Monday, February 28, 2011

No Bones About It...

Almost every regular person is afraid of something. Spiders or growing old, abandonment or the dark. They range from the rational to the irrational. Some fears can be life saving while others hinder living a normal life. Yet it's something that makes us unique individuals.

You could say that I have a certain level of phasmophobia (fear of ghosts). I've been startled on more than one occasion during an investigation by something I cannot explain as 'of our natural known world.' That doesn't mean I haven't been terrified by mundane, comical reality though. A bat, boom of thunder, or a cat in the right circumstances have all made me jump. Then of course, there are some of you who are quite aware of my fear of heights (batophobia) and bridges (gephyrophobia) which has had some hilarious results.

I've heard that the best way to conquer fears is to face them. For the most part, I have, be it investigating haunted places, crossing high bridges in major cities, or looking out windows from skyscrapers. Yet there's one fear I've had since childhood (which, interestingly enough, is not a named phobia) which I have avoided at all costs... until now.


In my early years, I experienced a recurring nightmare. I was in a narrow alley, with brick walls on three sides. On the fourth side, blocking my only means of escape, was a gang of several animated, grim, menacing skeletons slowly closing me into a corner before I woke up in a panic. Cartoon skeletons or illustrations don't bother me. It's the real (or at least life-like) skulls and skeletons that give me the creeps. Technically, this should be called "osteophobia" (quite literally 'fear of bones'), but the closest category for it is necrophobia: fear of death and dead things.

It sounds absurd, I know. They're inside all of us, so you would think something as common as a skeleton (while normally covered with flesh) wouldn't be such a big deal. But for me, it can be. But now, I get a chance to face this fear daily. In my effort to gather creepy, odd, and supernatural artifacts I now have a child-sized resin skull sitting on my bookcase.

To be honest, just glancing over at it is a bit unnerving at times. Even though it's not real, I can't bring myself to face those empty eye sockets in my general direction. I'm sure that in time, it will desensitize me enough that I won't be as uncomfortable in the presence of bones. It reminds me of a conversation from the movie Clue between Professor Plum and Mrs. Peacock.
"What are you afraid of? A fate worse than death?"
"No, just death. Isn't that enough?"

What is it about our immortality that is so frightening? Death is inevitable; no one can escape it. Yet it scares us and can become an obsession. Skulls are undoubtedly the strongest symbol of our limited life span. To gaze at a skull is to face your fate. If we know it's coming, why is the knowledge unbearable for many of us? Perhaps the answer is the unknown aspect. Is it a new beginning, the door to an afterlife, or just lights out? Yet the skull will not answer the question...


Pepper Dene said...

I know exactly how you feel. I have osteophobia as well (I really think they should consider it a real phobia). Cartoons don't bother me either, but I will pass out if I am presented with a real bone or skull (weather human or not). Skeletons should really stay covered in flesh.

I am so glad I found this article. I know now that I am not alone in this. :)

Unknown said...

Oh my God, I thought I was the only person who felt this away about skeletons. They absolutely freak me out. I have no idea why, it's not like I had a negative encounter with one as a child or anything. But they really freak me out. Not cartoon ones, only realistic ones. Oh and if the skull has eyeballs it's even worse.

Anonymous said...

I have osteophobia as well and even pictures of bones frighten me! However, I am not afraid of touching my own ones, just because they are not completely visible. I have already tried to face my fear by looking at skeletons of dead animals whenever I see them and trying to calm myself but that just doesn´t help at all. The only consequence is that I start to dream about bones again. :(