Monday, October 28, 2013

Top Ten Truly Terrifying Things We Should Worry About Instead of Vampires

Why do we love horror so much? Because it's escapism of the safe kind. Heck, it's even safer than, say, roller coasters when you consider there is a mortality rate for roller coaster riders, a supposedly "safe" way to face fear and get an adrenaline rush. I'm pretty sure horror movies haven't killed anyone, at least not directly, so we're going to go with that. (Whoops...I may soon be proven wrong on that one.)

This being Halloween week, I figured I would address the things in real life that are actually frightening. See, I love critter horror stories as much as the next person, and I've been thinking I should just become a cryptozoologist so I can go out and have all the fun. However, my true horror love is real-life terror. The scares that give me the biggest fear-thrills are things that could really happen. My personal focus tends to be on the human component: serial killers. Yes, I'm fascinated by human depravity, because it seems to me we all have this capacity within us. Some embrace it, some fight it, some have it so well hidden they don't even know it's there. But we all possess the ability to lose our ever-loving minds and go psycho on someone else. Some of us more than others.

There are plenty of things for us to truly be afraid of. Here's a partial list, in no particular order:

10. Nature. While watching footage of something like Hurricane Katrina or the Waldo Canyon Fire, do you ever find yourself smugly thinking to yourself that you've chosen a safe place and all us idiots should just move out of the danger zone? I'm pretty certain I can say most of us in the Springs considered ourselves pretty darned safe. We've gone decades without any major natural disasters, and we had crappy planning in place due to the belief that this was a safe area. I think Mother Nature resented this complacency, so in the last few years she started throwing us a few curve balls: Waldo Canyon Fire; Black Forest Fire; Manitou flooding; a hail storm that caused major damage and had to be plowed up due to the insane depth; flooding in the eastern part of the city; a bloody tornado ON TOP OF PIKES PEAK, a mountain that is over 14,000 feet high; funnel clouds over the western part of the city on 4th of July a couple years ago; a tornado touching down on Academy Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in the city, that same 4th of July. Add to that the fact that we have minor earthquakes that occur along the mountains (minor enough we're not physically aware of them), dormant volcanoes along the front range, and the perfect setup for sinkholes galore, and...OH MY GOD, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

Having said that, we are actually a really safe place. One that doesn't have a cyclical set of horrors that hit us each year. We're not part of tornado alley, we don't get tsunamis or hurricanes, we aren't exposed to mega-earthquakes, the ocean is not going to swallow us anytime soon, we rarely get major blizzards, so on and so forth. We ALL live in an area that is prone to some sort of natural disaster, even if it has been years since the last similar disaster. For instance, the flooding recently experienced in central Colorado last happened almost forty years ago. Long enough that people had no idea this was a possible issue unless they were in the area at the time, but recently enough that people living here had experienced it once before. Estes Park has flooded before, and it will flood again, despite safety measures put into place. Nature is as nature does. The gorgeous natural formations we enjoy so much were created by upheavals in nature. This earth was formed before we lived on it, with cycles we have no control over. Forests burn to clean themselves up and make way for new growth. Hurricanes occur due to heating of the ocean's currents. Everything has a reason for being, and here we stand in the middle of it all, with no way to defeat it, as much as we like to pretend we've got it down.

We won't even discuss insect infestations. What we will discuss is...

9. Nature, the Second Coming. What I mean by this is things that prey upon us. I'm not counting germs at this point. We'll get to those later. What I'm counting are those now infamous creatures that swim up urethras when you pee in the water (fella's...) and are attracted to blood in the water (ladies...). When we step out of our air-tight safety bubbles (oh wait, most of us don't have those?), we are exposed to all kinds of living things that want to kill us. And while, yes, large predators fit into this category, I figure they're usually the least of our worries. This from someone who lives in the wildland-urban interface. In this neighborhood, it is not unusual to find a mountain lion's deer kill, hear packs of coyotes yipping as they chase down an escaped dog, walk under a tree only to find there's a bear up there with her cubs, hear the rattle of a frightened rattlesnake warning us off, watch an owl carry off a cat from someone's yard, so on and so forth. That's life around here, and those of us who've lived in the area for awhile accept that (and we by golly keep our pets inside). But what really scares me are those stories I hear about, say a blowfly laying its eggs in your ear canal, then those maggots working their way deeper and deeper until they infiltrate your brain. Or what about those brain-eating amoebas? I'm prone to sinus infections, but I've learned that I can head them off with what I refer to as the holy trinity: Mucinex, Sudafed, and sinus lavage (neti-pot, sinus wash, whatever you want to call it). But that last one can KILL you if you don't boil the water first. Ask the man on the east coast who died from using a neti-pot, only to have a brain-eating guessed it...EAT HIS BRAIN! They're like zombie bugs. Who needs to fear the zombie apocalypse? It's already here, and it's microscopic!

8. The Plague. Here's where we get really microscopic. Viruses and bacteria wipe out millions of people. The Black Death swept across Europe, killing between 75 and 200 million people. These things are constantly multiplying and mutating. Right when we think we have okay control over one scourge, another one breaks out, this time paired with monkey, bird, or swine DNA. They find new incubators. They develop new strains and new resistances. We have MRSA and other diseases that stand up to our best antibiotics. We will never, ever escape every little tiny cellular level murderer that comes our way, no matter how many vaccinations we pump into our kids. Nature is a bitch, and she wins. All we can do is scurry to keep up as best we can.

H.H. Holmes
By Postdlf [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
7. Psychos. Yep, I just said it. Know why? I don't have a Ph.D., so I can call them psychos if I want to. Serial killers, spree killers, twisted mother effers that delight in killing others, often in the most horrible ways imaginable (and unimaginable.) The worst part about these folks? They blend in. We have not been able to really study psycho-/sociopaths, because the REALLY smart ones DON'T GET CAUGHT. Get that? The ones we're questioning in prison, even the ones with high IQ's, were just the ones we caught. There are countless homicidal maniacs out there who have eluded the law and always will. Profilers base their knowledge of murderers off the ones they've been able to actually interview. Again, those are the ones who slipped up and got caught. I posted about the Original Night Stalker during the A-to-Z. Never caught. Zodiac Killer? Never caught. Jack the Ripper? Never caught. And our most frightening killers frequently go undetected, because they defy patterns, move around to different states/countries, etc. Think of how many out there have committed multiple awful crimes that have never been put together with their counterparts. Think of how high their body counts might be. Now consider your neighbors. All friendly, you say? You all get together, are all members of the neighborhood watch? Upstanding citizens? Well, read interviews about how well liked Ted Bundy was. John Wayne Gacy? A pillar of the community. Look up H.H. Holmes; he was a who built his very own torture house during the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

By Mohamed Ibrahim,
6. Vehicles. Speaking of high mortality rates, let's talk about our cars, shall we? Over 30,000 people die in car accidents each year. (Interestingly, the numbers are decreasing over time.) That's just the ones who die, mind you. There are over 6 million car accidents each year, with about 3 million injuries resulting. Planes crash, boats sink, people fall off tractors. I think you get the picture here.

5. Our own clumsiness. The CDC reports over 120,000 unintentional injury deaths per year in the U.S. alone. People fall down stairs, trip and slam their heads into counters, fall out of bed and crack their heads on nightstands, fall into holes, drown in hot tubs and baths, cut themselves with power tools and bleed to death, and more. You could walk under a falling piano today. It's out of your hands.

4. Space murder. If you listen to the paranoid, space is trying to kill us all the time. Killer comets, hungry meteorites, space debris, solar flares. Space is jealous that we're so pretty, what with our lovely blue jewel of a water-bearing planet and all. It's angry. It wants to eat Earth's face off. We don't know what's out there. Aliens? Maybe. They're already experimenting on us to find all our weaknesses. I figure those weaknesses should be fairly obvious, considering we're so easy to kidnap from our own beds or on back roads in the middle of the night. Come on! What killed the dinosaurs? Could it have been something falling out of space? Maybe. How many times have we gotten lucky when a huge piece of space murder has made it through our atmosphere and hit unpopulated areas? Seen Starman? That crater really exists. Ask Siberia about catastrophic space injuries they've suffered (look up the Tunguska Event.) Stuff is constantly penetrating our atmosphere in the hopes of finally being the space monster that gets to wipe us out. Beware the skies, for they bring a fiery death our way. Woooooo-ooo-oo. Oh, sorry, cough, cough.

By Tvanbr (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Natural causes of death. We walk around with heaven knows what going wrong in our bodies at any given time. Cancer, heart attacks, strokes, diseases lying dormant in our DNA. (Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the U.S.) Short of developing full-body scans that we use annually (we're working on it), there's no way to know what awaits you within your own genetic makeup. Okay, well, there are some markers and such you can test for, but you don't know for certain it will hit you, or when. There could be a freak blood clot floating around in your brain right now, just waiting to get stuck and throw you a major stroke. Your heart could even now be fighting along, trying to stave off the heart attack that will rip itself apart. Any day now you could start exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson's, Lou Gherig's, Multiple Sclerosis, and countless more options. I don't know about you, but this scares the living crap out of me. When my insurance starts offering annual full-body scans, I'm all over that business. Cancer terrifies me. All of these diseases scare me to death. I don't want to die like that. I want to die quickly and painlessly in my sleep. Don't we all??

2. War. I mentioned one kind of human killers, but this is another entirely. Acts of war kill people year-round, every year. Civil wars, world wars, desert wars, wars of all kinds. Acts of terrorism could be included in either category under humans killing other humans. We lose soldiers every day. Civilians get caught in the middle and killed each day. And I could go one step further and include genocide of all kinds here. People kill other people out of necessity, out of religious differences, political differences, to save others, to gain territory, to gain riches and things that will make them rich, to prove a point, to protect their countries, and for so many other reasons. War takes its toll in so many ways.

See page for author [GFDL (
or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
1. Our minds. Our minds can kill us from multiple directions. Mental health issues, such as Alzheimer's can cause death. Depression can lead one to suicide. I'd written more on this topic, but the point of this post was to be scary, not depressing, so I will leave it at this: Alzheimer's is 6th for leading cause of death in the U.S., suicide is 10th.

Finally, in the spirit of Halloween, riddle me this: Do you believe a human being can be scared to death? Science says you can. Wouldn't that be yet another example of your mind killing you? How do you protect against that other than by never being frightened? HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

What would you add to this list? What are you most scared of, monsters or humanity? Ready for Halloween? What's your costume going to be?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Psychos scare me the most.
    Some of our rivers here carry pfiesteria. That's rather creepy.
    And yes, every area experiences some kind of natural disaster. Except Bangladesh - they get all of them.

  2. Okay well I'm scared now. I won't sleep tonight. :D

  3. Well now that you have put all of this into prospective... I am officially horrified. So you mean... anything out of my control, which is pretty much everything. Great!

  4. I see how it is. I'm doing a week on vampires, so you have to go and show how not scary they are.

  5. I drive a lot and big trucks are scary. They tailgate, pull out in front of you and cut in and make you slam on your brakes. And relating it to another of yours, I saw an article that they believe dozens of serial killers work as long haul truckers for their day jobs!
    Feel for you in Colorado Springs. My son spent the last six months there doing an internship and nature was really on a roll in your area. He loves it. Called to tell me he had to reroute his run the other day because of a bear on the road.

  6. What the hell, Shannon? Like I need another reason to hide under my bed.

  7. Space murder?! I now have new thing to be afraid. Thanks! :P

  8. I think you covered just about all of them for me. Sometimes just breathing can be a health hazard. I think that's why we love horror like zombies and undead beings; we're pretty sure it can't happen, so as you say, it is safe terror.

    I guess that is why Stephen King so often terrifies me; he uses lots of psychology and tangible events to terrorize. The Stand and Cujo were much more terrifying than Christine or Insomnia.


  9. Good list but I would add my fellow man. Violence is up there too as causes of death and things that can maime.

  10. I share on my blog - this was a fantastic list!

  11. A great list Shannon, but I will never pee outside again. o_0

  12. This is a great post for Halloween. The human monsters scare me the most!

    Happy Halloween!

  13. That is a scary list. I'm going to say spiders.

  14. Alex, poor Bangladesh. I'll always fear the human factor more than the natural factor, that's for sure.

    Julie, I hope you're sleeping again!

    Dani, haha, yeah, I'm afraid so. That's always what scares me, too. I need to feel like I can control something about a situation.

    Andrew, aw, that's not why I did it!

    Susan, I'm glad he's enjoying his time here, despite the natural disasters (which, really, are atypical for this city). I love that there's wildlife all over here. I've heard that about truckers, too, and can completely see it. Who else blows in and out of towns so frequently, yet is overlooked so thoroughly?

    Julie, don't get me started on what might be under your bed...

    E.J., hee hee, yes, space murder.

    Donna, I agree on Stephen King. He doesn't frequently do outlandish monsters, and when he does, we're just as terrified by the humans in the stories as by the monsters. I think he shines at humanizing any evil.

    Jo, oh yes, man is the most frightening.

    Trace, thank you for sharing!

    Maurice, haha, funny you should say that. I just had to have a talk with my son about peeing outside. :p

    Yolanda, me, too!

    Susanne, LOL! My phobia is snakes.