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Cemetery Tombstones

Fear of Cemetery Tombstones


Updated October 24, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Placophobia, or fear of cemetery tombstones, is a common fear that plays a large part in many Halloween events. While many haunted venues simply scatter tombstones throughout the haunt, the 2008 edition of Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights created a complicated and somewhat more realistic scenario. A male therapy patient suffered from a doomsday phobia that led him to believe that particular tombstones were a sign of an impending interstellar catastrophe.

What Causes Placophobia?

The fear of tombstones may occur alone, but is often related to thanatophobia, or fear of death. Many people without a full-blown phobia experience discomfort around the symbols of death. The universality of these fears may be traced to ancient superstitions and beliefs about the ability of corpses to reanimate themselves. According to some legends, the dead are capable of cursing or even killing the living. This is the basis for popular zombie myths, which figure prominently in such films as Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later and Michael Jackson's Thriller. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) even offers helpful tips on surviving a zombie apocalypse. These beliefs can also spawn related phobias, such as the fear of ghosts.

Symptoms of Placophobia

A bit of nervousness or unease when entering a cemetery is normal. But those who suffer placophobia have much more extreme symptoms. You may find yourself sweating and shaking. Your heart may race and you might find it difficult to breathe. You might find yourself inventing excuses to avoid visiting cemeteries.

If your phobia is particularly severe, you may even take alternate routes to avoid walking or driving past a cemetery. Some sufferers invent protective rituals similar to those seen in sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder, such as holding your breath when passing a cemetery.

Treating Placophobia

An uncomplicated fear of tombstones is treated like any other specific phobia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is especially popular, as is anti-anxiety medication. Your therapist will work with you to change the way that you think about tombstones and other symbols of death. He or she will encourage you to replace your fearful self-talk with more positive messages.

If your placophobia is related to a generalized fear of death, treating the underlying phobia will help your fear of tombstones to diminish. It can be challenging to determine the root of any phobia, so seeking assistance from a qualified mental health provider is essential.


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

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