The 10 Scariest Things That Can Possibly Happen to You
A hypothetical list of terrifying scenarios you would probably hope to avoid
As an occasional reader and writer of horror fiction, I often find myself pondering what could be the absolute most terrifying situation I could find myself in. I’ve asked friends to tell me what they are most afraid of. I’ve created surveys to see which would be worse, scenario A or scenario B, all in the hopes of trying to better understand the human emotion of fear and how to engage this emotion for more provocative responses to my fiction.
The truth is, it’s different for every individual. What scares you might not scare me, because we have all had unique life experiences that have informed our perceptions of reality. However, certain things popped up enough, that I would wager they are fairly universal in regard to how someone would react.
Here are ten scenarios that I believe to be some of the most frightening events any human being could ever be faced with. See if you agree, or if you can think of ones that would be worse. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
10. Getting Lost in the Woods
Since the advent of the cellular phone, particularly the smart phone, which has every individual now carrying a handheld GPS unit on their person at all times, this situation seems less and less likely to happen to someone. And that is precisely why it is all the more terrifying of a predicament to find yourself in.
First off, cell phone batteries are notoriously known for dying when it is least convenient. Second, not everyone has access to the same quality of phone, or even wants a cellphone. Third, there are plenty of state forests where folks love to go hiking and such where cellular service is nonexistent due to cell towers not being built on that protected land.
With those things in mind, it isn’t too absurd to think there are still plenty of ways in which a person might accidentally end up stranded in the wilderness. Since everyone these days is so tied to the convenience of the modern technological marvel of their phone, it would be scary to suddenly find yourself in a place where that technology is useless, and you have to rely on your own wits to survive.
Think about it. If for some reason you got lost in a large area of forest, and had no idea which direction to go, where the nearest road or community was located, how would you begin to get yourself out of trouble? You’d have wild animals to deal with, and the unpredictability of weather, the odds of exposure to the cold and the elements wreaking havoc on your system. This would be intensely frightening. And the longer you were lost, the worse it would get. How long before the panic and hopelessness of the situation begins to take hold of your mind?
9. Being Attacked by an Animal Intent on Eating You
So, you get lost in the woods. Now, imagine that while frantically walking through the seemingly endless and directionless landscape of clusters of trees, dead leaves crunching unceremoniously underfoot, your breath raggedly rasping, your nose running, your eyes irritated and watering…imagine during all this madness and panic, that you walk upon a grizzly bear.
It doesn’t have to be a bear. It could be that you begin to feel like you are being hunted. And that’s because you are. There is either a mountain lion, or a pack of wolves, or a pack of coyotes, or whatever variety of wild animal that you may consider the worst possible of nightmares, just waiting for its opportunity to pounce on your back and sink its jagged incisors and canines into your flesh. And when these animals attack, they do not wait for you to die before they start to eat you.
This scenario could easily take place anywhere in the world. It could happen on land or on sea. You could topple off the deck of a cruise ship, and before anyone notices, you attract the attention of a nearby shark. You could wander away from a tour guide in the African Serengeti and next thing you know you’re food for lions. The point is, you die screaming for help, while wild animals rip your apart with their teeth.
8. Someone You Love Disappears, But Especially Your Child
We like to believe that the prospect of this nightmare scenario always happens to someone else. That the odds of ending up the protagonist of such a tale is highly unlikely, and that most stories like this are for fictional entertainment rather than reality. But, it does happen.
The person you love could step away from you for five minutes, and you could never see them again. It happens all the time. People get lost. They get abducted. And most are never found.
Imagine your wife walks away from you at the gas station to either use the restroom, or go look for a cup of coffee. After a ten minutes or so you begin to wonder where they are. You text them, no answer. You check the areas they said they would be at, and they are not there. They’re just gone.
This gets worse when it potentially happens to one of your children. In the grocery, you lose sight of them for thirty seconds, distracted by testing the firmness of cantaloupe. At the playground, you’re talking to another parent about the latest show on Netflix. When you turn around or look up to check on them, they’re nowhere to be found.
The panic and terror of these moments would be unimaginable.
7. You Contract an Unknown Disease That Threatens Your Life
While on vacation in Jamaica or Belize or even on a cruise ship to Alaska, suddenly you come down with symptoms akin to the flu or food poisoning. Your body is wracked by chills and fever, your bones ache, and you can’t seem to get any medication to make an impact.
Next thing you know, your eyes are bleeding. Strange seeping sores are erupting all over your torso and your limbs. You can’t control your bowels and your lungs feel like they’re full of asbestos and sand. They rush you to the hospital. When you see a doctor, they are in full hazmat gear and there’s a look in their eyes that sends your stomach reeling with panic: they don’t know what is happening.
You’ve become potentially a patient zero of some new contagion. Or it’s just a deadly disease that is so rare they are not familiar with it and have no means to combat what it is doing to you. Then they tell you that you’re infectious, and you’ve likely spread whatever it is to the members of your family that were with you on the vacation. So, it’s not only you in danger, but those who are closest to you. And you are helpless to do anything about it.
6. A Major Natural Disaster Happens Near You
All of these type of events are terrifying, and so I am lumping them all together as the same level of terror-inducing. Nature has no mercy and when it unleashes its power, human lives are as meaningless as any of the physical debris swept to the wayside by its wrath.
Most of the time, you get some type of warning before the event happens. There are weather alerts on your phone that tell you a tornado is on the way. There are early alert systems in place for tsunamis. When a volcano is about to blow, there are often indicators that tell experts the explosion is eminent.
But other times, you get no chance. An earthquake for instance can happen at any moment, if you live where these are more common. There’s no way to know when a major quake will take place. You could be on a huge suspension bridge when it happens. Or you could be on a double-decker overpass section of interstate. You could be in a skyscraper, and suddenly the whole world starts shaking.
Whether you are cowering in a hallway listening to the sound of an F-4 or F-5 tornado bearing down on your location, or you are standing in your back yard staring up at a gigantic column of black smoke stretching up into the sky, or you are feeling the earth beneath your feet pulsing with cataclysmic rage, your fight of flight response will be triggered.
5. Your Home is Invaded
You wake up in the middle of the night to a noise. Glass breaking. Someone moving around in another room.
You wake up and there’s a stranger shrouded in shadows standing at the foot of your bed. They say, “Don’t move. I’ve got a gun.”
They press close to you and put either the barrel of the gun, or the edge of a knife to your skin. You have no way of knowing their intentions. Are they here to rob you? Are they here to kill you? Are they going to rape you? Are they going to tie you up and abduct you?
This would be one of the worst situations you could ever find yourself a part of.
4. No Way to Escape a Thing on Fire
The prospect of burning alive has to be high on anyone’s list of things they’d wish to avoid if at all possible. In most cases, you have ways to avoid it. In other cases, the smoke inhalation would incapacitate you and make your death somewhat painless.
But there are of course situations where the fire is not only inescapable, but also going to reach you while you are fully aware of its existence, and in complete and acute control of your mental faculties.
You could have been in a car accident, and you are trapped in the wreckage while flames erupt around you. You could be in an upper floor of a hotel, and the fire in the levels beneath you is completely out of control. You know the fire is going to take you. It’s just a matter of time.
3. Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis is documented as one of the most disturbing and horrifying experiences a person can have. It affects those who have lived through it on a deeply personal level and they remember it for the rest of their lives.
Part of the reason is the experience borders on supernatural. People often speak about how it feels as though they are being visited by demons, or beings from other realms of existence, and these beings seem capable of communication on a telepathic level. They tell the victims that they are there to steal their souls. They are intent on harming you.
These being appear as mere shadows or specters and come to you when you are in a state of half-sleep. You are completely paralyzed and incapable of moving or speaking. You are totally at the whim of whatever these entities want to do to you.
It can last a few minutes, but it feels like forever. Eventually you tear yourself out of the moment and then spend your whole night wondering if it will happen again.
2. A Plane You Are On Is Going to Crash
You’re in the window seat of a plane already at 30,000 feet, heading to a great vacation destination, or maybe back home. Suddenly you see a flash, and a chunk of something falls off the wing. You feel the aircraft lurch unexpectedly to the left, and then a loud whining roar. The oxygen masks fall out of the ceiling.
Or suddenly a large section of the plane’s roof tears off. Or suddenly a window explodes out and the freezing cold air of the night is ripping through the cabin. People are being sucked out the gaping wound of destruction, their screams suddenly diminishing in the chaos as they vanish from view. Fire is spreading across the exterior structure of the area where an engine used to be.
Whatever the case, the plane is going down. The g-force of the sudden descent is crushing your ability to breathe. You know this is the end.
1. You Are Going to be Tortured
Imagine waking up and finding yourself tied to a chair. Your arms are bound. Your mouth is taped shut. A person you’ve never seen before approaches with a hammer in his hand. He starts asking you questions you do not know the answer to. But this person will not accept that. He believes you know the answer. He tells you that you will either give them the information they require, of he will make your impending death last indefinitely. To prove this he smashes the fingers of your left hand with the hammer.
He then makes a point of showing you his large collection of knives and razors. His whips. His cattle prods and tasers. The materials needed for water boarding. A hot poker rests in a bed of coals, glowing orange.
He promises you that this could take as long as he wants it to take. And you have no idea what he is talking about. They’ve abducted the wrong person.
1. (tie) You Wake Up To a Nightmare
You’ve had an ordinarily perfect night out, or maybe spent in. You spent the evening with a companion, or the person you love, dining out, seeing a film, binge watching true crime documentaries, etc. Everything is as normal as normal can be.
When the night ends, you drift of easily to sleep, believing all is right with the world.
The next morning, you get up, noticing your wife or husband or significant other is still asleep. You go about the morning ritual. You maybe let the dog out, start coffee brewing, turn on the latest episode of a podcast you’ve been enjoying most mornings of late.
You come back to the bedroom with a cup of coffee for the person sleeping in. But they haven’t stirred. You shake them and they don’t move. You lean in closer and listen and you can’t seem to hear any breathing. Something is wrong.
You climb in beside them and turn them over. When you see the droopiness of the skin on their face, how their mouth hangs limply open, the discoloration of the flesh around the jawline where the blood is beginning to settle, it becomes clear.
They are not asleep. They are dead.