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31 Bizarre Childhood Fears That Will Make You Glad To Be Grown Up

Swimming pools were not to be trusted.

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1. When I was younger, I thought that if I cut my hair short, vampires would come and suck out all of my blood from the exposed skin on my bare neck. Not sure why.

—Macey Foronda

2. I once overheard my mom telling another mom that when she was a child, she feared that an ant would crawl into her ear and establish a colony in her brain. I did not internalize the fact that her story was a joke about how dumb people are when they are children, but I did immediately become deeply afraid that an ant would crawl into my ear and establish a colony in my brain. —Ariane Lange

3. My older brother had a crippling fear of beards. He had nightmares about having one. I distinctly remember one night when he woke up in tears because of a nightmare he had about having a beard. —Andrew Ziegler

5. We had a pool growing up, and my biggest fear was, while swimming in the deep end, a plane would fly over and drop a crate that had a shark in it. The crate would then splash down next to me, releasing the shark before I had time to get out of the pool. I ended up swimming in the shallow end a lot. —Justin Abarca

6. Swimming pools. Like in a big water park, where there's some slide that's out of order, and so the pool is completely calm and still, but every other pool around it is a giant, cacophonous sinkhole of obnoxious other children. If I saw an unused swimming pool, I would stand rooted to the ground and ponder what would happen to me if I fell in, assuming that because it was so quiet no one was watching it, and since everything else was so loud, no one would hear me screaming, and I would just drown right there, surrounded by people, at the tender age of 6. —Jina Moore

8. I used to have this irrational fear of being buried alive (???) when I was, like, 6 or 7 years old. Too many horror movies, maybe? Who knows. I was also terrified of having dreams of being buried alive — and my mom would try to ease my intense fear by telling me that if I said, "I don't want to dream about ____" before I went to bed, I wouldn't dream about it. (Obviously this is not a foolproof tactic, but points for trying with your neurotic second-grader, Mom.) So for a few months, every night a little before bed, I'd go up to my mom and tell her all the things I didn't want to dream about, starting with being buried alive. —Emmy Favilla

9. I was afraid that someone would put me in a situation where I had to choose which members of my family lived or died. I don't know if I accidentally watched a hostage movie at some point or what, but I would obsess for hours and get all worked up over how I would choose, and how I would have to explain my choice to the rest of my family/the police/the world. I was clearly a very deep 7-year-old. —Alexis Nedd

10. I used to live in Texas and, after we did a unit on severe weather in elementary school, became insanely afraid of tornadoes. It was somewhat justified, since tornadoes happen all the time there, but it got to a point where the second I saw dark clouds or knew there was going to be a thunder storm, I was certain my house and school were going to be leveled within hours. —Anita Badejo

12. When I was 6, my family moved to a new house. In my new room, a metal ceiling fan dangled from a creaky rotor. At night, the light from under the door frame conspired with the fan to cast a shadow on the ceiling that appeared to be a giant scuttling spider. As you might imagine, I became hysterically afraid of spiders. It got bad, to the point that I would scream and cry whenever I saw even a little house spider in the kitchen. This would be followed by a kind of catatonia.

Eventually my parents took me to a hypnotist to disabuse me of my terror. All I remember about the hypnotist was that he had a tremendous and willful blond mustache, and that when he thought I was under, he would quietly repeat, "Spiders cannot hurt you, you must not be afraid of spiders." I thought it was a sham. But then, after several weeks of treatment, I was confronted, half-asleep, with a wolf spider plunging on a thread from the bathroom threshold. I calmly folded it in a piece of toilet tissue, murdered it by crushing, and flushed it into the Montgomery County, Maryland sewage system. —Joe Bernstein

13. One fear I had, which makes NO SENSE, was that I would end up on a TV show like Candid Camera and be humiliated on national TV. I became genuinely depressed thinking about this, and once spent a whole week during a family vacation barely talking because I was so scared. I even did some math in my head to try to convince myself of how slim the chances of it happening were. To this day, I have a strong dislike for hidden camera pranks. —Adam Davis

15. There was a book of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark that was circulated in my third grade classroom and school library. The black and white illustrations in it are sort of ridiculous and disturbing... apparently so much that I was traumatized by the sight of them! I usually tried to hang around the encyclopedias and computers during our reading block to avoid seeing peers leafing through it, but around Halloween it was so popularly circulated that I actually played sick to stay home from school for as many days as possible. A lot of effort just to avoid being in the same room as some ink on paper... —David Bertozzi

16. There were some weird dents on my closet door and when the light hit it, I swear it looked like a creepy, tortured, face. I strangely became convinced that some old man must have been horribly murdered and his pained visage had somehow been frozen into my closet door. I explained this to my parents multiple times — until eventually they hung a tapestry up over the door. That still was not enough for my apparently deeply neurotic 8-year-old self, and finally I convinced my dad to take the door off its hinges and put it in the garage where it stayed until we moved 10 years later. —Justine Zwiebel

17. There was a towel that hung on the back of my childhood bedroom door and in the squinty dark it looked hella like Samara from The Ring, so periodically I would crumple it up on the floor instead. This fear has probably not actually abated, but I don't know because I have since moved out of my folks' house. —Alanna Okun

19. After seeing Fire in the Sky, I was very, very scared of aliens. I mean, I was always scared, but the movie brought it to a whole new level. (THEY TOOK LIE DETECTOR TESTS AND IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.) Anytime I saw lights in the sky, I thought they were UFOs. The way my shower was positioned, I could see out the window while I was in it. Sometimes I'd be in the shower and think I saw a UFO and wonder if maybe the aliens wouldn't find me if I just stayed in there, like, forever. And then I wondered if the world would hate me if I used all the world's water just to avoid abduction. —Deena Shanker

20. I took D.A.R.E. in elementary school, where they told us that people get addicted to crack after smoking it only once. From then on, I was terrified that someone would run up to me on the street and put a crack pipe in my mouth and make me smoke it, and then I'd spend the REST OF MY LIFE addicted to crack. —Jessica Misener

21. I was obsessed with Drop Dead Fred as a kid, but the scene where Fred cuts Lizzie's hair during the night TERRIFIED me. I had really long hair and it was my pride and joy. I was really afraid Drop Dead Fred would cut it off while I was sleeping, so I legit slept holding onto my hair with both hands for about a year. —Jenna Guillaume

23. When I was 6, I accidentally saw a made-for-TV movie on USA in which a woman goes into labor and her organs spill out of her; I was terrified that I was going to have my organs spill out of me. Not that I was going to get pregnant. Just that the organs would spill out at any moment. —Anne Helen Petersen

24. When I was maybe 9 or 10 I saw a PBS documentary about the "ice man" mummy they found in the Alps, and I was terrified of him and convinced for some reason that he was going to EMERGE FROM THE TOILET WHILE I WAS PEEING. —Rachel Sanders

25. When I was 10 or 11, I became terrified that there would be a fire in my house in the middle of the night and that my parents would be killed. The thought of surviving my parents and being an orphan was almost scarier than dying to me. It got so bad that one year, for my birthday, I asked my parents to buy me an escape ladder I'd seen advertised on TV. I was really worried about getting our family photos and my favorite stuffed animal out of the house safely, so I rehearsed their escape almost as much as I rehearsed my own. My parents calmly told me they would not be purchasing an escape fire ladder. Instead, I got a bike that changed gears. The fire fear receded after a while, but I still like the feeling of living in an apartment that has a fire escape. —Julia Furlan

26. When I was very young, I was intensely afraid of drive-by shootings, to the point that whenever cars drove by my house I would duck and cover my head. I grew up in the suburbs. This fear was based in literally no personal experiences whatsoever, and I have no idea where it came from. —Kristin Chirico

28. I played with a Ouija board at school when I was about 10 or 11, and also went through a phase of "testing" supposed ways to invoke the devil (saying the Hail Mary backward in front of a mirror, and some such). Of course nothing ever happened (or did it...?), but then, around the same time, I saw an episode toward the end of the original run of Dallas where the devil convinces JR to shoot himself. That was enough to tip me over into full-blown shitting myself — I slept in my older brother's room for about a month afterward and wouldn't be left alone anywhere. —Declan Cashin

29. I was terribly afraid that if I peed in the middle of the night, Freddy Krueger would hear it and come get me. So I'd tiptoe to the bathroom, I never flushed the toilet after I used it, and then I would run back to my room as fast as possible. —Driadonna Roland

30. For a while, I became consumed by a fear that I would be falsely accused, and then found guilty, of murder. I wasn't sure how I, as an 8-year-old, would find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I was terrified by the idea that a jury could just decide I had done something that I REALLY DIDN'T DO. (I hadn't learned about appeals yet, apparently.) Of course, looking back, I blame the classic film, My Cousin Vinny. —Arianna Rebolini

31. Like most kids I was an avid Goosebumps fan, but one book called Be Careful What You Wish For scared the bejesus out of me. It's about a girl who makes a wish, but its execution is at the expense of others. Every time I blow out a birthday candle, I still make sure to add a ton of fast mental disclaimers about my wish. —Kasia Galazka