through attics, and slither through crawlspaces.

    The closest thing I have to a true fear is that I may run out of time to accomplish the things I want to in life. I don’t write of it, but I do write because of it.

    • Hi Paul,

      That’s a fabulous motivator. We only have so many days and hours allotted to us, and as Thomas Aquinas pointed out in another context, we know not when our time runs out. Thanks for the push and the reminder.

  6. I mentioned in my above comment about the scariest walk of my life, but lions do not keep me awake at night, or haunt me in nightmares. Bears do. When I was twelve years old, I went alone to the theater to see Night of the Grizzly. I’d probably laugh now, but not then. The idea of an animal hunting you down with the intent to kill and eat you terrified me. This fear has grown to a phobia. I can’t look at a picture of a grizzly without incurring a mild panic attack, let alone see one in the wild. They are the stuff of my worst nightmares.

    Recently, scientist have proven that not only can a bear smell you from miles away, they will stalk you. Add in all the known bear attacks, and the fact I live in bear country, this isn’t an idle fear. However, I do admit its phobic nature.

    Yes, I have written about it. What thriller writer hasn’t written about a nightmare or two?

    • Cecilia, we’ll call this lions and bears and spiders, oh my! I would be far more worried about bears than lions, as a general rule. I have had a couple of friends who on different occasions run afoul of bears in the wild, with disaster a near thing. Apparently the worst thing you can do is run…

      An attorney and his client were out camping one night. They were awakened just before dawn by the sound of a bear growling in very near proximity. The attorney very quickly but quietly started getting dressed. The client said, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear!” The attorney replied, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Cecilia!

  7. In the last part of the 19th Century or the early part of the 20th Century, a member of my Dad’s tribe was found dead between Okmulgee and Okemah. They say there were large footprints around him. His body was drawn up and his hands folded as if he were praying. But his body language showed terror.

    Around my grandfather’s homestead in Okfuskee County, large, strange, smelly creatures roamed the night. My Dad, if I take away the tribal superstitions and lore, had a typical encounter with a Nokozjumi.

    I fear the big creatures that are night mysteries.

    • Jim, they are definitely out there. I have heard so many similar stories from tribes of disparate locations and cultures that there has to be SOMETHING out there that is smart enough to stay (mostly) hidden. And let’s not forget the Yeti. Thanks for sharing.

      One of my very earliest memories was of being in my crib and awakening to find a monster standing next to the crib and peering at my through the bars. I was assured by my parents that it was something they called a nightmare. I went along with that classification until age 31, when I saw the movie ET: The Extraterrestrial. The title character looked exactly like the thing I saw that night. I wonder if Steven Spielberg had a similar dream.

  8. Guns in the hands of crazy people. (and not so crazy people).

    This never used to even make my radar because guns themselves hold no fear for me and I believe in the right to have them. But not a day goes by when I don’t think of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, be in reading my paper in the bagel store or behind the wheel when someone behind me gets pissed off.

    • Kris, thanks for stopping by. As you probably know, I carry, and it’s not because I’m concerned about crazy people with guns. I’m concerned about crazy people period.Though it’s considered politically incorrect to do so, I profile for what I refer to as “DLRs” (Don’t Look Right). This would generally be defined as someone is who is behaving inappropriately or at odds with the time, place, and/or occasion where they are. Awareness is all. Listen to that inner voice that tells you to leave a situation where you feel uncomfortable, and leave. If you can’t leave and you’re not armed, make yourself inconspicuous until you can. A unarmed pack (two or more) of hostiles can kill you just as dead as an armed person with bad intent.

      • Joe, I confess I do the exact same thing re: DLRs. A kid who comes in the bagel store dressed wrong for the weather. Someone who just looks wound too tight. A weird look in the eyes. And if there’s a fight or a loud argument, I don’t stick around. I think we writers are hyper-observant anyway. But this necessary awareness you speak of is now a sad byproduct of daily life.

        • But all this said, I have an acute hatred of ants. And those giant cockroaches that can fly.

          • Kris, I do one other thing as well, which is when I am seated at a table in public I always insist on having line of sight on the front door. Thanks for the sharing your list with our audience. It’s a good one.

            Ants don’t bother me, but in a house they are an indication that something is not right. At one point in my life I discovered that my house at the time was on some sort of migratory ant path and the futzers would literally cover the patio and outside of the house. I applied undiluted malthion and it did the trick. They migrated elsewhere. Thanks again.

  9. Oh I have the typical fears of spiders and all forms of rodents. Also fear of being trapped in my current job for the rest of my life, which will literally be slow death (I know it sounds ridiculous but the job market here is very, very, very bad) and that kind of burnout is very, very real.

    Also fear of immobility. I have a completely bed-ridden loved one and watching that slow, years long decline is perhaps the greatest horror of all. When I go, I’m going out on my own two feet–with my proverbial boots on–however it needs to happen. Not a slow creeping death.

  10. I forgot SNAKES. We didn’t have poisonous snakes where I grew up in Maryland–they were usually black or green snakes. But who cares? A snake is a snake and the only good one is a dead one.

    My parents lived on about 3 acres and I was once walking in the yard beside the house when I saw a huge black snake. I screamed bloody murder and ran across the yard to hide behind a tree, only to find ANOTHER black snake stretched across the base of the tree. I screamed bloody murder and ran in another direction in the yard, only to find a THIRD black snake.

    I may forget everything else as I get older, but I will never ever forget that day. Here in Arizona rattlesnake country, I’m fortunate in that in all the times I’ve hiked in Arizona, I’ve only come across a rattler twice (2 times too many) but that’s a good ratio all things said.

    I even turn my face away when there’s a snake on TV–or leave the room altogether.

    • BK, I got chills reading about your encounter with the snakes. They don’t bother me, but you told the story so well. Thanks for sharing.

      Re: immobility, something is going to get you sometime, sooner or later, but I DON’T want it to be ALS. I have seen people go in that fashion and they have more courage than I do. Bless them. Hope that neither you nor I pass on that way.

  11. Fun post, Joe. I remember while growing up my family loved camping. Or what we called camping. Mom, Dad, four siblings and me in a 9X9 cabin tent with a back flap to fit over the back of the station wagon. Mom had a phobia of spiders – actually all insects – and once the tent was set up she would break out the cans of Black Flag and spray the place down. Completely. The tent fabric so wet it was translucent. For miles around, the wildlife stampeded in desperate evacuation. Birds dropped from trees.

    But, I’m thankful to report that none of us, lying in the station wagon and tent, in our insecticide induced near comas, listening to the dead silence of the totally defoliated camp ground, ever saw a spider.

    Mom later became a consultant to the Army for its Vietnam Agent Orange operations.

    • Dave, thanks for stopping by and sharing the story of your great mom! Several years ago I was at a function at a well known hotel in Phoenix. I had done my due diligence and discovered that the place had a problem with scorpions coming up through the air conditioning vents. I sprayed a good healthy dose of Black Flag into the vents and around the windows and stayed pest-free. Not all of my peers were so lucky. Mom’s always right, particularly if she’s Mrs. Williams!

  12. Maybe this is strange, but I’d rather stick my hand in a tub full of spiders than dip even the tip of a single toe in water at night. At least if a spider crawls into my workstation I can take a picture, google it’s traits to determine it’s species, and by extension, which insect sprays I should be using. But who knows what insidious creatures lurk beneath the black surface of night waters! It’s the not knowing that sends shivers up my spine.

    • A.S.P, that’s an interesting and fascinating one, for sure. Fear can be both strange and common. I’d like to see research at some point concerning the relative longevity between folks who fear nothing and those with phobias. You could also get a great title out of that…NIGHT WATERS…
      Thanks so much for your contribution!

      • Certainly the most horrific thing to discover would be broken glass, leeches, or something with teeth, but my cruel imagination (and too many B-rated horror flicks) tells me those specific Night Waters formed over an ancient Indian burial ground and beneath the full moon the bitter corpses are restless, tempted by a splash, alerting them to supple live flesh…bone fingers straining through the sludge of the lake bed to clasp an unsuspecting ankle… Nope!
        I’ll chance a stroll along the dull-toothed spider bridge any day of the week before stepping in those waters!!

        • A.S.P., I am HOWLING because when I thought about your particular fear I imagined tentacles of some sort wrapping themselves around my ankle. Dead fingers would work as well. Thanks!

  13. Because I live in Arizona I have to watch out for scorpions. Especially the ones that like to get into your bed at night!
    My husband and I were building our home when I asked our home builder whether there might be problems with scorpions. “Yes,” he said and proceeded to tell me about a famous basketball player that had been stung in his bed. I thought, okay that’ll never happen to me.
    I woke up one night with a burning sensation on my right knee. I thought this must be a dream but the pain did not go away. I scrambled out of bed and ran to the bathroom. My knee was hot red and painful to the touch. The thought ran through my mind that it had to be scorpion. As I walked back in the bedroom I woke my husband by saying, “I think there is a scorpion in the bed.” It didn’t take him long to get out of bed!
    Sure enough there it was trying to hide in the sheets. Scorpions are hard to squash and it took me several blows with a shoe to kill it. I had heard that scorpions sometimes travel in pairs so I stripped the bed but never found a second one.
    I do not like scorpions!

    • Cheryl, that is a horrible story. Oh, The Humanity! I’m glad you recovered. Does that trick of putting the legs of your bed in bowls of water (so that the evil little creatures drown when they try to crawl up the leg) really work? Or is that a folk tale? I also understand that they emit a wonderful, satisfying crunch when pressure in excess of fifty pounds is applied with force to their exoskeleton. True?

      I was amazed to discover who close they are to my native Ohio, given that they have recently been introduced into Tennessee.

      Thanks for stopping by and giving me something to think of tonight —-other than sugarplum fairies — when I lay me down to sleep tonight!

  14. Spiders?? Huh. I always feel kind of bad when I have to knock their webs out of my way and they have to build them again (especially now, during spider season). They don’t bother me at all. I’m far more fearful of being in a plane crash, or nuclear war, or the prospect of Donald Trump as president. I’ve written about none of these, although if I could come up with the right plane terror plot I would do so in a heartbeat. I’ve tried to come up with one, but everything seems so contrived. But not nuclear war. Either too depressing, or straight to a dystopian wasteland.

  15. Catfriend, those are definitely big picture issues, for sure. I would only note that as far as one of your fears is concerned, one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor. As for the others, the dystopian vision would work for you (though I would submit that THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy pretty much covered all of that!). Maybe writing about something that makes you happy, and twisting it around a bit so that it meets an adversary and ultimately triumphs, against insurmountable odds? In the meanwhile, here is a link to a search I did just for you. I thought it would be entertaining, but I’m laughing so hard that I can barely type. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Comments are closed.