Cartoonist Sheds Light On Your Darkest, Most Irrational Fears

Beware the killer cookie cutters.

Is there a boogeyman hiding in my closet, preparing to pounce from under my pile of dirty laundry? Can my cat read my mind? Is everyone hanging out without me?

Most fears are irrational -- even those we have to shoo away as rational adult humans. To address the weird things that scare us, and perhaps instill a sense of camaraderie along the way, cartoonist Fran Krause started sketching these fears, and sharing them on his now popular Tumblr.

“Let's say you're walking in the rain, and you forgot your umbrella, and you're soaking wet,” Krause told The Huffington Post. “And it's rough. And then you cross paths with someone in the same situation. You both exchange a glance that says, ‘This is rough, but at least I'm not the only one here. Good luck out there.’ I guess that's the feeling I'm looking for.”

We chatted with the artist to learn more:

You started out by drawing your own fears -- what’s your greatest irrational fear? And which did you illustrate first?

I don't think I have a greatest irrational fear -- I think that's one of the things that defines an irrational fear to me. They come and go. If I'm not sitting around some freshly sharpened pencils, I'm not going to be worried about getting my eyes poked out. However, as soon as I'm erasing something with a sharp pencil, I'll be worried that I'm going to sneeze and jab my eye out on the pointy end.

 Sometimes I draw fears that are rational, and sometimes they're things that would never, ever happen. I think the constant feature is they're all fears that are hard to get out of your head, like a catchy song.

The first one I ever drew was the one about animals being able to tell if you're a good or bad person. Usually I have this feeling with cats and dogs, but I thought a deer in the snow would be a better judge of character.

Do you find the act of publishing, and therefore confessing to, your fears helps you deal with them better?

I think putting your worries into words and pictures helps make them finite. It helps you to step back and see your behavior and fear more clearly. It's also been really helpful to know there are so many people with similar feelings. I've noticed that, each time I make a comic, I receive a few submissions with fears almost identical to the one I just drew. The first few times this happened, I thought, "Why are they sending this? I just drew it." But I think it's because people see their fears as comics, and they want to connect and feel like they're not alone in their thoughts. 

As your blog gained traction, you started illustrating readers’ fears, too. Was there one fear in particular that received multiple requests? Was there one you found particularly amusing?

There are some fears I think of as "classic" fears. There are a lot of people worried about swallowing watermelon seeds and then having watermelons grow in their stomachs. I've had a lot of people tell me that they can't stand people touching their navel, because they're worried it'll unravel and their guts will fall out. I held back on that one for a while, since it felt a bit too simple to me. Then one day someone sent me a little more detail. They said that their grandmother had warned them if they played with their belly button, their guts would fall out, and they'd be forced to live the rest of their life as an outcast, carrying their guts in a laundry basket. When I read that one, it really hit me. It added a story and consequences. I had to draw it. I'm looking for fears that affect me.

It's hard to pick one that I find particularly amusing -- most of them are kinda creepy. I had fun drawing the comic from a couple weeks ago, where the narrator wonders how long their body might sit before it's discovered -- I don't know if "amusing" is the right word. Let's say you're walking in the rain, and you forgot your umbrella, and you're soaking wet. And it's rough. And then you cross paths with someone in the same situation. You both exchange a glance that says, "This is rough, but at least I'm not the only one here. Good luck out there." I guess that's the feeling I'm looking for, more than amusement. Is there a name for that feeling? I'd say "commiseration" but I think that implies more complaining than I'm talking about here.

A lot of the fears you draw reflect on childhood worries. Do you find these differ from the irrational fears of adults?

I think there are big differences between childhood and adult fears, but I don't think there's much difference in the emotions that come out of those fears. Adults have a bad habit of belittling the fears of children, because kids tend to be afraid of things that mean them no harm. Vacuum cleaners, clowns, that sort of thing. Less logic, more emotion. However, if a little kid is freaking out about their first day at school, or a monster in their closet, their feelings are just as intense as an adult who's worried about their job, or mortality. I'm trying to find the feelings in the fears.

What mood do you hope readers will experience when reading your comics?

There's one I drew quite a while ago, someone had written to me about trypophobia. If you're squeamish, DO NOT do a Google image search for trypophobia. The comic was a fear that the writer would find the pores on the back of their hands suddenly grown large -- big enough for bugs to fit inside. After I drew that one, I got a message from someone saying that it made them scream and throw their phone across the room. I thought that was a pretty good reaction.

There's quite a range of fears out there. Some are gross, and some are scary. Some are lonely, some are funny, or sad, or weird. I'm really lucky in that my audience doesn't expect a "scare" or a "cry" or some other specific emotion every week. They seem to appreciate the variety. It keeps the comic more interesting for me too. I've just finished the 200th comic, and I'm still having fun. I'm not really looking for a specific emotion from my readers, I just hope that they're affected in their own way.

Krause’s illustrations -- some of which address his own fears, many of which are submitted by readers -- are available in a book out this week.  Uncover more deep, dark fears below.

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