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The Fear of Fear Itself (and Other Esoteric Phobias)

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And you thought you were the only one who was "afraid of natural bodies of water because there might be shopping carts down there" (like this guy) or harbored a debilitating fear of lumpy foods, like this UK toddler who downs more than a dozen yogurts a day to compensate. Well, maybe you are -- but you can be certain that you're not alone when it comes to having esoteric phobias; for every thing, place, activity or concept in the world, it seems, someone's got a fear to go along with it. We're not interested in relatively common fears like hydrophobia or agoraphobia -- this is a list devoted to the weird, the rarely-documented, even the possibly-made-up; and if you've got one yourself, please share with us! We found a lot of these on sites like unusualphobias and phobiac, which encourage user-submitted phobias of the first-person-narrative variety; always good for a laugh, probably though not definitely true -- and usually not things you're likely to find in psychology textbooks.

Chronohypochondia: the fear of traveling back in time only to contract a now-curable illness which you die of because your time machine breaks down. One sufferer explains: "I have a fear that somehow I'll go back in time and get stuck there, then get some illness that we have cured now (like polio or the plague), and die from it all the time knowing that if I was here in time I would be saved. So, I've always wanted to learn how to make penicillin just in case." (We suggest you stay away from cheaply-made time machines from now on.)

Classicsphobia: the fear of Renaissance paintings, looming Greek and/or Roman statuary, and Greek gods in general. One lost soul confesses one of the strangest combination phobias we've ever encountered:

Hi, I have a very unusual fear, I have a fear of renaissance paintings. It sound weird I know but thats not all... along with that I have a fear of statues that are well done ( like big statues of people, mostly the greek statues), representations of jesus...and arches and domes (I can't stand under them if they are too big.) I also fear greek gods, very random I know but I fear Poseidon coming out of water when I'm in the pool or the beach... and I'm also scared if i'm under a big sky, by myself ... like a field or a place with no trees or buildings covering the sky ... I get scared that Zeus is going to come down from the sky. It's allllll SO weird, I know, but it has taken over my life because I can't go into many places because of it. On top of that, I have heard of no one with any of these fears. Please -- if anyone has anything like what I've mentioned email me and let me know because that would re-assure me.


Hyper-specific numerophobia: fear of the number 211. I can relate to this a little: when I was younger, for several years I was convinced that the number 333 was stalking me. It seemed like every time I looked at the clock, it was 3:33 PM (or, more rarely, AM), and it appeared frequently on receipts and the like. I wouldn't qualify it as a phobia, however; more of a compulsion, like this sufferer:

"Somehow I developed the fear of dying while reading a book between pages 208-211, the odds of my death increasing with each number/page. This has generalized into a fear of the number 211 -- when I pass a digital clock around 2:11 I nervously check to see if the fatal number has passed or not. If it is 2:11 I'm compelled to wait till the "danger" is passed, at 2:12 [before resuming whatever I was doing before]."

Garthbrooksautophobia: fear of dying in a car crash while country music is playing on the radio. I better let the phobiac explain this one: "I have a fear of being in a car crash, and as I'm dying trapped in the wreckage, the radio gets stuck on a Country & Western Station, and I can't get to the radio to switch it off or change the station. I don't want to die like this! I've had this phobia since the age of 17, I'm now 36. - R.S." (We're assuming R.S. doesn't appreciate country music.)

Beepaphobia: fear of beeps, bells etc. This one's downright existential; sufferers seem to equate the irritating beeps that surround us in modern life (microwaves, timers, watches, phone rings) with some kind of existential countdown, signaling the eternal rundown of their personal life-clock. Here are two separate accounts of this fear:

"OK, I'm 15 and I have a fear of beeps! No kidding -- when something beeps (oven, alarm clock, etc.) my heart starts racing and I get all nervous and irritated. rrggg... it's soooo annoying!"

Howdy, I must drop a line stating I can concede with the fellow who is terrified with the sound of beeping. For several years I have thought that the justification was past due deadlines or the urgency of it all, but in the end I think I may be nuts. Whether it's the alarm on my clock or the beep of someone's cell I can't handle the constant "beep" or meep meep" of it all. I've come to the conclusion that each one signifies a notch in the belt of my demise. As though the timer has gone off for the end of my life & someone's neglecting it only to surprise me in the end. The last time a friend used a timer (was baking us a cake) I freaked out & stabbed him with a fork (he's ok, though he only makes Jello for us now).

Is there a name for this? Sweet god it sucks.


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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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