things I was scared of when I was a child

4 Things I Was Scared of as a Child

If you’re a longtime reader, or are one of my parents, you will already know much, much more than you ever wanted to about my main phobias: crustaceans, people rubbing their feet together while wearing socks, being beheaded… you know the drill.

As a child, however, I had a completely different set of fears, and today I thought I’d take a look back on them, and congratulate myself on having successfully overcome them, in order to grow into the secure, grounded young woman I am today. Or, you know, not.

In no particular order then, my childhood fears included:

things I was scared of as a child: some strange childhood fears

Finding out I was adopted

I have no idea why this thought even entered my head, but at some point it did, and it shook me to my core, forcing me to spend endless nights lying awake speculating upon what it would be like when my real parents came to claim me, and I was forced to leave the bosom of my loving, and yet totally fake, family, and go to live with strangers. I worried about this to such an extent that my mum finally had to show me a copy of my birth certificate and answer probing questions designed to establish whether a) she had, in fact, been present at my birth (Answer: yes, but given that when she came round from the anesthetic she apparently asked the nurse why they were allowing a horse to dance on her stomach, she can be considered an unreliable witness) and b) whether she was in the business of manufacturing fake documents, such as birth certificates, for example. Once these questions had been answered to my satisfaction, I dropped this fear, and turned it into a fantasy, in which the very thing I’d feared so much actually came to pass, and my real parents – the King and Queen of Eastern Falloulaland – came to collect me. “The Rolls is waiting outside, darling,” my mother, the Queen, would always say in this fantasy. “Get in and we’ll take you to pick out a pony…”

I did, obviously, eventually get over both fear and fantasy in this case. I still think about the pony A LOT, though.

My parents getting divorced

Again, I have no idea where this one sprung from. Because my parents share a brain, there was rarely so much as a cross word between them, and they’re still happily married to this day. In fact, I didn’t even KNOW anyone whose parents were divorced, so why would I spend time fretting over the possibility of it happening to MY parents? Who knows. I did, though, and spent more of my childhood nights worrying about what would happen were my parents to divorce. Who would I live with? How would I make sure neither parent felt favouritised by my presence? Would I still be able to go to the same school? What if one parent decided to move to Eastern Falloulaland? Who would take me to my riding lessons? Bizarre. Sometimes I wish I could go back and visit my younger self and say, “Hey, you: your parents don’t get divorced, and you’re not adopted, so stop wasting your life worrying about it. Maybe drop some stronger hints about the pony, though…”

The house catching on fire and burning to a crisp

By now you will be totally unsurprised to learn that there was no reason for this fear that I can recall. I didn’t know anyone whose house burned down, there weren’t any burnt-out houses in our street, and while it’s conceivable that I may have seen something on TV about a burnin’, I have no recollection of that either. And yet sometimes I would force myself to stay awake until my parents had gone to bed, then creep to the top of the stairs and sit there sniffing the air like a bloodhound to make sure the house was not burning down beneath us. Strangely enough, none of my house burning fears included the fear of death, or of actually being burnt. In fact, in all of the many, many times I went through this scenario in my head, I can’t remember ever worrying about how we’d get out, or whether we would survive. Instead, the fears revolved around what the house would look like AFTER it had burned: the blackened rooms, the melted furniture, the loss of all of my possessions. I was absolutely horrified by the thought of having to go inside a house that had been on fire, and for this reason I think I MUST have at some point seen a photo or something that triggered this obsession, but hey, who knows. I remember my parents once took me to a “fire sale” when I was young and I was absolutely HORRIFIED to think they would risk all our lives in search of bargains. I also refused to touch anything, in case there was some residual spark just waiting to ignite…

These days, I don’t even think about the possibility of things going on fire, and would probably plunge into a towering inferno myself, if I thought there might be bargains to be had inside. My parents done taught me good.

Being forced to eat in someone else’s house

I’m pretty sure this was triggered by being offered food and urged to eat it while inside a house that had a funny smell. Naturally, this horrified my young self, and for a while, every time we went to someone’s house, my mother would have to repeatedly assure me that I wouldn’t have to eat anything there if I didn’t want to. What a little bitch I was, huh? Now, I will eat anywhere: phobia dismissed.

That the people in the posters on my wall were able to see me

When I was a young teenager, I was a huge Jason Donovan fan (Yeah, yeah, like you don’t have any embarrassing pop star crushes in your past…), and had one of his albums – which had a photo of him on the cover, naturally – displayed prominently in my bedroom, just under the window. And every night, before I got ready for bed, I would carefully cover Jason’s face with one of the curtains – because, if I didn’t, he would be able to see me getting undressed, wouldn’t he? And I would, like, TOTALLY DIE.

Now, I was obviously old enough at this point to, a) have a crush on Jason Donovan and, b) understand that, NO, AMBER: PHOTOS CAN’T ACTUALLY SEE YOU, FFS. I did know this – I can even remember feeling really stupid every time I covered up Jason’s little eyes with the edge of the curtain. I kept on doing it, though, JUST IN CASE.

Even more embarrassingly, I also had a bunch of posters on my wall, featuring various different pop stars and, well, members of the British showjumping team, and so deep-rooted was my fear that they, too, might be able to see me getting undressed that, every night before bed, I’d fold the bottom half of each poster up over the top half (So the people’s heads were hidden), and then Blu-tack it in place, so they couldn’t see me. Then, in the morning, I let them all back down again. And, I mean, like I say, I KNEW this was weird … I’m only just realising quite HOW weird it was, though. Kind of wish I hadn’t started this post now, tbh.

That people could secretly hear my thoughts

From time to time as a young child, I would allow myself to entertain the totally preposterous idea that everyone around me could secretly hear my thoughts – either that or I was speaking them aloud without realising it – but that they’d all been instructed (BY WHOM? WHO WAS BEHIND THIS CONSPIRACY?!) to pretend they couldn’t, no matter what happened. Because that all sounds totally legit, right?

I’m sure there were more of these, but I’m also sure that’s more than enough sharing for now.

Tell me, though: what were your kid fears?

(I also fear going somewhere and failing to be perfectly coordinated with my surroundings…)

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  • Steph


    Depressingly, I am probably way more frightened of things as an adult than I am as a child – not only do I keep developing new fears but they aren’t even proper sensible grown-up fears (most recently, I decided I am scared of Dr Bunsen from the Muppets. He has no eyes but he still wears spectacles! What kind of sane god allowed that to happen?)

    I think I had quite a few abandonment fears as a nipper – you know, that my parents wouldn’t come and collect me after school or they’d drive off with abother child and like the other child more (I don’t think I ever considered that the other child’s parents might have something to say about that).

    I used to believe that all my cuddly toys came to life when I went out of the room but I was occasionally afraid that they might be Up To Something. Honestly, the film Toy Story did not help.

    I was very afraid of evil things crawling out of my TV or mirror to eat me (thank goodness I was too young for The Ring!) I’m still afraid of evil things crawling out of my mirror but can happily report that the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a mirror has been my own face.

    Oh, and I was always afraid of my house burning down too. In fact, I was afraid of everything that ever has a public safety advert made about it. Those adverts exist to make you about 2% more informed and 800% more frightened. I have never been killed or mutilated by a sparkler because, thanks to those ads every Bonfire Night, I have never dared to go *near* a sparkler!

    October 4, 2010
      • Steph


        You know, one of my favourite things about reading your blog is that I get to point at posts and go ‘Aha! I knew I wasn’t the only one!’ 😀

        Because I? Also used to be afraid of posters looking at me. My friend had a poster of Paul Nicholls on the back of her bedroom door and I used to hate whenever she would go off to the bathroom and leave me alone with him. I was convinced he was staring at the back of my head. I like to tell myself that, instead of being mad, I was in fact super-alert to potential predators and wise and in touch with my evolutionary heritage. Yes. (Not that I’m trying to imply that Paul Nicholls is a potential predator).

        October 4, 2010
        • Panthera


          I have somewhat the same thing, I have huge problems with eyes, especially more scary, annoyed eyes. To this day I have not been able to read The Hound of Baskerville because the dog's eyes creep me out..

          October 4, 2010
  • My primary fear began when I was 5 years old. My house was robbed while we were at a family party. We got home in the wee hours only to discover mud-tracks in our front yard, a broken basement door, and all the TV's and some of my mother's jewelry missing.

    At the time, I was just relieved that the thieves had left my bike (and my sister's). It didn't start upsetting me until about middle school, when I hated being left home alone. It was worst after I graduated from college and got my first apartment with my now-husband. If I was home alone, I'd sleep with all the lights on, and always quadruple check the locks and windows.

    It's better since then, but occasionally I still become terrorized by the thought of burglary or home invasion.

    October 4, 2010
  • Hayley


    I was absolutely terrified that my dolls would come to life and do evil things to me. But, I knew that my stuffed animals would come to my defense, so I would line them up all around the edge of my bed when I went to sleep at night. Also any sort of pictures with faces in them…I always felt like they were staring at me in bed at night. Every time my mom would try to put up, say, a picture of pretty ballerinas or cute little girls, they would only last a night or two before I’d wake my parents up screaming. And of course there are mirrors at night, which I am still scared of to this day.

    I was also scared of vampires way before this whole vampire phenom. And I was always afraid someone was going to try to kidnap me, so every time I entered a new environment, I would dream up scenarios of how I would escape should someone try to nab me.

    October 4, 2010
      • Hayley


        At some point in time, I also asked for one of those dolls (which of course terrified me once I had it). My grandmother then decided that I should start collecting them, much to my dismay. By the time I left home, I probably had 10 of those horrid dolls hidden in the back of my closet. I just knew they were going to kill me in my sleep, or at the very least, wake me up with some maniacal laughing.

        October 4, 2010
  • i had a strange fear as a child… i was about six years old and it was the middle of the whole dutroux-case (a pedophile who abducted and eventually killed young girls)

    my parents never really talked about it (they probably wanted to spare me) so i just got messages from the radio talking about girls being missing and found dead in a basement.

    around that time i got really afraid to be in a car with my dad. i knew he’d never harm me, but whenever we went somewhere and he would take a different road to get there i started to panic inside, thinking about how he could take us somewhere else. i never showed this fear though, it was always in my head.

    October 4, 2010
  • Megan


    I had a fear of getting lost. I would panic if the bus would take us on a different route, because I was worried I wouldn't end up where I needed to be. I think it was kind of irrational as it was the school bus, and it's only purpose was to pick us up and drop us off at the same place everyday.

    Still to this day if I'm taking the bus I have to confirm I know absolutely what the bus' route is and that i'm going to make it to my destination.

    October 4, 2010
      • This actually happened to me fairly recently, which is why I’m now scared of Manchester. Yeah. We’d been in Manchester for the evening and were to take the last train back to our little town in Cumbria, but we ended up on the Liverpool train instead! We had absolutely no other chance but to go all the way to Liverpool and then return to Manchester, and then we spent the night at the airport as it was too late to get a hotel room or anything. Now I’m scared of going there again, because what if we can never return?!

        October 5, 2010
  • Nikki G


    As a very young girl I was afraid of the moon and of water. Also, apparently I referred to myself as "The Baby" even though I'm an only child. So, at night I didn't want to see the night sky or take a bath and my mom would have to listen to me cry and wail "The Baby's scared of the moon/water." I had issues. I also was convinced that I was adopted, mainly because I look nothing like either of my parents. After I got over the fear of the moon and water I moved on to a fear of the dark and a fear of spiders, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm still afraid of both of these things. 🙂

    October 4, 2010
  • I too lived my life in daily fear of fire, with no logical cause to be found.

    To the extent that I would go to bed with my shoes on, clutching my school bag, into which I had packed my most beloved teddybear, books and other worldly belongings.

    And sometimes I even insisted on sandwiches to go into this ready-for-evacuation-from-a-burning-inferno disaster kit.

    Because clearly my mad child brain thought I might need a snack to tuck into while standing outside on the pavement, watching my house burn to a crisp and feeling smug about everyone else having bare feet.


    October 4, 2010
  • Jaynie


    I had that exact fear of fire! It had nothing to do with death and everything to do with the way things look post-fire. I’m pretty sure we had a “fire-safety” lecture at school once where they showed us pictures of homes and businesses where the insides were all blackened and everything was melted and twisty. I think that sort of thing is pretty grotesque.

    I also couldn’t change in front of my posters, and had this weird fear that if someone was touching me (like, say, my mother holding my hand to cross the streets) they would be able to hear my thoughts. Which, naturally, meant that I invariably began to think the most horrible things about that person that I really didn’t believe, in an effort to plan out what I would do if they caught me thinking something so horrible. I was, perhaps, a bit of a silly child.

    Also: Ballroom dancing set to modern rock music. IDK it just always made my stomach turn (thankfully it doesn’t come up too often!)

    October 4, 2010
      • Jaynie


        I should have known that if anyone would share my weird and hilarious childhood concerns it would be you. 🙂 I'm sure I did the "directing my thoughts at people as a test" thing, too, only I was very, very good at rationalizing it when my test "failed" (obviously they were too polite to say anything!)

        October 6, 2010
  • Panthera


    I'm also one of those who have become more scared and acquired more fobies as I've "matured".

    But, one of the things I was terrified of for several years, was that "the nothing" would come and make my legs disappear.

    I was certain that the nothing would gather in my room up to my bed linen, and if I put one finger outside the bed it would be gone.

    Apparently, I shouldn't have been allowed to hear "Neverending story" as a radio play when I was 7.

    My most recurrent fear, that has progressed as I've aged is my fear of stuffed animals (not the cozy kind). As a kid I was also terrified of dinosaur models, especially the ones that move.

    Now I have problems with everything that seems frozen in time, including mannequins and statues.

    I would probably be a lot more afraid of a stuffed tiger than a real one..

    October 4, 2010
      • Panthera


        I have a vague memory of something like that, but funnily enough, films with mannequins don’t really scare me. I have no trouble with “night on the museum”, or the doctor who episode where mannequins came to life, on the other hand, the statue episode, season 3 ep. 10: “blink”, scared me so much I walked around constantly spinning around to look behind me and being afraid to blink for two weeks.

        And speaking of scary viewing, I still can’t handle open closet doors, 6 years after I saw “the ring”..

        October 5, 2010
  • I have an anxiety disorder, so I am afraid of just about everything. Except food and stuff like that. But seriously, even the thought of gym class makes me panic. But I am a complete klutz, and I injure myself a lot, so maybe that’s not a completely irrational fear. So, you name it, I am probably afraid of it! It will be interesting to see what I’m afraid of when I’m an adult.

    April 5, 2011
  • Annabel


    I was afraid… wait no, TERRIFIED of the Grinch. I remember a nightmare in which he kidnapped me, but I don’t know if that sparked the fear or was merely a result of it. It scared me almost to the point of panic, no joke. I only overcame my fear when I was… thirteen. No, I’m not proud. And I watched the movie for the first time this Christmas at the tender age of eighteen, only to realize how awesome that guy is.
    My other greatest fear were statues, portraits or anything that stares into your soul (never pictures or posters). It started when I was seven and I was forced to overcome it when I was about thirteen because I switched to a Catholic school and you… mass… in a church… with statues. Before that I burst into tears at the door of the Cathedral because of the statues there and a woman said maybe I should be exorcised. Fun times. I’m 100% cured now, thankfully.
    Another thing I’ve always never liked are the holes under beds. I’m not afraid, I just really distrust them. Anything from dust bunnies to a serial murderer could be lurking there!

    February 2, 2016