Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Monster Talk

No. Not that podcast with that Sexy Australian Chick who thinks vagina is an acceptable term for penis… or something.

I mean let’s talk about monsters. Now, I think it goes without saying that I don’t believe in ghosts. That’s sort of a requirement to blog here at Skepchick. No effin ghosts… or something.

But there was a time in my life when I did. And as a kid they scared the frick frack fazoozinga out of me. In fact, for a good 15 years or more I used to say an Our Father before falling asleep at night just because I thought it would scare bad ghosts away while I dreamed about making out with Fox Mulder… or something.

And sweet man alive was I afraid of that Bloody Mary we always tried to summon at slumber parties. Even though we tried to convince ourselves that it was “just self-hypnosis”, nothing terrified me more than seeing a bloody corpsey woman staring at me in my bathroom… or any bathroom. Whether I was making her up in my head or not, I didn’t want to see that… but kind of did… but really didn’t… but kind of wanted the thrill… or something.

To this day, when I walk into a bathroom, I won’t look toward the mirror. Remember, I don’t believe in ghosts. But that Mary just might scare me into pooping my pants… and you can’t see my mirrors from my toilets, so… yeah… not good. Now I’ve never seen this Mary… but I plan to keep it that way. ├é┬áBecause if I did, knowing that she’s not real just might be worse than thinking that she is… or something.

Do you have any weird irrational fears? Not like the dentist or spiders… like totally out there… like a pants-shitting fear of Bloody Mary… or something?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

Related Articles


  1. Every time I run the garbage disposal, I have the irrational fear that my hand will be drawn into the disposal… or that I will have an impulse to quickly reach in for something, and my hand will be painfully ground into bits.

  2. Balloons…I’m terrified and have to make excuses to get away from them…I’m convinced they are going to explode and the resulting noise will trigger a heart attack.
    It was quite sweet as a kid but as an adult it is ridiculous.

  3. Needles.
    Once gave blood just to see if I could overcome the fear of them, and they made me wait longer than normal because my heart rate was too high at first. When it finally dropped, and they started to draw blood, I started shaking from the intense adrenaline rush and they had to tip my chair back in case I fainted.

  4. When I was a kid, my gramma has a picture of Jesus stanind in front of a full moon. It scared the wholey living crap out of me. I don’t know why. Also, my aunt’s room. She wasn’t like some old wicked aunt, she was maybe 15 years older than me. And if the lights were on in the room, it was fine. If it were daytime, fine. But at night…no, it was not fine. I was afraid of being in my room after dark as a kid. It didn’t matter if the lights were on or off, if I was awake, I didn’t want to be in my room at night. I’d suffer through the LAMEST of late 80’s sitcoms just so I didn’t have to be in my room. And finally, the theme song to Unsolved Mysteries. It creeped me out.

  5. I’m afraid of going blind everytime I close my eyes. I always feel I will open my eyes and see nothing. As a kid I used to wander at home with my eyes closed to get used to it so I wouldn’t miss it too much just in case it finally happened some day.

  6. @Matto the Hun: I have a similar fear of pretty much any everyday object turning against me.

    I worry that a paper clip will fly off the corner of some papers and go into my eye. I worry that the guard on my fan will come off and the blades will come and hit me in the face. I worry that I’ll drop a knife and it will impale my foot to the floor – so scared of this I am that I once actually tried to catch a knife when I dropped it, leaving an inch long scar that is still there eight years later.

    That and raptors.

  7. Until about 28 I was terrified of Satan and being possessed. Now it doesn’t bother me. Add it to the proofs that skeptics are happier than believers.

    The only childhood fear that still haunts me is volcanoes. I lived in Puerto Rico growing up and when I saw the pictures of Pompeii, I was terrified that PR had a volcano. I was convinced that PR was going to be covered in lava and we would be trapped because its an island and there was no way to get away. No one could convince me that there was no volcano. The vividness of those people curled up in terror in their homes was worse than a horror movie. Now I watch all the movies and real news about Volcanoes and I am both awed by the beauty and terrified for the people who are there.

  8. Bugs laying eggs in my brain. (Thank you, Carl Zimmer.) And black holes. I would have an irresistible urge to stick my toe in just to test it and then get slowly but inexorably drawn in. And spaghettified. :-(

    But nothing irrational.

  9. Stephen King and Pennywise gave me a good phobia about shower drains for quite a while. I’m mostly over that but I do still sometimes get nervous about something coming up out of the toilet while I’m sitting on it. (Usually after the occasional news story about this exact thing happening with snakes or rats.)

  10. Earthquakes! Oh, right, I live in California and this is a perfectly rational fear.

    Actually, I fear dying and not being discovered for weeks and my poor cats starving because they’re too polite to eat me.

  11. Anything my Uncle Jack ever warned me about. He warned me that you could get sucked into the pool filter so I still avoid swimming too close. He warned me that the muck monsters will reach up through the muck and pull you down so I WILL NOT put my feet down in muck… I really won’t even swim in lakes anymore. Uncle Jack was very convincing.

    Also, I’m petrified of dragonflies. I was in the path of a swarm as a child and got a couple tangled in my hair and now I’m irrationally terrified stiff of them.

    Not real thrilled about glass floors either. Thousands of people could walk across them daily and I can’t make myself do it.

    Oh, and small planes. I’m not afraid to fly, I just can’t convince my body to go anywhere near small planes or helicopters. I dunno why.

  12. Does fear of religious people count? Or is that required?

    Apart from that: large groups of people. Like 10000 or more. What happened at the Love Parade this year didn’t help in that respect.

  13. I am oddly disturbed that 2 people here share my inane fear of balloons. It’s inane because I hate that they pop unexpectedly, so I pop them when the party is over so that they won’t pop.

  14. Immortality. Have had far too many close calls that I managed to scrape through (though not without reminders in most cases). Think I’d rather be a Darwin Award recipient than live forever- life should be enjoyed.

  15. Swimming in murky water where I cannot see the bottom because there will probably be a plesiosaur or a saltwater crocodile. And when I was little I never stood over the shower drain because I thought that someone had one of those spy cameras and was probably watching.
    Now that I’m older, my inane fear is of becoming a psychiatrist. Which…won’t happen, but still….

  16. @mrthumbtack : I work on my fears, like fear of heights, with self imposed exposure therapy. I’m pretty much over the fear of heights. But I’m still working on the fear of needles thing: I’ve fainted a few times, giving blood. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I can’t.

  17. Socked feet. I hate them, I hate thinking that someone’s socks are going to get near me. Ew, Bleh.

    I too have a balloon thing, I hate it when they pop, but more than that, I absolutely loathe the sound they make when blown up with a helium tank. It’s a weird squeaky sound and it makes the hair on my arms stand up.

    I also hate shriners, they’ve creeped me out since childhood thanks to dancing in Christmas parades with their tiny cars almost driving up on our heels.

  18. I’ve always had an irrational fear of stepping on or near drains. Not because I am afraid of getting sucked in, just skeeved out.
    Also, I always used to run up the basement stairs for fear of something running after me and grabbing my leg/eating me. This most likely stems from my dad scaring the shit out of me and my brother for shits and giggles. As a result, my own children will suffer the same fate.

  19. I kind of wish I did. I live right next door to what was once considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in my state and if something happened because of it my weekends would be a lot more interesting. I think it’s still a stop on my city’s “Haunted Tour” (provided they still do the tour) and you can find all sorts of photos of “ghosts” and “vortexes” and stories of the tour group stepping into alternate dimensions and the proof of this having happened on their website I kinda want to get some skeptics together and go on this – if nothing else, it’d be good for a few chuckles.

  20. I get seriously freaked out if someone is in bed or sleeping on the couch and I can only see their head. I have rearranged covers so I can see a little neck and shoulders on people. Started years ago when I came downstairs half asleep and found my then husband sleeping on the couch (I thought he’d gone to work). At first all I saw was a crumpled blanket then–there was a head! On my couch! I think I screamed a little. To this day, it freaks me out if I only see someone’s head if the rest of him/her is covered in blankets.
    That and unfinished/partially finished basements, the older the house, the worse the fear. Not really a bug issue, just a skin crawly feeling of age, dirt and possible bodies buried there or something. My sister had a dirt basement in one of her houses. I went down there once and it was terrible!

  21. 1) If I am on some high precipice (e.g., edge of a cliff) that I will, against my better judgement throw myself off. This is not a suicidal urge–I’ve no urge to that–but a fear that some irrational urge will crop up. This is not, I think, a conventional fear of heights or of falling (having done some rock-climbing), but fear of the irrational mind…

    2) As a kid I feared dark rooms, particularly behind me. I decided to train myself against that irrational fear by purposely putting my back to dark rooms and reciting Frank Herbert’s “Litany against Fear” from Dune… all the while being a junior skeptic. But, it worked nonetheless. I did not think of it in a magical sense, but as a reasonable response to any fear, justified or unjustified. Look at the fear, think about it’s origins, think about it’s reasonableness, etc.

  22. Strangely enough, hell. Because sometimes, I think of the concept, and cooking in lava for eternity sounds so horrible that it sends shiver through my spine. In general, when I hear of torture stories, I think “that could be me.” It’s just that thinking of pain more than a person could possibly endure, just *shudder*

  23. Telephones.

    OK, it is more of a dislike than a fear. The worst is the thought of calling someone who I don’t know and asking them for something. Although this is worst if the request is something unusual (e.g. phoning the neighbour to ask to borrow a lawnmower) but even if they’re there specifically for the purpose of receiving such calls, I’m still unwilling. I’ll go to considerable lengths to get someone else to make the phone order for pizza.

    For the most part, incoming calls are OK, except for a while after my mother died of cancer. Having had a number of phone calls with progressively worse news, for while I got distinctly nervous whenever the phone rang (even after there was no worse news that could come.)

    I also share #28 Finn McR’s fear of throwing myself from a height.

  24. I have no irrational fears. My fears of hairdressers, polystyrene and toothpaste are entirely rational, based upon observation and hypothesis testing.

  25. I used to firmly believe in ghosts. Up until very recently, I used to get frustrated with “Ghost Hunters” and other similar shows because I was sure that if they would just use better methods, they would have good evidence and be able to prove the existence of ghosts. I never thought they were dangerous, but the thought of someone in the room with me that I couldn’t see creeped me the hell out late at night when I was alone in the house.

    I don’t believe in ghosts anymore, in the intellectual sense. Actually, the ghost hunting shows and their bad methods are largely responsible for me becoming a skeptic. But I still often feel like there is someone in the room with me (especially in the shower or standing over my bed). It’s less scary now that I technically know that there’s nothing there, but I still don’t want to turn my head and look when I am sure a scary little girl from a ghost movie is standing over my bed staring at me. I’m alone in the middle of the night right now and scaring myself just writing about it.

  26. @ZenMonkey: I have a terrible phobia of storm drains, shower drains, and bathroom sinks thanks to Pennywise. I read IT when I was in elementary school, watched the movie, and have had a completely irrational fear of them ever since.

    Also, the woods–as well as people on drywall stilts–thanks to The X-Files.

    Growing up near the Gulf Coast, where there’s constant rain and surrounding woodlands, was kind-of awful.

  27. Escalators.

    I have a fear that my feet will get caught where the escalator meets the floor when I get off. Also when I get on I’m afraid I’ll step on the crack and when the two steps separate I’ll fall backwards. When I’m riding on the escalator, especially if it is going up, I’m petrified I’ll fall backwards and get my hair caught in the gears.

    I have a fear of stuff happening to my eyes and a fear of baby dolls. Especially the ones that poop, pee and cry. Why do they keep making them more and more realistic? They remind me of the dead babies in jars I saw at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Thanks Mom and Dad!

    I still have night mares about my childhood rocking clown. It was urine yellow, shaped like a kidney bean and had a clown face. It was like some horrible, limbless, mutant clown baby. I wanted a rocking horse but noooooo.

  28. I month or so ago, I was reading a sceptical look at ghosts in the Victorian age, but it was still freaking me out a bit. One night my neighbour was putting out her recycling at about midnight, but I swear to you know who it sounded like it was someone on the stairs leading upstairs. I went out to check out the noise but my imagination got the better of me and I kind of screamed this blood curdling scream telling something to leave. My “trouble and strife” was initially freaked as well, but eventually greatly amused.

    Very weird what the mind can do to an otherwise sceptical atheist. I don’t believe in ghosts (or god) but the universe is most certainly a fucking weird place.

  29. @Finn McR: I have that too. Every time I look over a ledge I have a mental vision of myself flying over the edge.

    Honestly? Furries. I’m not a fan of people in animal costumes in general, but when I know the wearer is doing it for sexual gratification/belief in “otherkin”/etc, I just want to run and hide and poke at anything that comes near me with a sharp stick. I can be very empathic and understanding about mental illness and other strange behaviour but furries wearing costumes freak me out on this completely irrational level.

  30. Seaweed. I’m convinced it’s going to wrap around my feet and pull me under the water. Ugh! Just thinking about it creeps me out.

  31. @JeffGrigg: Nonsense! I’m raising them with manners! They understand that proper young ladies never cut anyone they’ve been introduced to!

    @Finn McR: I’ve had that brief impulse to see what it would be like to fly. I would then remove myself from the balcony/roof/whatever, lest I act upon it. Then I discovered hang-gliding, where one runs off a cliff, despite the gibbering reptillian brain shrieking ‘We’re gonna diiiiiie!’. And, contra to any logic, one is suddenly swept up and can ride the wind. Best thing ever.

  32. I used to say a prayer before bed too. I’m not sure if that went before or after I realised I din’t beleive any more, it might just have been done to reassure myself.
    I used to have a slight fear that I would open a car door when it was moving, similar to feeling being drawn to the edge of a tall drop or a high bridge. I still get the bridge thing…

  33. When I was a kid in the 70’s I had a love/hate thing about Vampires. I had a huge crush on Frank Langella’s “Dracula” when I was 12 but those old Sunday morning monster movies freaked me out to the point that I hung a crucifix in my bedroom window.
    In my 20’s I developed an unreasoning fear of down escalators. Not the up ones…just the down. I managed to use desentitization techniques to fix that issue. But I still have a phobia of playground slides.
    That came from all the times when I was little my Mom pressured me and pushed me into “just trying it”. Of course I ended up scraping my back and hitting the ground hard almost every time. I won’t even touch a slide now and I refuse to do anything about the issue.

  34. Rope swings, earwigs, and those baked goods in cans (biscuits, cinnamon rolls, etc.). It’s only recently that I’ve been able to open those stupid things myself, and it still requires conscious effort not to scream when they pop.

  35. People in front of grocery stores that try to sell you stuff. Really.

    I have an inability to say “no” sometimes, and I hate finding myself a few months down the road STILL donating to that local boy scout troop or food shelter… not that I don’t want to help. I’ve done my fair share and more in the past of helping the less fortunate, but for some reason I hate getting sniped by their representatives in front of grocery stores.

  36. I made the mistake of reading Whitley Strieber’s ‘Communion’ when I was a teen. Alien abduction nightmares for years. :P Thank FSM for skepticism finally kicking in.

  37. Motormowers give me the shudders, I will flinch as one passes, specially the big Council ones flying along the nature strips spitting whatever happens to be lying by the roadsides out in whatever direction chance decides.

  38. When I was a kid I used to freak myself out while brushing my teeth by imagining a ghost appearing behind me in the mirror. Now the ghosts have been replaced by the stone angels from Dr Who which I know is completely ridiculous, but I just can’t seem to stop my brain picturing them.

    I also used to be afraid of the doors closing on me while getting into or out of a lift. But this fear has been conquered because I now have to use a lift several times a day at work so I just don’t think about it any more.

  39. The original Willie Wonka movie. The commercials for it scared the sticky stuff out of me when I was 3 (kids screaming for help as they were sucked through unthinking machines’ innards). I tried watching it in college and found it still freaked me out. Even now I consciously avoid the film (or elements of it) when I can.

  40. Well I have OCD so I have plenty of irrational fears, but I think that the weirdest one is making a call and unexpectedly getting voicemail, and then having to leave a message that I make up on the spot and sounding very awkward and/or forgetting to include something important like my contact info. Texting has really helped with this, but usually I have to call twice before I’ll actually leave a message.

  41. Sharks. My parents have a smallish swimming pool that Jaws wouldn’t even be able to turn around in, but I still have to take hold of myself every time I get in.

    I also have the fear of falling off cliffs, even when I’m nowhere near them. Logically I know that I’m sufficiently in control of my body that I could look over the edge while standing and be just fine, but the only way I feel safe to do so is if I’m on my stomach.

  42. @c.caryn:
    I’m glad I’m not the only one. But, the water doesn’t have to be murky. At the risk of making it worse, I face the same fear from just being on top of water where the reflection keeps me from seeing in it.

    Also, spooky shit freaks me out, even though I’ve never believed it.

  43. @mrthumbtack
    I have the needle thing too, but mine is less an irrational fear and more of a physical reaction to have blood drawn. I’ve been told it’s called a vasovagal attack (brought on by trypanophobia) and I will pass out if I think about it too much. Weird thing is I can get injections all day long, I test my blood sugars daily, and can have IV’s inserted without a problem (okay the IV’s skeeve me out), but blood drawn by blood pressure or gravity alone, BAM I’m out.

    I used to give blood on a regular basis but one trainee butchering my arm was enough to bring it on. It’s completely unconscious. Go figure.

  44. My irrational fear involves being zapped by static electricity. I will find myself allowing others to open doors if I can swing it and will first touch the doorknob with my wrist if I have to open it. It stems form my Dad zapping me every chance he got while I was growing up. I almost got over it than I saw the videos of people starting they’re gas tanks on fire with static. That was in the name of debunking the stupid idea that cellphones can start fires at gas stations so I’ll take the slight nerosis for the greater good. ;)

  45. In about 7th grade I got interested in reading mythology and legends. Somehow I got a story that included vagina dentata. For a long time, I was very cautious around girls unless I could get a peak first.

  46. Oh, and any food that should be in the fridge that is sitting on the counter completely freaks me out. It comes frome scenes from Ghostbusters and Poltergeist. I put my groceries away directly from the bag and I will set food that I am preparing on the sink, on the stove, or on a cutting board. Bread, chips, etc. that belong outside the fridge can sit on the couter all day but lay one piece of cheese, an egg, milk, etc. and… I just shivered.


    Those little gray f’er’s with the big black eyes scare the bajeebus out of me — they have ever since I was a kid.

    I know there is no way that will ever happen but I still love to read alien abduction novels of “true” accounts that I find for $1 at used book stores. I love horror but a lot of it doesn’t scare me, so I need to read about “the grays” in order to get that rush :-P

    I remember my sister once told me she was going to put me on Scare Tactics and have them dress up as grays and come into my room at night while I am sleeping. I told her that if she did she would be the one responsible for my death . . .

    Hey, I have a heart murmur — it can happen!

  48. Bloody Mary was the first ghost story I ever heard, so I’ve had a completely irrational fear of mirrors more than two decades later.

    I’m also a fan of horror movies/stories/creepypasta who suffers from hypnagogic hallucinations, night terrors, and occasional panic attacks, which makes things REALLY fun. You haven’t lived until you’ve read something that you know to be faked, because you were there when it was invented, and yet somehow every other part of your body except your brain becomes absolutely convinced that if you turn away from where you’re facing, you WILL become the victim of some nameless cosmic horror about to rip out your soul and/or eyeballs and you WILL die screaming. Thankfully my husband is the understanding sort and is very good at talking me down. And it turns reading/watching scary things into Russian Roulette, which adds another layer of thrill to it, I suppose.

    Sometimes I think there’s something very wrong with me :-P

  49. I’m scared of succubuses (succubi?) Really, i’m just scared of waking up and not being able to move. It sounds terrifying. I have a friend who says this happens to her all the time and it’s no big deal, but I don’t buy it. I think if it happened to me I would be scared shitless.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: