If it could happen to anyone, it would happen to me.
Publish date:
December 4, 2013
superstitions, fears

s.e. smith recently brought this to my attention.

Quick nature refresher: Black widows can kill you. But first they watch you, and they DANCE:

“I looked in the grapes and there was a black widow staring right at me,” [Callum] Merry told ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV. While Merry wanted to release the spider outside, fortunately, his 14-year-old brother recognized the danger and intervened…

“I saw the legs moving frantically,” [Yvonne] Duckhorn recalled to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. “I’ve seen bugs on fruit before, and I thought, ‘That is a very big spider.’ Nothing I’d ever seen before.”

Apparently there be spiders in your grapes. Black Widow spiders to be exact. Death-dancing Black Widow spiders.

Everybody say, "Thank you s.e."

This article set me off a little. While I'm generally not that put off by most spiders anymore (roaches have trumped spiders on my list of feared insects), Black Widows hold a special place in my paranoid heart.

You see I am the product of parents who devotedly watched the "fear segment" of the local news, "20/20," and "Dateline," and while my fear of heart attack, street marauders and high-speed traffic accidents is relatively, maybe foolishly low, I've never grown out of the deep, dark belief that my demise will be caused by something bizarre. Something like grape-living Black Widow spiders. Or lava flow.

Or aliens.

I fear my death will be a HuffPost Weird News headline.

Okay, I'm not totally coo-coo bananas. I'm not wearing tinfoil on my head and walking around in a padded Redman suit. I am a mostly normal, functioning adult. But late at night, when I'm puttering around my apartment thwarting sleep, the "What Ifs" have a way of sneaking into my brain.

Here I share a few of my more irrational fears. I've harbored some since childhood, and thought that they would disappear with the logic and rationality of adulthood. Only one did.

So here I sit, revisiting my paranoia for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.

Erupting Volcanoes and Hot Lava

When I was in third grade we did a unit on volcanoes. Around this time my Aunt Effy visited Pompeii and regaled us with stories about all the preserved, burnt up, body castings she saw while she was there. She even reenacted some of the positions they were in.

This, compounded by the fact that we lived not too far from Mount St. Helens and in the shadow of Mt. Rainier in Seattle, made me terrified of volcanic eruption and lava.

There were mornings I'd wake up convinced that if I glanced over the edge of my bed, I'd see a molten flow of lava waiting to eternally encase my body in the fetal position.

"Dante's Peak"? That volcano disaster movie with Pierce Brosnan? Forget it. It still gives me nightmares.

My volcano fear abated for decades after moving to Texas, Missouri and California, but now that I'm in Hawai'i, a state that is ALL volcano, I find myself considering the potential of volcanic blasts again. The authorities say it's safe, and in the very rare event that a volcano erupts in O'ahu, they are prepared. My lizard brain doesn't quite buy it.

I'm not one of those people who will toe up to the edge of a recent flow on the Big Island, nor am I one of the people who choose to LIVE ATOP A LAVA ENGULFED NEIGHBORHOOD.

I find myself considering what I will do if Diamond Head decides to come back to life, and all I can come up with is fleeing the island immediately via plane or carrier dolphin.

Speaking of nature and all its beauty…

Ocean Rocks

Really Louise? Ocean rocks?

Alright mainlander, go swim out a few dozen feet from shore and brush your foot up against one. Or look down and suddenly see a huge expanse of darkness below you where just a moment ago was clear.

Every single person who visits me in Hawai'i laughs at me then does just this. Then they scream and frantically doggy-paddle to rockless water again.

The rocks are fuzzy, slimy, you can't really see what's in them, and I'm pretty sure something will reach up from the depths and drag me under. Try as I might, I cannot get over the panic that fills me while I'm swimming around in the ocean and suddenly find that I've drifted over a big, black, crop of rock.

I fully understand that this makes me a weenie. But I'll take weenie status, if it means I can avoid the horror that I'm sure lies waiting in those rocks.

Human Incubator

I'm not allowed to watch that show "Monsters Inside Me" anymore.

That urban legend about the girl who had hundreds of baby spiders living in her zit was bad enough. But all that "real life testimony" of people who came back from Mexico, or Africa, or FLORIDA with "a funny scratchy noise" in their skull makes me want to torch any and all skin lumps and bumps I find on me or my husband.

Now and then "friends" send me articles with terrifying accompanying pictures of doctors pulling larvae from somebody's scalp, and my paranoia is renewed.

A few months ago I got something stuck in my ear canal (I suspect a mix of ocean water and soap from when I shampooed my hair), and was tortured all night by a gentle crackly-popping sound. I was absolutely convinced some THING had moved into my head and I'd better immediately write my memoir because soon my head would be a writhing mass of brain-worms.

The next morning a tiny amount of liquid dripped out of my ear, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd dodged the parasite bullet. This time.

The Deep End of the Pool

Every kid knew that there were sharks/sea monsters in the deep end of the pool.

You had three options:

1. Avoid it.

2. Swim very carefully and slowly into the deep end, making sure the creatures were elsewhere that day.

3. Go into the deep end, but don't look down.

I eventually did overcome my fear of the deep end, but catch me in a swimming pool now, I'll still be the one tentatively swimming into the deep end making sure it's "safe."

Then there were all those stories in the 90's and 2000s about kids who got their insides sucked out their bottoms when they decided to sit on a pool drain? Yeah, I know they fixed all the pool drains, but I stay FAR away from those, uh, "suckers" anyway.


I can't believe I'm typing this out for you all to read.

For the record I don't think extraterrestrials are going to come and get me anymore, but as a weird, lonely kid, who watched way too many episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits" I had an extremely active imagination.

Somehow, I came to believe that aliens were watching me from a spaceship. But they could only see me from one place in the house: the doorknob in the bathroom.

I could not go to the bathroom or take a shower without covering the doorknob with a hand towel. If I didn't cover that doorknob, they'd know where I was and they could come and get me. I have no idea how I came to this conclusion, and why they needed to watch me in the bathroom escapes me. But the compulsion to cover the doorknob was strong, and so was my belief in those aliens.

All that other stuff doesn't seem so weird anymore does it?

BONUS Irrational Fear!

Having to kill my husband because he has become a zombie.

I've actually thought about this, and catch me on a bad it, it makes me tear up.

I've been watching too much "Walking Dead."

So there they are. Maybe these fears (well, except for the zombie one and the alien one) are more unlikely than they are irrational. The odds of them happening are super slim. But it's that sliver of a chance, and my knack for acquiring unusual diseases and injuries, that makes me nervous.

If it could happen to anyone, it would happen to me.

What are your fears that defy logic and reason? What fears have you never grown out of?

What are your irrational fears?

NOTE: If you or anyone you know has in some way fallen victim to any of the above, I'm genuinely, deeply sorry. I mean no disrespect.