Justification for Irrational Fears

6 min read

As humans, we have some interesting fears. A lifetime of greasy cheeseburgers is quite likely to kill you, and there’s little chance you will get run over by a giant herd of feral cats. However, some of the silliest, most irrational fears that keep us up in the dead of night do happen from time to time. Here are a few.

Long Hair & Machines: People Keep Getting Scalped

It takes a lot of hard work to maintain long hair – styling, washing, brushing, and making sure those hairs stay firmly attached to the head from which they grow. Incidentally, that last part opens long-haired folks up to a whole new bag of irrational fears, all revolving around getting their locks tangled up in all kinds of machinery. We regret to inform you that this is not as irrational as it seems. In fact, it happens way more often than you’d think.

In 2016, an 11-year-old girl was attending a Cinco de Mayo festival in Omaha, Nebraska and hopped aboard a spinning carnival ride, where she somehow fell out of her seat with her hair caught in the powerful machinery. The ride, presumably not wanting to spoil the fun for the other carnival patrons, continued right on spinning with her hair trapped in its gears, ripping her entire scalp, from her eyelids to the back of her neck, completely off her skull. She survived, but suffered a fractured skull and required 15 blood transfusions and multiple surgeries, including a skin graft. She was also nearly blinded, but has since regained some of her eyesight. They really need to add a “Hair Must Be THIS SHORT To Ride” thing next to the “Must Be THIS TALL” one.

Others have had hair-related mishaps. Go-karts in particular are a serial offender. In 2012, a woman in Indiana got her hair stuck caught in the axle of a go-kart, leading to partial scalping, a skull fracture, a serious brain injury, facial paralysis, and broken temporal bones (the ones covering your temple). Earlier in the same year, an 8-year-old girl in Kentucky suffered a 270-degree scalp laceration after a sprocket chain caught her hair. In 2003, a 10-year-old girl in South Africa was scalped. All were due to hair getting caught in various parts of the vehicles. Stephen King was onto something when he made Maximum Overdrive in addition to a massive stash of cocaine.

Dentists: A Boy Had 232 Teeth Removed

Dental Care

Not even the world’s toughest like going to the dentist, but for a kid with a cavity, it’s like getting strapped into the chair of some supervillain’s chief interrogator. Someone right now is having a nightmare in which they keep growing more and more teeth, endless rows of them, and the dentist has to keep twisting them out of their skull over and over again.

Presenting Ashik Gavai. Having suffered from a swollen jaw and severe pain for 18 months, Gavai, a 17-year-old student in India, finally gained access to the dental department at Mumbai’s JJ Hospital. His father was worried that his jaw pain was cancer, and technically he was right, but this particular cancer was teeth. Over 200 teeth, all jammed in his mouth like he was trying to smuggle several sets of dentures through an airport security checkpoint.

You might be saying, “Don’t humans have 32 teeth?” Generally, yes. However, Gavai suffered from a rare non-malignant dental tumor known in scientific terms as a “composite odontoma,” in layman’s terms, “a horror movie curse that turns your mouth into a tooth fountain.”

As you can probably assume, Gavai’s smackers were tightly packed, so dentists were unable to reach the extra teeth with contemporary dental tools. So, tearing a page out of our collective nightmare diary, they began the operation by chipping away at Gavai’s jaw with a hammer and chisel. The six-hour surgery resulted in the extraction of 232 tooth-like growths (or denticles, as they are more appetizingly known) which had bloomed deep inside Gavai’s lower jaw. Gavai did earn medical textbook immortality, having had nearly 200 more teeth removed than the previous record holder.

Music: Got A Song Stuck In Her Head, Had To Go To The Hospital

Listening To Music

Everyone who has ever involuntarily toe-tapped their way through an important event with a song stuck in your head knows how annoying it can be. You may fear that the song will never leave, and you will be humming it until your family tearfully removes your feeding tube. In reality, a couple of hours later, that mysterious mechanism in your brain will have moved on to whatever it’s supposed to be doing.

One night, a 60-year-old U.S. woman had her peace disturbed by an unfamiliar song that lodged itself in her psyche like a stray bullet. The song wouldn’t go away. No matter what this woman did, the song would play through, then re-start, over and over, her own brain executing a sick torture technique.

This lasted for three weeks. Then, the song changed. But like the last one, it remained in her head on a never-ending loop. At this point, she had understandably had enough (it’s surprising she hadn’t tried to stab the tune out of her brain with an ice pick). She sought help from Loyola University Medical Center, where doctors eventually managed to cure her baffling affliction with an anti-seizure drug.

Even weirder, the woman didn’t recognize the songs assaulting her gray matter. Her husband identified them as real songs when she hummed the tunes, meaning she’d heard them at some point and her brain had squirreled them away to annoy her with at a later time. It’s a scientific first, and an unprecedented example of the brain being able to recall seemingly lost memories. But that revelation presumably offered little comfort to the patient herself as something repeated in her brain thousands of times.

Lawnmowers: Two People Attacked By A Flying Lawnmower


Since a lawnmower is a pair of whizzing swords attached to a screaming engine, some fear is warranted. Still, there’s a reason dads force their 10-year-old sons to operate them – the machine isn’t going to hurt you if you take the right precautions. It’s not like it’s going to become airborne and hunt you down – such as if you were at a football game and suddenly heard an ominous, familiar drone. A sound that is getting steadily closer. That actually happened in 1979 at a game in Shea Stadium featuring the New York Jets against the New England Patriots. Executives were scrambling to find entertainment for halftime. They decided on amateur pilots flying remote-control planes sculpted in fanciful shapes around the stadium. For reasons that have forever been lost to history, one of the novelty-shaped planes was a flying lawnmower.

At the time, there were virtually no regulations on these radio-controlled contraptions, and nobody bothered to warn the crowd beforehand of the impromptu airshow that would be taking place. Absolutely no one was prepared when the flying lawnmower suddenly plunged into the crowd.

Apparently, the lawnmower pilot lost control of his model aircraft, and it dropped out of the sky and smashed directly into two fans’ heads. According to witnesses, one of the two men “looked like he had been attacked by an ax.” That man died in the hospital as a result of complications from getting hit in the face by a  lawnmower, and the aviation show was canceled for all future games. And the NFL never used a squadron of remote-controlled airplanes to dazzle its captive audience ever again.

Escalators: A Woman Was Eaten Alive By One


While they help humanity avoid exercise, the ever so tiny jagged, snarling gaps at the lip of every escalator gives the impression that you’re riding a lethargic meat grinder that could pulp your flesh into yogurt if you let it. However, what may seem like a childish fear became a reality at a shopping mall in Jingzhou, China.

You have to be wary of any fantastical news story about China, as they often fabricated. But this unfortunate horror show was reported in multiple reputable sites and was captured unflinchingly on camera by a universe that delights in our suffering. In the video, a 30-year-old woman and her son ride to the top of the escalator, but as soon as they step off, a maintenance panel collapses beneath them. At the last second, the woman heroically pushed her son out of harm’s way before she was pulled down by the still-moving escalator. Her mangled body wasn’t recovered until hours later.

Preliminary investigations revealed that an error by the escalator manufacturer resulted in the panel gradually coming loose. When it inevitably did, the mall staff didn’t bother to fix it, or to even close the escalator off so that it didn’t eat anyone. The only conceivable silver lining in this grim and depressing story is that the accident was caused by plain old neglect and not a machine suddenly developing an unquenchable thirst for blood.