Posted by: cassymuronaka | January 1, 2010


While other people are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, my mind has drifted to phobias. I have many, although none are crippling enough to keep me behind the living room curtains, peering at the neighborhood with increasing suspicion.

Some have resulted from movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read. Stephen King can be blamed for a lot of people sleeping with the lights on, and I don’t know anyone who read “It” and has ever looked at a clown the same way again. I will not wear a long scarf that isn’t tucked inside my coat (see Vanessa Redgrave strangled by the spokes of an automobile wheel in “Isadora”) and I’m not wild about ventriloquists (see Anthony Hopkins being driven insane by his dummy in “Magic”).

I had already stopped venturing into deep seawater long before I read and saw “Jaws,” having scanned too many newspaper stories about vanishing surfers whose surfboards later floated up to shore in Santa Cruz or Sydney with one giant bite taken out of them.

Sadly, I’ve passed on at least one terror to my only child. When he was six years old, he and his classmates individually prepared a list of three items that they loved most and three items that they feared most. These were displayed on Back to School Night.

Every other first grade fright list contained the usual; dark streets, terrifying older siblings, and the ever popular Something Under My Bed. My son’s was:

— Something under my bed
— The full moon
— Electricity

The fear of electricity is partly a gift from my mother, who never failed to vehemently remind her children not to stick forks or knives into toasters that are plugged in. As a result, my toaster is never plugged in except when it’s actually toasting. Interestingly, my mother’s toaster is always plugged in.

I am also anxious about hairdryers and their relationship to water in bathrooms. This paranoia extended itself into the kitchen after I saw a woman electrocute herself by stepping into a puddle of spilled water when she touched a Mr. Coffee machine that had gone haywire in the film, “The Believers.”

Despite being a Pisces, water factors heavily into my list of phobias. So, visiting San Francisco can be a problem. I avoid going up Interstate 5 because it crosses back and forth over the California aqueduct too many times, and driving across the Bay Bridge from Berkeley to San Francisco is breathtaking, on any number of levels. The alternative to the latter, which is riding the BART subway under the ocean between the the two cities, is too horrifying to even contemplate in earthquake country.

My dominant, all-encompassing phobia is not having my feet firmly planted on terra firma. I’m not afraid of heights, nor am I actively claustrophobic, but I’m not fond of tunnels, caves, enclosed CT machines or cracks in the earth that could suddenly open up and swallow me. I could have lived my life happily without ever seeing Uma Thurman punch her way out of a coffin underground in “Kill Bill, Vol. 2.”

I don’t like flying in jet planes, but I have no problem doing photo assignments in small planes or helicopters, even when the door is off the aircraft. I think the disconnect here is the belief that while I have no control over anything in a jet plane, I can wrap my hands around the throat of the pilot sitting next to me in a smaller vehicle during a problematic flight.

This is not unlike an action once taken by the John Yossarian, the central character of “Catch-22,” during one of the many missions in which he was a bombardier in Italy during World War II. Yossarian spent the entire novel convinced that he was the only sane man trying to stay alive in the U.S. Army. This was my favorite book during during my junior high and high school years. I read it six times before I was out of 10th grade.

Somewhere in my house is a poster called “The Phobia List.” I have not gotten around to framing it yet, but I bought it because it was comforting and amusing to see several hundred phobias listed that are infinitely more eccentric than anything I have developed. And while writing this post, I discovered that a pop-up book of phobias was published in 1999. I might have to buy that, too.

Favorite phobias I do not currently have:

Alektorophobia- Fear of chickens
Allodoxaphobia- Fear of opinions
Anuptaphobia- Fear of staying single
Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
Aulophobia- Fear of flutes
Bufonophobia- Fear of toads
Consecotaleophobia- Fear of chopsticks
Dikephobia- Fear of justice
Dutchphobia- Fear of the Dutch
Ephebiphobia- Fear of teenagers
Lachanophobia- Fear of vegetables
Papaphobia- Fear of the Pope
Peladophobia- Fear of bald people
Pteronophobia- Fear of being tickled by feathers
Walloonphobia- Fear of the Walloons

FYI, The Walloons are a “predominantly French-speaking southern region of Belgium,” according to Wikipedia.


  1. Hi Cassy. It was great to see you and Martha the other day. Happy Near Year! I believe I lack some of the phobias you mention because I stay away from horror movies. Perhaps you should stick to nature shows, although they too can be bloody, especially if lions are involved. Personally am irrationally afraid of rats and mice, and wonder why squirrels and chipmunks seem cute, in comparison.

    • Dunno… wild animals roam plains with cracks that could open up and swallow me.

      You probably shouldn’t visit here during Christmas. I have lots of mice ornaments on my tree.

      (It was good to see you, too)

  2. I don’t like spiders and snakes

    • I think you are in good company there.

    • Wasn’t that a song by Jim Stafford?

  3. Bummer. I was typing a really involved response about shooting poisonous snakes, freezing the coral snake whose head Manny mashed, picking up and cooing at non-poisonous snakes, stomping scorpions and taking their surprisingly unruined corpses in to school for the kinders to investigate with magnifying glasses, spraying black widows outside where they’re too hidden to stomp, appreciating tarantulas, and relocating Gila monsters. But it disappeared somehow. Trust me, it was engrossing.

    • Oh, yeah, and I began by saying that I used to be afraid of arachnids, but when we moved here I had to get over it or go crazy. Fast.

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