My top 5 childhood fears…

Remember some of the things that were going to eventually kill all of us?

West Nile Virus? Bird Flu? SARS? Nicolas Cage movies? Remember?

What ever became of those dangers?

One minute everyone was worried about Mad Cow Disease, but then suddenly, somebody finally turned off the television and nobody cared anymore.

I sure don’t worry about these things today.

Do you know what else I don’t worry about anymore? Most of the things that scared me growing up. Remember what used to scare many of us twenty-five years ago?

Here are the top five things that scared me as a kid, in no particular order.

1. Nuclear war:

Good Lord I was afraid of those Soviets blowing me off the face of the planet! Decades after McCarthyism petered out, the threat of nuclear war and Ivan Drago’s brutal assault of Apollo Creed caused many young Americans to loathe an entire country of funny, furry hat wearing communists that 97% of us couldn’t even locate on a globe. Thankfully, Ronald Reagan and Rocky Balboa were there to keep us safe.

2. AIDS:

Remember the AIDS?

If I’m recalling it correctly, a monkey from Haiti came to the United States and had unprotected sex with a Republican senator from Tennessee, who shook hands with a young Bill Clinton, who then spread it to 40% of the population west of the Mississippi. Is that correct? No matter the source, it was a scary disease.

Could you get it from breathing it in or by touching hands with an infected person? Nobody was sure, so eventually, we all just decided that only gays and drug users could die from it, and that helped ease our minds. Magic Johnson tried to get it by contracting HIV, but he’s not gay or an intravenous drug user, so he’s been fine for 20 years now.

3. Quicksand:

“Quicksand, Don?”

I know, right?

I blame the Sunday morning Tarzan show for this one. People and animals were always falling into quicksand and there was no way out unless Tarzan was around to save you. There are no Tarzans or nearby swinging vines in the Midwest, so who the hell would have saved me?

“Oh there’s no quicksand in the United States, Don!”

BULLSHIT! You’re wrong, my friend. Long before Tarzan renewed my fear of quicksand, Cleavon Little and Mr. Taggart’s nearly lost $400 push-cart in Blazing Saddles had already gotten me thinking.

4. Sharks:

Thanks to JAWS, I managed to reside in the Midwest, 900 plus miles from the nearest ocean, and live in fear of giant sharks.

Asinine, right? Well, we always vacationed in Florida, and it only takes one dip in the ocean to become a victim. The risk always kept me in water no deeper than my knees and always swimming in pairs with a little brother. When you swim with a little brother, you needn’t be able to outswim a shark, just be able to outswim that brother.

I’m also going to include piranhas on this list, and again thank a movie for that unreasonable childhood fear.

5. Spectral child murderers:

I’m sorry, but Freddy Krueger and his night time shenanigans freaked me the fuck out!

Horror movies were very popular when I was a kid. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Faces of Death, there were so many, but none of the killers was creepier to me than Fred. A person could feasibly outrun Jason or not have sex in the creepy cabin or walk outside in your underpants to avoid being killed by most of the serial killers, but Freddy got you when you fell asleep! How do you avoid that??

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of my childhood fears. Being killed by a rabid St. Bernad dog, struck by lightning or killed by a tornado or choking were just a few more of the perfectly reasonable threats to my life back in the day.

Of course today, I realize that many of those fears were irrational and silly.

Apparently, I should have been more worried about sleeping on my stomach as a baby, the lead paint on our walls or the fact that not drinking while driving and seatbelts were for pansies back in the late 70’s.

Now that I’m an adult, I see that I’m more likely to die of a fractured neck upon tripping over a Lego or Matchbox car, or via my heart exploding from eating too much bacon.

What were your irrational child fears? Were they irrational at all? Do you still fear them?

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93 Responses to My top 5 childhood fears…

  1. Ahhh… so that’s how AIDS started. Thanks Don.

  2. Fresh Ginger says:

    Clowns, hot lava floors, the house burning down in the middle of the night, the boogie man and white cargo vans with no windows … and, ya, sometimes I’m still afraid of all of them.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Ha! I used to be scared of quicksand, too, so much so, that I read about how to survive it. Stupid, really, considering I grew up in North Dakota. I should’ve been more fearful of freezing my digits off.

    • Lol, you know what? I researched it too, sadly. I think you’re supposed to stay still or some nonsense. Maybe that’s riptides I’m thinking about. Crap, now I’m scared of riptides taking me to deeper, shark infested waters. You may be the only North Dakotan I know!

  4. Birds…all birds, from the chickens that used to chase me around my grandmother’s house to the beautiful peacock I photographed from a distance in Punta Cana. Eating on patios, in the summer, by the lake, is terrifying for me and I have been known to publicly FREAK out when all the hideous seagulls swoop down to steal morsels of food…yup, still scared.

    • They are nasty little boogers for sure. I was just cracking up at a recent Big Bang Theory episode where what’s his name was scared of a bird. Shelton? Sheldon? The really eccentric one. Lol. Thanks, Audrey!

  5. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Blazing Saddles reference? Nice.

    My fear was drowning. I don’t know how to swim now, but I can keep from sinking and enjoy the water. Not so much so when I was kid.

    • I know, right?! That’s twice in the past week. I was cracking up reading some of the quotes from the movie on some website. Not sinking in water that’s over your head is a good thing.

  6. Just exchange clowns for quicksand and you’ve got my list!

    I remember watching a Friday the 13th movie with my brother and sister while my mom was at work (at night, naturally). We were paralyzed with fear for a long time until we all had to pee and couldn’t hold it any more. We held hands while we went up the stairs with our backs pinned to the wall–so no one could sneak up behind us, of course. I swear it felt like our house was made of windows that night and I was sure that with every creak and whistle of the wind that someone was coming in to get us. Needless to say, we slept on the couch together … you know, so we could make a quick exit out the door if someone broke in to kill us all.

    • Jason Vorhees was born on the same day as my brother, so it just made me a little bit scared of my brother. He was a bit looney, so there was merit to that. Thank goodness you had siblings to keep you safe, right? I was never afraid of clowns for some reason, but I can see how so many others would be.

  7. juju333 says:

    As a kid I wasn’t afraid of anything, which worried my mother to no end. But now I am afraid of everything. Well, not everything but I no longer swim in the ocean (sharks, yes sharks) or the bay because of jellies (not the kind you put on toast either.) I worry about skin cancer and other stuff. But most of the time I can get past my fears and go out into the big bad world and walk around. Because in the end none of us are getting out of here alive!

  8. findingninee says:

    I was scared of white vans with strange dudes who would pass out stickers or candy to poison me and then they would taker and kill me. Also of apples, popcorn balls, and unsealed Halloween candy wrappers because people put razor blades in them.
    And I’m still scared of quick sand.

    • bethteliho says:

      OMG Kristi white vans and poisoned candy!!! YES. My friends STILL make fun of me for my irrational fear of vans. I won’t even trail run alone – I’m convinced someone will jump outa the woods and drag me to their van.

      • Well, suddenly I’m aware how the young, handsome DOAT had so much trouble picking up the ladies in high school, even though he had a cool, souped up windowless white van and all the cigarettes they wanted to offer.

    • I’m sure that there’s good reason to be scared of creeps in white vans passing out stickers in Virginia. Or Colorado…whatever. The tainted Halloween candy was just awful. I think the adults were more scared than we were and were using it as an excuse to ruin the holiday!

      • mamamlk says:

        Don’t forget Y2K!! 🙂

        My fears aren’t as out there and never really were. Spiders, Centipedes (and other creepy crawlers), Snakes, and Sharks. I hate creepy crawly bugs because they seem to be anywhere and everywhere. What isn’t creepy about a centipede? Snakes….creepy even before you add the poisonous factor in. Then you have poisonous ones that rattle? Really? Or the ones that have certain colored stripes?? (If red touches black you’re ok jack. If red touches yellow you’re a dead fellow.) I blame Indiana jones for both of these very much still alive fears. Sharks…. I blame jaws and shark week….and the article that I read that said if you are waist deep or deeper in the water there is a 80% chance that you are maybe 5 feet from some kind of a shark. I’m still afraid of the ocean to some degree. Silly stupid fears!

      • mamamlk says:

        I don’t know why it added my comment here. Weird.

  9. barbtaub says:

    I’m also going to have to go with clowns. And Roseanne Barr. And okra.

    • Oh my God, Roseanne Barr! And Okra!!! Roseanne Barr!

      Lol. I was never scared of the clowns for some reason. I even had a creepy clown lamp, but it never took. I guess I figured the nukes would kill the clowns before they killed me.

  10. Husbandio told me that quicksand doesn’t really exist, and the closest thing to it is smooshy bogs. He claims that it’s just something invented by movies for dramatic effect. I haven’t Googled that though, so YMMV.

    I was totally terrified of Freddy, and for the longest time I thought that if I wasn’t out of the bathroom with the lights off by the time the toilet stopped flushing, a witch would jump out of it. Yeah. I don’t know where that one came from.

    • Bah to Husbandio! Quicksand is real and it’s scary! Look how many people were scared of it! They are the riptides of the dirt! Witches in toilets though? I don’t know where that comes from, but it’d be scary for sure! Lol.

  11. markbialczak says:

    Deep water. And I define deep as anything one cm above my nostril level, Don.

    I don’t even need the sharks or piranhas in the deep water to scare me. But they do, too.

    Quicksand, you bet. I can’t even pull my booted foot out of the mud around here in the spring.

  12. I’m sorry, but Nicholas Cage movies is still a deep rooted fear I think I will always possess! 🙂

  13. clowns – yes!! and jaws still haunts me to this day!!

  14. Jolene says:

    hahhaa…loved this, especially the quicksand bit.

    Let me tell you, Jaws scared the hell out of me and somehow swimming in my pool I thought Jaws (or piranhas) would make their way through the tiny drain and eat me alive.

    • Hahahaha, jaws in the pool! That’s creepy. Did you see that piranhas movie? I didn’t even go see Anaconda because I didn’t need another fear that involved a creature that could live in my house without water as a home. Lol.

  15. lisleman says:

    good list that brings back memories. I’m old enough to have been scared by the “Birds” movie. Oh getting pecked to death might be slower than death by taxes.
    I fought those Soviet killers in the cold war.

  16. christine says:

    Jaws? Yup. Freddy? Not as much as Malachi, but yup.

    My dad was a policeman, so I was always afraid a guy he arrested would get out and kidnap me as retribution. Kid you not, I had exit strategies in case the guy came during our all-school mass. (Because, of course, the best time to kidnap a particular kid is in a Catholic church full of kids.)

    • Holy crap, I forgot about Malachi!! My daughter had a friend over and her mom was all, “can her twin brother Malachi come play too?” Uh, no thanks, ma’am! Just the one is enough! Lol. I’d never considered the police officer angle. damn. I’m a police officer and I probably don’t think about that scenario enough. I guess i will now, so thanks for that!!

  17. theresa adkins says:

    hummmmm….2 movies come to mind that terrified me as a child and gave me the heebie jeebies (and i dont know why my parents let me watch them…good Lord we only had three stations and they pretty much kept me in a bubble) one was a frankenstein movie (i think) where a cut off hand would run around and choke people..(I swear to this very day that damn hand was on my bed for over a week trying to find my throat) and another one with a huge (gigantic, gargatuen (sp?) too fucking big, thats for sure) black spider that was living in someones basement and would kill at a moments notice. I just know those spiders are out to get me as revenge for killing the little ones….ugh, im shuddering here)….so ok, those two things and everything you noted and everyone above me noted. I hope you are happy with yourself. I havent thought about any of that in months and now all the work my therapist has done is out the window. Great.Fucker.

    • Therapists need work too, ma’am!!

      Your comment reminds me of a movie I watched at my grandma’s house one night all by myself. i think it was called Phantasm. There was a little ball that flew around and killed people…fuck, I’m going to Google it now! It scared me shitless!

  18. Twindaddy says:

    I was always afraid a snake was going to come slithering out of the toilet while I was taking a dump. Hey! It could happen!

  19. When I was young, I used to fear that computers would take over the world. Now, all of my cyber friends laugh and tell me how silly that was.

  20. Tyna S. Cline says:

    For years I feared Doberman Pinschers, because I thought that was the breed of dog in the (original) movie, “The Omen.” That cemetery scene was intense! Not long ago, I saw the movie again and realized that the dogs were actually Rottweilers. Now, I’d like to publicly apologize to all the Doberman Pinschers in the world (and their owners) for years of needless profiling.

    • Oh my GOd, you racially profiled the wrong dogs all those years?! You so need to rescue a Doberman and raise it and one generation of puppies to make up for your unwarranted mistrust.

  21. I was afraid of the quicksand too, but it was thanks to Gilligan’s Island.

  22. bethteliho says:

    Definitely tornadoes, getting cancer (I was always convinced I had it. how weird), vans (or being kidnapped), and oddly enough – I also feared being bombed in war! In fact, I had a bad dream about that LAST NIGHT! I shit you negative. I still can’t shake that doom feeling of knowing I’m about to be blown to smithereens. SHUDDER.

    I don’t recall a specific fear of quick sand, although the idea of it is very claustrophobic and scary.

    • I’m more afraid of tornadoes now than I was as a kid. We’ve had a couple of close calls and maybe my adult self wonders what the homeowners will actually cover?? Lol. I should look into that. As a Texan, you should worry more about Mexico declaring war to take Texas back! I’m pretty sure the rest of the U.S isn’t interested in helping fight that one. LOL!

  23. I was definitely a fearful child, all irrational; flushing toilets, boogie men, underbed monsters, closet monsters, things that go bump in the night, electricity, fire, ovens, the dark, sea monsters, handsy men….and I replaced those fears with rational fears; death of spouse, death of children, health phobias…but I’ve still not given up fear of sea monsters and handsy men.

  24. lrconsiderer says:

    I never did and still can’t handle horror, whether as movies or books.

    I was (NOT irrationally – long story) terrified of Any Other Toilet Than The One At Home. For a long, long, long time.

  25. samara says:

    Elevators which went through the top of the building and didn’t stop. It was my all-time, number one fear.

    • Upward elevators? Fuck! I used to worry about down travelling elevators not stopping, but there’s something to be said about going through the roof and shooting into orbit! That’s creepy.

  26. I WAS AFRAID OF QUICKSAND!!!!! And the most ridiculous thing was, I never watched Tarzan, but read about quicksand in a book once and became LITERALLY TERRIFIED that the school playground would suddenly give way beneath me and swallow me up. I LIVE IN LONDON. THERE IS NO QUICKSAND. Fortunately, I’m not worried about quicksand now. Only money and death.

  27. Quicksand! Oh, and piranhas scared the shit out of me too after I saw a movie where a man fell into water and died, being eaten by small fish. When I was a kid in the early stages of potty training, I wouldn’t use the toilet because the company’s logo was a wolf. And it was on the back seat of the toilet and I wouldn’t use the toilet because I was scared it was going to bite me. What a stupid thing to be scared of!

  28. Ha Don, these are epic! Quick sand was a big one for me. As were the Planet of the Apes. I thought the apes were going to come get me and take over the world (oh wait, they did). 🙂

    • I’m glad to hear that quicksand wasn’t just some silly thing that I had in my mind all alone! Oh and those apes. Thankfully, mom never let me watch much tv so I didn’t know they had taken over anything.

  29. Nadia says:

    Quicksand! It all comes back to me now. Besides that, I was scared shitless of witches. I was convinced they would come and get me in the dark… Fuck you, Disney.

    • Hahaha, yeah, fuck you, disney! How in the world were you not scared of the 874 varieties of animals that can kill you in Australia, if I may ask? Lol.

      • Nadia says:

        The 1,552,555 species that can kill you in your sleep luckily weren’t around when I grew up in South Africa. At least there, most dangerous animals were in game parks. Here the critters can even surprise you in your toilet… And now I’m really starting to wonder why I moved here.

  30. Blogdramedy says:

    What you need is low-fat bacon. It comes with authentic fake bacon flavor.
    Yum.

    • Ugh, that sounds worse than trying to survive a Freddy Krueger dream. Fake bacon flavor is for my dog’s food, which is, btw, not very delicious tasting in spite of the smell. So I’ve heard.

  31. LOL, love these and weirdly enough I had all the same fears (although I think I’m a bit older than you). I was also afraid that I would never fall in love, never have children and had a weirdly irrational fear that I would be forced to play some type of group sport (I’m terrifically uncoordinated). See…… it all works out in the end 🙂

  32. Trent Lewin says:

    This is awesome. I shared some of those fears.

    Biggest one was hurricanes. We were insanely landlocked and barely got a breath over a stiff wind in terms of storms, but you read about huge hurricanes and I would silently pray one wouldn’t come for me.

    Other thing that scared me was a New York Mets World Series win. And then 1986 came to be… and that was some truly terrifying shit.

  33. rynolexson says:

    hahahaha “The AIDS” That is my favorite one. The explanation is priceless. I was afraid of that Clown, “IT” pulling me into street gutters when I walked to the bus stop every morning…actually I still am scared of him. I will not walk near a gutter for that reason.

  34. Have you ever heard of Bill Clinton, young lady? He was a President, and quite a ladies man too. I bet he’d really have liked you as you are a young woman and a bit of a liberal douche. Lol.

  35. rachelocal says:

    I was a seven year old shaking in my boots about the rapture. I thought for sure I’d be left behind to fend for myself.

    That’s messed up, right?

    • Aren’t you the daughter of a preacher or some such craziness? That’s not so messed up, given that fact. Being left behind after the rapture is scary though. No shame in admitting that. What if the sharks take to land afterwards? Good god!

  36. PinotNinja says:

    I LOVE that all of your irrational childhood fears are tied to things you saw on television. I’m sure there’s some kind of life lesson in there, but I’m going to ignore it because I love television so much that I am blind to its faults.

    As I child I was really afraid of deer. Seriously. Because my mom told me, in an effort to get me to stay inside the house and stop getting lost in the woods, that deer will charge people and violently trample them to death. I continued to believe that until I was well into my 20s.

  37. djmatticus says:

    Sharks. And I live within five minutes of the ocean. I don’t go in.
    Occasionally peer pressure will drive me to dip a toe. The Queen adores the beach. I adore beach volleyball. It’s a match made in heaven, but eventually going to the beach means going into the ocean. I have no qualms about admitting my fear. I know it is irrational. I know the statistics. I don’t care.
    I hear the music in my head. I see the fin breaking the surface of the water. I can hear the screams from those still safely on the sand. I know the music is my head messing with me. I know the fin is my overactive imagination. I know the screams are actually ones of fun and joy from the kids running around. I don’t care.
    Scariest moment of my life: I was boogie boarding at Pismo Beach with some friends about 20 years ago. A dorsal fin really did break the water a few feet from me. My heart stopped. It was too close. I was doomed. And then the rest of the dolphin’s boby rolled over in the surf and my heart started again. I knew the presence of dolphins meant there was no threat of sharks… but, I called it quits for the day anyway. In fact, I never really went boogie boarding again after that.

  38. Clowns, and creepy trees outside of my bedroom window. Stupid Poltergeist.
    I was never afraid of sharks when I was younger because I was told the ocean is too cold in New England for them (jellyfish are another story). However, they are routinely spotted near Cape Cod now, so I’m thinking the swimming pool sounds great.

  39. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    Wow, that was super short! That’s what she said! Oh, wait… Anyway… spectral child murderers- ha! I never saw the movie Chucky but just seeing the video cover at the drugstore (remember when you could rent videos at the drugstore? Those were simpler times. Oh wait, I guess there’s Redbox. Anyway…) and it scared the crap out of me for weeks. Maybe years. Just from looking at his creepy doll face, I had terrible nightmares.

  40. Oh man I’m totally with you on quicksand and sharks. The shark one may still linger…

  41. Laura Lynn says:

    I was convinced that something lived under my bed. Certain of it. I don’t know what it was, but it was there. Irrational? Oh yes. But overall, I wasn’t and I’m still not afraid of anything.

  42. Mine was armageddon. The fear was only made worse by watching The Stand miniseries by Stephen King on TV one week. That could be why I’m on Lexapro now…..

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