Friday, October 10, 2014

The Only Thing We Have to Fear...

RHYS: Halloween is almost upon us. How could we forget? All the stores are full of creepy things—fake blood dripping from severed fingers, zombies rising from tombstones, the grim reaper waiting to grab the unwary.  And worst of all, fake hairy spiders in webs.  I have to confess that I’ve never been to keen on  Halloween.  I don’t mind the candy (and yes, I do buy about three packets too many of Snickers and Kit Kat) but I don’t like being scared.  I guess that’s why I don’t read or watch horror. It’s all too real to me. I can tolerate the type of horror movie in which giant tomatoes swallow Manhattan, but movies like the current Annabelle in which a doll is possessed by a demon and a baby is in grave danger…. There  is no way I’d ever want to watch.

Okay, I’m a wimp, I know. Or I am blessed with too vivid an imagination. I can tell myself they are only actors, but it’s no good. I’m actually not at all scared of snakes. I killed four copperheads when we lived in Texas.  I guess we all have silly, irrational things that we are scared of. Some people are scared of clowns. I’ll confess to being scared of the dark, of spiders AND of moths. I don’t like the way they flutter at me. And once my family rented a condo in Mazatlan, Mexico and we saw a black moth with a wing span of about eight inches (I’m not kidding). It was fluttering in the palm trees outside our condo.  I went out and when I came back the kids said, “Hey mom, that moth went into your bedroom.”
“Ha ha,” I said. “Very funny.”
“No, really,” they said.
I didn’t believe them. I went into the bedroom and started pulling back the blinds around each window. “You see” I said “You can’t scare me with your silly….” And then it flew out in my face.  My scream could be heard by passing cruise ships.
But as well as moths my other irrational fear is of showers. I’m always afraid I’ll turn it on and get a blast of cold water coming at me, Or I’ll turn it the wrong way and be scalded to death. So  I have to turn on the tap very carefully while still outside the shower, then ease myself inside. Silly, huh?
So Reds, do confess. Do you have any silly or irrational fears? Do you like being scared?

LUCY BURDETTE: wow, Rhys, I would have screamed too! Here's one of the things I hate most: house centipedes. The worst moment came two weekends ago. I'd brought my fancy black dress with feathers all around the knees. When I went to take it out of the closet, one of those creatures burst out of my feathers. I screamed and screamed and John had to go in there and hunt it down. I worried all night that there were more hiding in my finery!

I'm scared of other things, like crazy maniac drivers on highways, but that seems reasonable to me...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: No. I do not like being scared. I do not like being surprised. And I do not like crawly things. If I saw a centipede? I would completely disapparate.  I recently posted a photo of a HUGE spider on Facebook, it was in our back yard and I was incredibly proud of myself for taking the photo without flinching. .Too much. If I see a spider in the house? Forget about it.  Why is that so scary? They are small, and not particularly fast. Once i had a BAT in my condo. I was by myself, so I knew I could either freak out or handle it. And I was alone. I mean--a BAT! It's a long story, but I prevailed. I am loathe to admit it, but if I see any kind of bug, I call Jonathan. Is that--awful?

Maniac drivers--they are ridiculously everywhere. And pedestrians who SAUNTER, or LEAP out, and are on the phone.. And I am the most scared of something bad happening to someone I love. But that's not silly.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I admit to getting creeped out when I'm alone at night in an old house or the library. I KNOW there's no one lurking in the dark and I don't believe in ghosts or other Hallowe'en-type phenomena, but it sets me on edge just the same. And of course, whenever my kids are traveling or driving or (and this is a BIG bugaboo) swimming in the river, I'm afraid Something Bad will happen to them. But like Hank, I can't really say that's silly.

I do have one that it genuinely silly. Ever since I read a scene in one of Lee Child's books where someone looks through the peephole in a hotel room and gets shot in the eye, I've been afraid to look through peepholes. Since I'm not a Russian mobster or corrupt military officer (frequent victims in Lee's books), I can rationally state my chances of getting shot in the eye are extremely low. But still.

HALLIE EPHRON: Lucy's house centipedes terrify me, too. They're like creatures from another planet. And they slither up from the drains. And... AAAAAGGGH!

And oh thanks, Julia. Now I'll be afraid to look through peepholes in doorways.

I get really creeped out by portraits where the eyes "follow" you. Walking through a spider's web and feeling it stuck to my face, wondering if the spider was in it... Not so much of things that go bump in the night -- it never occurred to me it could be ghosts when we had squirrels move into our attic. And I do love a good ghost story.


  1. Oh, Rhys, I would have screamed, too.
    I list, I fear, is endless . . .
    I don't like creepy crawlies or beady-eyed mice or hamsters or snakes.
    I don't like showers . . .
    Nor do I like being scared, so I am not a fan of scary horror movies or [inexplicably] clowns. When I was little, I never disliked Clarabelle on the Howdy Doody Show but now clowns are just plain creepy . . . .

  2. Centipedes, like spiders and bats, eat bugs like mosquitoes. Not that I like encountering centipedes, spiders and bats, but they don't scare me.

    Deadlines scare me. The IRS scares me. Trigger-happy imbeciles carrying guns scare me. The consequences of careless use of genetically engineered plants scare me. Sinkholes scare me. Fundamentalists of any stripe scare me. Driving in a blizzard scares me.

    But bugs or the zombie apocalypse, not so much.

  3. Your fears about various kinds of bugs have been reassuring to me.Iin my Manhattan apartment we get bugs whenever there is work done on the building or plumbing and I am terrified of finding one at night. So, knowing you guys have the same kind of fears is really reassuring to moi!!! Thelma in Manhattan

  4. I used to be irrationally afraid of walking through tunnels, but I seem to have mastered that. I'm still afraid of walking on grates of any kind. Not a problem where I live, but when I'm in cities, I'm always skirting around the grates in sidewalks. You never know, they might just give way. I also get little panic attacks when I'm swimming in deep water - who knows what's down there? So I never swim in lakes alone. Bats, bugs, and spiders don't scare me at all, though.

  5. I am freaked out by spiders and centipedes. In fact, the photos in this post have me the willies and I moved the screen around so I couldn't see either one as I read. If there isn't someone else around to deal with them for me, my preferred method of dispatching them is our central vacuum, which I leave running for a full minute afterward just to be sure they're gone. I've been bitten by a spider (a yellow sac spider, the kind that make little hammocks in the corner of your ceiling) and it took five weeks to heal. I still have a scar two years later. It doesn't help that they show up in places like on a Kleenex that I've just pulled from the box, on the toilet paper roll just as I need it (twice), and scurrying across the toilet seat as it's flushing - second after I was seated there.

  6. I'm apparently a little different than most. Bugs don't bother me too much, including spiders and centipedes. At worst I find them repulsive, but not scary, if that makes any sense.

    But the thing that will make me scream in fear is a mouse. Not the nice white ones that are used in labs and sold in pet stores, just the kind that run free in one's house. They seem so filthy, so slimy.....And they are always encountered by surprise.

    Once when I was a very young woman, I was doing the dishes and when I opened the sliver ware drawer, a mouse jumped out at me. I went into the dining room, sat on a chair, pulled my feet up under me, and stayed there until my husband came home. (Not one of my finest feminist moments.)

  7. Like several have said, I am scared of spiders and centipedes. As a child I had an allergic reaction to spider bites and will do ANYTHING to avoid spiders. Sandi, I had to avoid looking at their pictures on this post today, too.

    I'm not afraid of showers, but I DO get a little nervous about using the shower if I'm alone in a hotel (thanks to Psycho). Many years ago I went to Boston with a couple of people during a major heat wave. The heat and humidity brought on a migraine, and I opted to go back to our room instead of going out in the evening with the others. I wanted more than anything to take a shower so I could relieve my tense muscles, but I waited for the others to return!

    Joan, when I was about 9 years old, Clarabelle made a personal appearance at a shopping center near where I lived. One of the dads piled about 9 of us into his station wagon (no seatbelts in those days!) and took us. In person, I found Clarabelle to be scary, but not on TV!

  8. Ah, dear Reds, yet again we are close in spirit. I don't like horror. I stopped reading Stephen King because I got nightmares (vivid imagination). I just Do. Not. Like.

    I also do not like insects with lots of legs. Yes, I know they are helpful. They eat bad bugs. Go eat them somewhere I can't see you. I have a deal with those insects. Stay in your space and I'll leave you alone. Come into my space (essentially the living areas of my home, like kitchen, bedroom, living room, or bath) and I will squash you. I have a giant backyard. You're free to take the boiler room. Stay out of my kitchen.

    Hank, someone once described spiders to me as 8-legged death machines. I think that about sums it up.

    But true fears? Yeah, those are a lot deeper. Mostly I fear ignorant people who are determined to stay ignorant. That's terrifying.

    My 14-year old loves "American Horror Story" and doesn't get scared easily. But she's terrified of bridges. We live in Pittsburgh, with 446 bridges in the major metropolitan area. I told her she's living in the wrong area to be afraid of bridges. =)

  9. During our 15 years in Atlanta raising 3 kids we had close encounters with: copperheads, fireants, scorpions, and brown recluse spiders, all just part of our daily lives. Thankfully, we never had rats in the attic. What still haunts me: the rattlesnake alert signs at the highway rest stops in California. I was afraid to get out of the car!

  10. Just discovered some mouse poop in the bottom pan drawer of my stove. Jerry will set have-a-heart traps tonight (baited with ketchup or peanut butter) and in the morning we'll investigate. If we catch one he drives it to the reserve and liberates it. Why does a trapped mouse freak me out more than one running around?

  11. I'm with Kaye!

    Almost all of Ellen's fears, except the IRS. Maybe I should be, but I've successfully (knock wood) dealt with them for 35 years now. But Edith, I have also irrationally become terrified of deep water and of water in which I can't see the bottom.

    I'm not fond of having Things That Should Live Outdoors in the house with me, including snakes. I had to call my father-in-law to save me once, when there was tiny garter snake in the basement. What it wanted there is beyond me. Maybe some of what is in my next paragraph. In retrospect, I should have left the snake alone.

    We live in an old house and get those centipedes. Ick, ick, ick. The worst? Picking up my sponge while showering and having one IN THE TUB with me!!

    I think I scared our next-door neighbor out of six months of life with my screams of terror.

  12. I neither read nor watch horror. Never could. Creepy crawly things are unwelcome in my home, but I usually don't panic.

    The one exception--huge wolf spider in the bathroom cupboard. I sprayed, shut cupboard door, shut bathroom door, went up to loft to go to bed. Much later, while reading in bed (naturally), I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. The wolf spider was scuttling along the baseboard. Out of the cupboard, out of the bathroom, up the stairs, and rounding the baseboard towards me. MAJOR FREAK-OUT!

  13. Okay, here's where I have to make a confession. This cozy reader has always had a fascination with slasher movies. But they are on the screen. They might give me nightmares, but I can usually handle them. On the other hand, I avoid Haunted Houses and the like because they creep me out too much.

  14. Just realized I have another really stupid irrational fear, especially for a gardener/former farmer. Wiggly slimy things... yes, worms. Makes me shudder just writing about them. And they are SO, SO good for the soil. Sigh. I let my fictional farmer practice vermiculture, because I will never go there. (Just saw some vermiculture photos on the web and had to click away!)

  15. Spiders. I just can't deal. Big or small, they freakin' terrify me.

  16. I was born in Salem, Massachusetts. I've been inoculated from the womb via previous generations.

  17. Forgot to say I never, EVER read horror stories or watch horror movies! I can't even read overly violent books or watch overly violent movies without ending up with nightmares. A couple of times I have not discovered until I was sitting in the theater that a movie was going to have graphic violence. I prefer it happening off screen (of "off page" if in a book.

    I also don't like left exits off highways. Whenever possible, I get a ride to places where I might need to take a left exit!

  18. I'm kind of with Ellen Kozak about fears ... I fear what the future may bring when it comes to technology/genetics/etcetera, global warming, the environment, corporations as "people" with rights, stuff like that.

    In my everyday life, I don't fear much of anything--except fundamentalist nutcases with guns. Thankfully, I don't encounter them often (if at all)!

    I can watch scary movies, no problem. I actually LIKE being scared (in movies). I wonder what that says about me? :-)

  19. Spiders don't bother me, as I can usually keep up with them to kill them. I'm not fond of one surprising me like last week when I felt something in my shirt, took it off, and found a spider on my shoulder. I was more insulted than scared that it should invade my private space like that. The biggest surprise I ever had with a spider is when I killed one that I didn't realize was pregnant, and all the tiny babies started scattering on the floor.

    My bug of fear is the cricket, but I've gotten to the point of being able to manage it by knowing to come up on their backside to kill them. Don't bother to tell me about it being bad luck to kill a cricket in your house, that I should somehow carry it outside and set it free. Not going to happen. I have found an excellent alternative to killing them myself. I use the sticky pads created to catch mice, and the crickets are great about finding their way to these pads. I should add that there seems to be an inordinate amount of crickets around and in my house. Maybe it's a cricket conspiracy.

    So, having gotten my cricket fear and problem somewhat under control, we move onto to my biggest fear, which some others here have mentioned. Mice completely unhinge me. As Susan mentioned, they are always encountered without warning, which ensures a nice, loud scream from me. Their tails seem to be ten feet long to me, and I can imagine their dark little eyes sizing me up for how to best destroy what's left of my sanity. Worst encounter was many years back, before kids (so at least 31 years) when I got up early one morning, went into the kitchen to make coffee in my sleepy state, and a mouse ran across my bare foot. Yes, my husband thought that someone had broken in and was killing me when he heard my truly blood curdling scream. Next worst encounter was when I got up one morning, probably 15 years ago, and I saw one run across my kitchen counter. Up until then I had been able to convince myself that the mice stayed on the floor on on lower ground at least. It causes me great stress to think about what mice to get up to when they're running all over, so I try not to think about it. I live where there are fields nearby, so mice are too often a fact of life. Oh dear, it's turning cold now, and, no, I can't go there. It seems only the old-fashioned traps work in my house, and I have to get my husband to set those, and he won't be home again until Thanksgiving. OK, Kathy, breathe.

    Oh, I meant to add in grasshoppers with my cricket fear. Yes, the theme of hopping bugs is what gets me. Of course, with grasshoppers, I know exactly where my fear started. My dear three year older brother used to chase me when we were children and put grasshoppers down my shirt. There are some things for which one cannot forgive people.

  20. Which one of you put that tarantula photo on this blog??? Argh! ;-) I definitely have a bad fear of spiders. One time in Hawaii I saw one that was about twice the size of that tarantula. I am not exaggerating. My sisters and my father saw it, too. Unfortunately, it was crawling around the ceiling of my motel room and began heading down the wall near my bed...

    When I was a kid I was also afraid of the moon. How's that for odd? I hated to see the bright light shining through my bedroom curtains and would bury my face in my pillow to avoid seeing it.

  21. Anonymous, when we were in Africa last year I saw a huge spider in our permanent tent (stucco walls rear and sides; tent screening in the front), up near the pretty high ceiling. My husband wouldn't let me kill it--after all, we were guests in its country.

    We went to dinner and when we came back it was nowhere to be seen. Luckily, I'd had the foresight to ask my doctor for sleeping pills before we left, since there's no way on earth I'd have gotten to sleep that night without them.

    And then that was the night that five lions killed a hyena, 20 yards from our tent. With nothing but screening between us and the outside. Perspective.

  22. Whaa ha ha! Now we'll know what to put in our next books when we want to evoke dark suspense (and creep you out).
    I don't like crickets either. I don't like anything that moves unexpectedly. But I did remove a spider from my bath yesterday on a tissue (it was only about an eight of an inch big so not too heroic)

  23. I used to not like crickets either. Then recently the local powers that be put something in the sewer to drive the roaches out. They started coming into our garage with crickets close behind. I was worried that all of these bugs were going to work their way into the house.

    Then one day I saw a small cricket leap across the garage and tackle a giant roach. She killed it and ate it. I wasn't sure what would happen after the roaches were "gone," but I stopped stressing. Guess what happened. When the roaches were no longer, the crickets left the garage and went on to better hunting grounds.

  24. Spiders, I'm okay, except for the really creepy ones in Mexican beach hotels. Bats, I kinda like. Dead mice, I am so outta here.

    But what really scares me? Those old-fashioned open bleachers with slivery wooden seats and pipe braces. I spent a LOT of time around them as a little girl -- older brother in Little League -- and though I don't remember it, I must have slipped between the seats and fallen once. I used to have dreams that the footbridge I had to cross over the big irrigation canal on my way to school was made of bleachers.

    The good part? Nobody dresses as bleachers for Halloween.

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  27. I do like Halloween and I'd recommend cozy Halloween mysteries. Last year I read two in October and maybe this year I'll read one or two. Goes great with Halloween candy!

    I don't really read many horror books, but sometimes read Y.A. like the Vampire Academy books. I have a book called Dracula in London that I need to read.

    I don't like bugs, spiders, or worms. Big spiders like to hang out on the garage and even spun an elaborate web on the clothesline. Years ago I found a beetle in the house. It about gave me a heart attack. Not the usual bug that you'd find in a house. It had been so long since I'd even seen a picture of a beetle I had to look it up in the encyclopedia to make sure it was what I thought it was. When I see a cricket in the house I grab a heavy shoe and squash it. Happened recently and I'm glad I didn't pick it up when I saw something on the floor. Then it moved.

    I think I would like the movie Annabelle. I like horror movies like that about ghosts, etc., but not anything too grisly or bloody. I love to watch true ghost stories on TV and collect books of true ghost stories.

    Grates in sidewalks kind of scare me too. I'm also afraid of heights and mice in the house. We don't have a shower in our house, just an old clawfoot tub. I have seen Psycho.

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  29. Bob Bloch, who wrote "Psycho," said that people always came up to him and said, "I haven't had a shower since I read it/saw the movie." Bob would say, "Aren't you glad I didn't kill her on the toilet?"

  30. Love Halloween. Hate horror movies, can't read Stephen King. Suffer from severe arachnophobia. I'm not afraid of stairs but I'm very cautious as I went down a flight of stairs as a teen. As I was on the Howdy Doody show as a little kid, I'm not afraid of clowns. I must have other fears, but I can't think of any more.