The Phobia Parade

By Andrew Herold

As a horror writer, I am constantly being asked what scares me the most.

Ok, that's obviously a lie, but it's something that people will want to know some day, and when that day comes I'll pick up a copy of my new book and throw it at the face of whoever asks me, because I'm too busy to be bothered with such bullshit. But, as I don't have a book out and so can't afford a lengthy legal battle over who did or didn't break a reporter's nose with one, I thought I'd reveal now the things that terrify me the most. And I'm not talking about the common fears we all share, (like dying alone, or being being a failure, or being a failure then dying alone. I'm talking about the real, visceral deep-down scary shit that doesn't live in a place of rationality—the things that I envision standing behind me when I walk in the dark, the things that dwell beneath my bed waiting for my foot to flop over the edge so it can grab at my soft flesh, the things that wait for me down in the shadows in the basement smelling of mold and rot... you know, my future bread and butter.

So let's kick-off the fun with clowns! There is nothing light-hearted or funny about these fucking monsters. They are grown men and women (mostly men) who slather grease paint and pancake makeup on their faces, paint on huge red smiles that look like gashes, don mismatched hobo clothes that they may or may not have taken from their latest murder victim, and caper around in front of impressionable children. You know, for fun. You can't tell who they are under all of that crap other than some malformed monster shat out of a child's nightmare.

They can dance, caper, and cavort all they want, but I still don't see that as jolly or endearing. I see it as the delusional jitterings of a dangerous lunatic. Just think about it logically for a moment; would you let a man near your children who pulled things out of his baggy clothes and twisted balloons into odd shapes, but who hid his identity while doing it? Parents that hire clowns for children's parties ought to be referred to child services, okay? No child has ever wanted a clown at their party, period. It's just a way for an absent parent to try and take an active role in their child's life while putting the least amount of effort into it. Oddly enough for me, I've never been accosted, harassed or even formally addressed by a clown. My parents obviously loved me. As I can't offer any explanation for this fear, I'd like to blame it on John Wayne Gacy and move on.

Next up on the irrational fear hit parade are pigs. Not cute little pink oinking things. I'm talking about full grown fucking hogs that are as big as my car, that look like they crawled out of some prehistoric fissure to wreak havoc and exact retribution for all of the bacon ever consumed. They look sinister with their short bristly hair, great curved tusks, deformed faces, and sharp teeth—if you squint they could be four legged demons.

Their legs may be short and stumpy, but they can move great speeds over short distances and can unzip your belly and spill your insides on the ground in a matter of seconds. Add to that the fact that they have been known to engage in cannibalism, have been known to kill and eat chickens and other small animals who wander into their pens, and that people and pigs supposedly taste very similar (which is the origin of the shudder inducing phrase 'long pork'), you've got a terrifying animal direct from the imagination of H.P. Lovecraft. And let's not overlook the fact that pigs are responsible for upwards of 20,000 human deaths per year. I'm sorry, but no amount of bacon can make up for such senseless slaughter.

And while we're tap dancing along the line of insanity here, let's throw ghosts into the mix. I'm happy to know that I'm not the only person who believes in ghosts, and thereby cannot be the only person afraid of them, but at the age of *age withheld for legal reasons* it's slightly embarrassing to admit. But come on, I just said I was scared of pigs, so let's not judge me too harshly on this one, okay? And it's not the traditional Ooooooooooo! bed-sheeted ghosts that make my skin crawl, it's the notion that if ghosts are real, then by rights, there must exist the ghosts of insane and dangerous people (like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Mr. Rogers), who are unwilling to be reasoned with.

Sociopaths are scary enough in day-to-day life (you encounter a great many just working a 9-5 job), but a dead one you can't get rid of? Imagine you're lying in bed at night, your face turned toward the edge of the bed and you can't sleep. Fear compels you to open your eyes and verify that you are in fact alone and safe in your room—but there is someone there, staring directly into your eyes mere inches from your face. I don't know how you would react in that situation, but I think I would probably shit my soul out... maybe my heart, too. Not only is there the possibility of perverted/ psychotic ghosts watching everything we do, but if there are ghosts, it begs the question, what happens after we die? And if there are some ghosts, why doesn't everyone become a ghost when they die?

By then you're ensnared in a theological thicket, and that is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Finally, we come to the greatest irrational fear that I have, the thing which in all likelihood were I to encounter it, it would reduce me to a gibbering urine soaked mental patient in a matter of seconds... plus, you know, the heart and the soul shitting. I'm speaking about the Mothman. I was unaware of this creature until I watched the movie The Mothman Prophecies. If you've seen it, you know that on the surface there is nothing inordinately terrifying about it. in fact, it's a relatively quiet movie where not a great deal happens and you don't see very much. Also, there's the Debra Messing factor, but for some reason, this movie scares me more than any other. I won't watch it alone for fear that afterwards I'll see the Mothman lurking outside, pressing its face up against my windows trying to figure out how to get in. And it's like the raptors from Jurassic Park but more intelligent, so I know that it'll figure out the door handle before I can load my shotgun.

I don't know if it's possible for fear to spontaneously reduce you to a pile of skin and organs, but if I ever encounter the Mothman, I believe this will happen. It's the wings, like of some ancient angel/demon, the glowing red eyes, the precognition it supposedly possesses, and the screeching and flying all while still being basically human. It speaks to all of the primal fears we all still harbor from when our ancestors were smearing their feces on cave walls—fear of interlopers, terror from the sky, the great unknown, and death. Also, there's the idea put forth by a friend of mine that perhaps my irrational fear stems from an encounter with this creature as a child (or in a past life) which has subsequently been blocked from my memory.


At this point you may find yourself wondering "is Andrew completely insane?" and "is there anything else that scares you?" Well, the answer to both of those questions is yes. Fear isn't supposed to be based in sanity, or it wouldn't be scary. If we could rationalize away the things we were afraid of, they wouldn't elicit the fear reaction in us, and I'd be out of a job (which is the most terrifying thing of all). If nothing else, I can take comfort from the fact that we all have irrational fears of something. For some it's spiders, burglars, aliens, and the elderly. My phobias just happen to take the shape of Mothman, dressed up as a ghost clown who has an evil pig sidekick... who is also a dentist...

You know what? It would have been easier to just write the book and throw it at someone.