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11 Most Popular Things People Are Afraid Of, Ranked
written by Sam Greenspan

It's the time of year when we talk about spooooooky things, like ghouls and pirates and diseases transmitted via splashing around in other people's feces. And you know if a topic is #trending, then this website... well, probably ignores it to focus on something far more esoteric. But not today! Today we march with the crowd.

Chapman University in Orange County, California (where I performed stand-up comedy 12 years ago) just released the results of an October-y study on American fears (most likely not as a result of my stand-up comedy performance there 12 years ago). I plucked out 11 of the most prominent fears in their study and ranked them based on how many people said they were very afraid, afraid or somewhat afraid of each one.

These are 11 common fears and phobias ranked by how many people suffer from them...

  1. Clowns, 15.9 percent afraid. I feel like a lot of adults put on a brave face about clowns, but rest assured: If a gaggle of evil clowns was walking down the street toward you, you would cross the street. And unlike the other scenario where you do that, this time, no one would call you a racist.

  2. Death, 17.7 percent afraid. So we're only slightly more afraid of death than of evil clowns. Nietzsche would be so disappointed. Doink the Clown would be relatively happy.

  3. Zombies, 18.2 percent afraid. I'm not sure if the whole zombie trend is on its down slope or not; Walking Dead seems more popular than ever, but publishers have stopped releasing 17 new How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse humor books per day. Tough call. Regardless, I think zombies induce relatively little fear because they're somewhat far-fetched. They don't even capture great market share in the "paranormal believer" demographic -- and like a Republican trying to win without Ohio, if you don't have the paranormal believers, you aren't going to rocket up this chart.

  4. Ghosts, 23.4 percent afraid. If there really are ghosts, how pissed off are they at Casper? He singlehandedly set the "ghosts are scary" movement back 50 years by selling out and doing a friendly ghost thing. Without Casper, ghosts do WAY better in this study.

  5. The dark, 33.5 percent afraid. So one out of three people is afraid of the dark. How has no one gone on Shark Tank with an adult night light? You could totally convince Lori and maybe Daymond (if you were willing to do a licensing deal) to invest in that.

  6. Blowenstein.
    Flying, 39.3 percent afraid. This number is lower than I would've guessed. I doubt it's because logic has sunk in -- e.g. you're significantly more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than in a plane crash -- but just that fear of flying is so out of vogue. If you're on a plane and someone next to you is praying, your first thought isn't "fear of flying," it's "let's make an emergency landing and have this person escorted off."

  7. Claustrophobic scenarios, 47 percent afraid. I am in that 47 percent hard. I had a 20-second meltdown at an airport three days ago when I briefly couldn't get my jacket off. Extrapolate that out to figure out how I'd react to a real claustrophobic situation, like being buried alive or casual spelunking.

  8. Being murdered, 48.7 percent afraid. This feels like a pretty passive fear. Like, if someone asks you if you're afraid of being murdered, there's a good chance you'd say yes -- but you don't wake up every morning and say, "Geez I hope I don't get murdered today." Being murdered is primarily the result of bad luck, unless you're a character on a TV drama, in which case someone WILL attempt to murder you sometime between seasons two and five.

  9. Even penguins can be evil.
    Animals (dogs, snakes, spiders, etc.), 60.3 percent afraid. I'm surprised they lumped every animal together and this still couldn't crack two-thirds. People afraid of sharks, spiders, bats, snakes, dogs, angry bears, rats, turtles with a murderous glint in their eye -- seems like everyone's got at least ONE animal that creeps them out.

  10. Heights, 60.7 percent afraid. For a long time I thought I was lucky to have zero fear of heights, but it actually kind of backfired on me when I went skydiving. I didn't really get an adrenaline boost out of it. Even when the skydiving instructor I was strapped to on the way dow flashed those "hang loose" hand signs at me I only half-heartedly flashed them back. And yeah, I even tried dropping all of the requisite Point Break lines to get fired up and it still didn't work.

  11. Public speaking, 61.9 percent afraid. That's right: Out of all the horrible things in the world, having to stand in front of a group of people and talk for five minutes is the worst one of all. It's three-and-a-half times scarier than death. So instead of picturing the audience in their underwear, picture them all as skeletons wearing black hooded cloaks, holding scythes. That should relax you nice and good.

This post was originally published on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Personal.

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