Nicola here. A couple of weeks ago I went to Herefordshire to visit a castle that is only open once a year. It’s a well-known site whose history is tied up with the English Civil War in the seventeenth century. It was also the home of very distant ancestors of mine which was why I was so keen to see it. However, there was a problem. The castle, Brampton Bryan, is open as part of a special village celebration called “Scarecrow Sunday” and I have a thing about scarecrows. I don’t like them. I find them creepy. When I was a child, I was terrified of the TV programme Worzel Gummidge even though it’s been voted one of the UK’s favourite children’s TV series of all time.
Phobias have, of course, existed long before modern studies by psychiatrists and psychologists defined the condition. The term phobia was first coined by
the Greeks. Social anxiety as a “phobia” was first described by Hippocrates as “shyness” in the early 4th century BC. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I have a phobia about scarecrows although it’s almost that bad. I have the same reaction to clowns, puppets and mimes. (Dolls and puppets have their own phobias and metamfiezomaiophobia is the fear of mimes and people in disguise generally.) A terror of scarecrows – or of people dressed as scarecrows – is called formidophobia. Apparently formido derives from the Latin for “fear” or “scare.” And, of course, scarecrows are meant to be scary, but only to birds and not people. Meanwhile, a fear of clowns is called coulrophobia. Unsurprisingly, research shows that the portrayal of killer clowns in horror films has contributed directly towards an increase in people with an intense fear or phobia of clowns. Well, duh.
(You can imagine that the combination of clown/jack in the box/scarecrow was almost too much for me but in the photo I'm attempting to tackle several phobias in one go!)