Growing up, Sabine Hackstock had the misfortune of being completely creeped out by a little something that lurked in the corner of far too many Austrian living rooms – dried flower arrangements that always included nightmare-inducing lotus pods.
“For some reason, dried flower arrangements are a big thing in Austria, where I’m from. My grandmother and my aunts all had them and almost all had lotus pods, which are just repulsive,” the 47-year-old says. “They make me physically ill, almost. They’re just alien to me. They’re not … right. They’re not something that should exist.”
As a kid, she’d just avert her eyes. As an adult, even thinking about them is too much. “It’s not knowing what’s in the holes, I think,” she says. “It’s just stupid, but anything evil, like creepy crawlies, could just come creeping out of it at any time. It’s like, what are the holes for? What’s hiding in them? Yikes. Maybe it’s more a phobia of holes?”
Turns out Sabine’s not alone. Loads of other people are apparently grossed out by lotus pods – the admittedly rather alien-looking seed pods for lotus plants. The seeds eventually drop out, leaving a cluster of little holes that seem to set off some sort of ancient get-the-heck-away-from-me trigger in about one seventh of the human population.
“It’s just stupid, but anything evil, like creepy crawlies, could just come creeping out of it at any time. It’s like, what are the holes for? What’s hiding in them? Yikes. Maybe it’s more a phobia of holes?”
Or that’s what a 2013 study found, at least. For years, folks had been ranting on internet forums about their secret terror of all things holey: lotus pods, sponges, soap bubbles, crumpets, honeycomb and even aerated chocolate. They even gave it the (as yet not medically recognised) name of trypophobia.
So in 2013, a couple of University of Essex psychological scientists took a look. They found 16 per cent of study participants were completely weirded out by images of holes – and that might not be so weird after all. The researchers reckon typophobia could actually be a latent phobia, a hangover from ancient threats such as beehives, poisonous flowers and venomous creatures. “These findings suggest that there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal,” Geoff Cole, one of the researchers, said in a press release.
Sabine’s now fled to Spain, where creepy dried lotus pod arrangements aren’t really a thing. (She’s actually lived in Spain for 17 years, but maybe a lotus pod-free life was an unconscious contributing factor.) But she says she does keep a suspiciously close eye on other holey things in her life – random holes dug by animals in her garden are quickly filled in, for example.
Which means she absolutely should not check out these terrifying photos of lotus pods Photoshopped onto various body parts…
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