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Fear of Folklore Legends and Stories


Updated August 27, 2011

Mythophobia is commonly represented at Halloween events around the country. For example, it took center stage in one of the haunted houses at 2008's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando. That year's event theme was Phobias. The premise was that a twisted psychiatrist named Mary Agana (Bloody Mary) used "immersive therapy" to treat phobia patients. According to that year's official HHN website, a particular female patient suffered from mythophobia centered on the legend of the Headless Horseman. Dr. Agana's treatment was to lock the woman in a room with a freshly severed head. Needless to say, that treatment did not end well.

Of course, this was merely a stylized presentation of mythophobia, designed to inspire terror in Halloween visitors. Mythophobia is a real phobia, but both its symptoms and treatment are much less perverse. Here is a guide to the real-life psychology behind the scare.

What Is Mythophobia?

Mythophobia is not well-documented in medical literature. However, anecdotal evidence shows that it is a reasonably common specific phobia. Mythophobia actually has two definitions. The most common is a fear of myths or stories, while the secondary definition is a fear of making an incorrect statement. Mythophobia is, in large part, responsible for the enduring nature of urban legends.

Symptoms of Mythophobia

Mythophobia may focus on a single legend or story. It might be a story that scared you as a child or an urban legend that makes you feel vulnerable. In more extreme cases, you might fear an entire category of stories, such as ghost stories or tales of murder. Mythophobia tends to be strongest in the dead of night, especially when you are alone. We all have a bit of mythophobia, as evidenced by the popularity of horror movies. For most people, the fear is relatively mild, leading to a short-lived adrenaline rush.

If you have severe mythophobia, however, you may be unable to sit through a particularly terrifying tale. Like Ichabod Crane listening to Brom Bones' tale of terror in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, if forced to listen you may sweat, shake and shrink into your seat. In more severe circumstances, you might feel compelled to leave the room whenever a horror movie is shown.

Mythophobia Treatment

Mythophobia is generally treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or anti-anxiety medications. The "treatment" laid out by the psychiatrist at Halloween Horror Nights is based on the legitimate cognitive-behavioral technique known as flooding. Of course, real life flooding is much less perverse. The goal is to help the client learn new ways of thinking about the feared myth or legend, not to expose him to something horrific or gruesome.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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