sareini: "chaos, panic and disorder - my work here is done!" (chaos)
I am afraid of emergency broadcasts.

I know, a lot of people are afraid of them in one way or another - they're hardly designed to give everyone warm and fuzzy feelings when they see them. But there's a couple of things that make me categorise my fear of them to be on the same level as needles (because of a remembered childhood trauma) and anything with more than six legs (learned behaviour from my mother, who was also afraid of them). One is that it's not just emergency broadcasts that set me off - it's also newsflashes - which are more or less the same, really - and those "technical difficulties" screens that come up when a TV programme breaks down - which we admittedly get less of nowadays with digital programming. The other reason is that I remember clearly having this fear in childhood, long before I would have been expected to understand what these things actually meant.

I remember two incidents from my childhood. One was seeing a newsflash about the Zeebrugge ferry disaster,
and being afraid of what was going to be said before the newsreader even started speaking - the very interruption and Newsflash screen was enough to upset me. I was seven at the time. (Admittedly, it probably didn't help that we would go to Ireland every summer on a ferry, and so for some time afterwards I was always worried that the same thing would happen to us. I remember asking my father repeatedly what would happen to our dog, Suzi, who would remain in the car during the journey, until my father told me he'd go down to the car deck and rescue her, swimming if he had to.) The second event I'm less clear about when exactly it happened, but it was when I was watching an episode of the Russ Abbot Show and the show cut out, to be replaced by the "Technical Difficulties" screen and some jaunty lift music. This terrified me to the point of tears, and no-one could figure out why, least of all me. I just remember if feeling wrong.

It should also be noted that I was rather a precocious freak of a child - I was reading newspapers by the age of two and encyclopedias by the age of five. That could very well be why I remember a lot of the more unpleasant news events of the early 80s pretty clearly, such as the Heysel Stadium disaster and the Bradford City stadium fire, and it's always possible that I saw these events live on TV and learned early to associate newsflashes and the like with horrifying things.

As I got older and more interested in things like film, psychology and the like, I started trying to work out what made these things so terrifying to me and others. Yes, there were some obvious reasons right at the start, but I was interested in things like why they affected some people and not others, and what was it exactly that triggered the fear response? This is probably also at least partly why I'm also fascinated by found footage and mockumentary films - that and seeing BBC One's Ghostwatch when it was broadcast on Halloween 1992 and not being able to sleep for three days afterwards for fear that a mutilated cross-dresser was going to come out of my wardrobe and kill me. After all that, I've come to the conclusion that what sets things off for me is a combination of dread over what the newsflash or broadcast interruption means, and the fact that it's a disruption to the normal flow of things. It might be the same for others, but without being able to ask them (I've never met anyone with a similar level of fear of these things as I have) I'll never be quite sure.

I've also taken to sometimes watching mocked-up emergency broadcast videos on YouTube; partly as a desensitisation technique, and partly to see just how much I can take before the fear gets too much. (Some people ride roller coasters for the adrenaline rush. My brother eats the hottest curries he can for the endorphines. I try to scare myself silly for the same rush.) I've had varying degrees of success with this, and occasionally found some really interesting things. I think my favourite mocked-up EAS is the one I've put below, because it's actually a really impressive and original way to tell a story or, in this case, a creepypasta-esque tale. And while it's certainly unnerving, it's not quite enough to make me run out of the room and/or watch it from a crack in the door for safety.

tl;dr - I'm very strange and have some strange interests and phobias. But I'm also fascinated by them.

August 2017

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