To herald the release of my romantic comedy, Driving in Neutral — a love story about claustrophobia — I’m running this 75 Days of Phobia series. Today, Kate Cuthbert, romance fiction lover and Managing Editor at Escape Publishing tells us about ‘Friends’ she’d rather not have.
If you’ve been following along with these blog posts, then you’ll know that there are a fair few phobias that actually make a lot of sense – they apply to our base survival instincts, our reptilian brain. Heights – well, yes, falling several storeys can be quite detrimental to one’s health, so that makes sense. Sharks? It’s only reasonable to fear an apex predator.
Then there are the less rational fears. Like mine.
It all started back in when I was in grade 10 and my girlfriends and I were going through our horror movie phase. We’d accompany our parents to the video store, find the most gruesome cover we could, and then scare the pants off ourselves that night, in the presence of enormous quantities of lemonade and Skittles.
We were teenagers, so naturally we rejected any of our parents’ suggestions, so I’m afraid to say that our classic horror movie was sadly lacking. We rejected Rosemary’s Baby out of hand. The Shining bored us. But because we grew up in a small town, the selection at our local video store was also sadly lacking, so eventually we had to give up and start taking advice.
And that, folks, is how one night, around 2am, I found myself holding hands tightly enough to cut off circulation with my friend Natalie chanting ‘it’s not real’ over and over again, as we persevered our way through The Exorcist.
I couldn’t actually find a word for ‘fear of demon possession’. The closest seems to be Daemonophobia, which is the fear of demons. Closely related to phasmophobia (the fear of ghosts), Daemonphobia focuses more on evil entities, whereas ghostly fear is more the fear that spirits exist.
Even with it’s cheesy 70s special effects and over-the-top acting, The Exorcist still tapped into that previously unexplored terror deep inside. After watching it, I spent the next month sleeping with the light on.
I think it would all have been fine, really, if something terrible hadn’t happened in the middle of my first year of university: they re-released The Exorcist with previously deleted scenes.
The guy I was seeing at the time convinced me to go and see it with him. He (really, quite reasonably) pointed out that I’d last seen it as a young teenager, and that I’d let it grow to mythical proportions in my mind. All I needed to do is see it again, recognise the cheese for what it was, and get on with my life.
So I did.
I recognise the irrationality of this fear, and I’ve tried to overcome it a few times with systematic desensitisation – I read The Exorcist book, and sat through The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I even eventually made my way to Rosemary’s Baby, though I never did admit to my dad that it was one of the better movies I’ve seen. I convinced my husband to go and see Paranormal Activity, though it should be noted that I didn’t know that was going to have possession activity at the time. My husband and I now have an agreement that if he ever stands by the side of the bed and rocks, it’s an immediate divorce-able offense.
It’s seriously creepy.
Alas, nothing has worked. Though I still get a thrill out of a good horror movie scare, those thrills have to come minus possession. And you better believe that I avoid the heck out of religious knick-knacks and/or idols at quaint tourist stops or antique stores.
(to be avoided at all costs)
Before starting as Managing Editor of Harlequin Australia’s digital-first imprint, Escape Publishing, Kate Cuthbert was well-known in the romance industry as an advocate for the genre. She has written about romance for national and international publications, is an in-demand speaker at writer and reader events, and is a recipient of the Romance Writers of Australia ROMA award. Kate’s editorial background includes genre fiction, children’s books, mass market publishing, magazine, and corporate and academic publishing. She absolutely loves that she gets to read romance for a living.