Fear & loathing: Readers share their phobias

Illustration by Bryan Nielsen/Standard-Examiner
Story by Brad Gillman
(Standard-Examiner staff)
Tue, Jun 28, 2011
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We asked what freaks you out, and you answered.

Some of you talked about your fear of flying, for example, or of being shocked. But typically the responses were of the creepy, crawly variety. Spiders. snakes. grasshoppers. Even throw a few sharks into the mix.

Here’s a sampling of some of the phobias that are bothering readers at the Top of Utah  ...

Heidi Olson, Roy

• Grasshoppers

Give Heidi Olson a choice between two doors — with Satan behind one and a grasshopper behind the other — and she’ll choose the devil every time.

After all, Olson says, grasshoppers “are terrible.”

“They are the devil,” she said. “I think maybe I was eaten by them in a former life.”

It all started when she was very young, living in Morgan. A monster-sized grasshopper started working its way up her pant leg.

“We had a lot of them, but most of them didn’t get that big,” Olson said.

Today, she says, “If I just see one it’s like a panic freeze-up. If one gets on me or too close to me I will actually go into an asthma attack and it’s hard to breathe.”

These days Olson enlists some help when one of the insects journeys into her Roy yard.

“We get one once in a while and my dog thinks they are a tasty sensation,” she said. “I just send him out to find them.”

Diane Kulkarni, Perry

• Spiders, claustrophobia

“When I was little I used to pick up daddy longlegs and I had no problems with spiders at all — until that event,” recalls Diane Kulkarni.

The event in question took place when Kulkarni was just 4 years old. She was playing with some neighborhood children who were using a wooden crate as a pretend elevator.

“When it was my turn I went in there and they shut the door,” she said. “Then I looked up in the corner and I saw this huge tarantula. That finished me off. Ever since then, no matter how big or small, I just cannot stand anything like that.”

The Perry woman has tried to desensitize herself by watching clips of spiders online, but that only serves to give her nightmares afterward.

Kulkarni says she also suffers from a kind of claustrophobia, and she remembers the first time she felt it. A dentist had put a dental dam in her mouth and she felt like it was gagging her. She panicked and insisted the dentist remove it, but he refused.

“I didn’t realize that that had an effect until a few years later,” Kulkarni said.

She’d broken a tooth, and went to another dentist. The dentist had to make an impression of her teeth, and placed a mold tray deep in her mouth.

“I just grabbed it and threw it out of my mouth and it hit the wall,” Kulkarni said. “Now, I just go in and I have the gas.”

Della Combs, South Ogden

• Feathers

Della Combs’ odd fear started out as a bad dream when she was 3 years old.

“I remember walking in to my aunt’s home and she was sitting in a chair with arms,” Combs recalls. “She was strumming her fingers, and I looked down and they were feathers. I guess I woke up screaming, because my mom remembers the dream. She remembers coming to my aid. I remember it explicitly.”

Ever since then, feathers — as well as anything with odd hands — make her squirm. For example, although she says she enjoyed the movie, “Edward Scissorhands” was just a little too much for her, and she spent much of the movie covering her eyes.

So the simple answer to conquering this fear would be: Avoid feathers. Not so easy, Combs says, as it’s not uncommon for a friend or family member to chase her around with a feather.

“My whole life people have teased me about it,” she said.

Jerome Wilden, Sunset

• Snakes

Jerome Wilden came face to hissing face with a water snake at a young age.

“We used to catch the chubs that came down in the irrigation ditches. We would see the white bellies and catch them,” said Wilden, who grew up in Beaver.

“So I saw this big white belly and I grabbed it and pulled it out (of the water) and it was a water snake. It came right to my eyes and I was just petrified. Then I threw it to China or wherever. ”

That’s how a lifetime fear of snakes began. The fear has cropped up numerous times in Wilden’s 80 years — sometimes with embarrassing after effects.

He was on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North Carolina when they received a warning from their mission president: “Be aware of water moccasins and other snakes that are dangerous and poisonous.”

Wilden and his companion were walking down the road one day when Wilden saw something long, lying there on the pavement.

“It was a good thing no cars were coming,” he says. “I pushed (my companion) right across the road.

“I said ‘It’s a snake, it’s a snake.’ He went back and picked it up and said, ‘It’s nothing but a darn rope.’ ”

Desiree Barlow, Kaysville

• Sharks

Blame Steven Spielberg for this phobia. Desiree Barlow was growing up on the East Coast when the movie “Jaws” came out. She became terrified of the water but finally made her way out onto a boat. Then came the final straw — fisherman caught a shark in the very cove where they were water-skiing.

Gene Tabor, Honeyville

• Spiders

Gene Tabor’s phobia story includes how he gained his fear, and when he finally overcame it.

It all started with his uncle chasing a young Tabor around with a spider dangling on the end of a stick.

But eventually, war cured him of that fear, when Tabor was out on patrol and his squad went through a sugar cane field. When he emerged from the field, Tabor found that he was covered in hundreds of spiders.

But he had no time to brush them off, as he had to walk right back through the cane to find some squad members.

He says his spider phobia faded after that experience.

Chris Woolsey, Roy

• Spiders

Chris Woolsey, too, has a long history of arachnophobia, which started with her mother getting bitten on the forehead by a black widow spider. That was long before Woolsey was born, but she heard about it in story, and that was enough to help develop a healthy phobia.

Woolsey then had her own close encounter with a spider when she went to the laundry, looked above her head and saw a black widow descending toward her.

Paul Taylor, Ogden

• Static electricity

Paul Taylor has a fear of being shocked. Car doors, light switches, electrical plugs — anything that can give off a static electrical discharge. He says it can make his job a bit tough, working with fiber optic cables as he does.

Mona Maggio, Ogden

• The word “Awesome”

Yes, the word “awesome.” Some might dispute this is an actual phobia, but Mona Maggio says the word is too often incorrectly used to describe mundane things. And that frightens her.

Fear, Health, Phobia
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