united kingdom

The Big Fear

My big fear. There are many things that I ‘am not fond of’ but which do not induce night terrors. Aerophobia, agoraphobia, glossophobia, trypanophobia and musophobia all fit into this category. Two of the other common phobias, claustrophobia and coulrophobia, well they don’t bother me at all. My big fear is acrophobia. It can manifest itself in unusual ways sometimes. And it is a most unfortunate and inconvenient phobia for someone who likes views from above as much as I.

I’ve read that babies have no fear of heights until they learn to walk. How true this is I do not know, but I’d imagine that babies of clumsy parents who drop them from time to time probably learn a healthy respect for heights a bit sooner. As for me, I can pinpoint the exact moment I developed a true fear of heights – perhaps more accurately in place rather than time. It was during that visit to Cheddar Gorge many moons ago. I raced my brother up the steps of Jacobs Ladder to the top of the cliff. Where there is a look-out tower. A drilled metal structure that offers a wonderful vista of the gorge and countryside.

We carried on racing as young boys do. Right to the top of that look out tower. Only then did I look down, through the very steps I stoof on. Down, down and further down all the way to the terrifying abyss of the gorge. I saw the bowels of hell from up there. I probably turned quite white. I definitely made my way back down to safe ground, ever so slowly, on my bottom.


I revisited the Cheddar Gorge yesterday. I was determined to do battle with the look-out tower again. To avenge my childhood defeat. To get to the top and stand proud. And to walk down to the bottom on my feet, rather than my backside. To even the score – Gary 1, Acrophobia 1. A fair draw. But alas, the look-out tower was closed. And when deciding between a stroll up Jacob’s Ladder to the base of the tower or a trip down a cave – well, the entry fee to Gough’s Cave came with a free Costa Coffee and a cake and thus represented better value for money.

The hot coffee was a blessed relief on a freezing day. The lemon tart went down well. Revenge will have to wait. Quite possibly another forty odd years. But in my favour, there have been other occasions I have battled my mortal enemy, acrophobia, in the years since I tore up Jacob’s Ladder. The ones that shredded my nerves the most? Here’s my Top 5, in order of terror factor…

  • The Angel of Independence, Mexico City.
  • The Stratosphere, Las Vegas.
  • The ladder up the outside of Sirigya, Sri Lanka
  • Sears Tower, Chicago
  • Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpar

4 thoughts on “The Big Fear

  1. I hated the Angel of Independence not because of its height but because of the cramped spiral staircase, and the exhausting climb. Did you ever make it to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan or any of the Mayan pyramids?


    • I was fine with the spiral staircase. It was the balcony at the top that did for me. I couldn’t get back into the staircase fast enough. And yes, I’ve been to the top of both pyramids. And the one at Chichen Itza. And Uxmal. And every other pyramid where trampling to the top is allowed. Which seems to be becoming increasingly rare.


  2. The hollow statue of Morelos, on the island of Janitzio, Michoacán has an inward spiral staircase that can induce vertigo, climaxing at the small porthole windows at the top of he ascent.

    Don Cuevas


    • I hadn’t heard of that statue so I I looked it up. It’s actually rather an impressive structure!

      I’ve remembered another place that in Mexico that had me wobbling. The Revolution Monument. Have you been up it? Once outside, it’s fine. But the interior, at the top, is most disconcerting.


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