I think I was about 5 or 6 when my mum took my younger brother and I to see the old submarines down in Wallasey, Wirral. (Which is now completely new and improved and not scary at all.) From what I remember I think I was excited to go but once I got there, inside the first submarine, there were waxwork figures of men that would have worked on the machine. After gingerly backing up onto the opposing wall, I managed to get past a few but the ones that were not behind plastic windows, I couldn’t seem to cope with. As we were coming up to a hallway, there was a waxwork of a man sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper and that was it for me, I just froze and could not walk past it. I then begged my mum to get me out and I just cried and cried and had to be escorted back out to gift shop, and I spent the rest of my day with a security guard and the girl who worked there, because my mother and brother wanted to see the rest of the exhibit.
Since then, I have encountered more places filled with waxwork figures and thats when I realised the fear was real. Once it was on a school trip to a World War museum and I had to hold on to my year 6 teacher to help get me past them.
And fairly recently I visited the Museum of Liverpool, the UK’s first museum dedicated to the history of a city, with my dad and my two younger brothers, I think I was 16 or 17 at the time. The museum was brilliant. New interesting exhibits, no cramped dark halls or toilets, it was all going great until I felt something staring at me, so I looked up and there was a little girl watching me from the ‘Overhead Railway motor coach’ on the second floor, but turns out the girl was a waxwork figure and I was having heart palpitations until I left the room. Until we decide to go upstairs and my dad convinces me to come sit in the coach, where there were several waxwork passengers on board, so I did and I ran out after 10 seconds. Rather embarrassing.
BUT thats not the end of it! Oh no, more heart attacks awaited me in this museum. I wandered off by myself for a while and was admiring The Beatles exhibition on the third floor, when all of a sudden as I’m leaving, I turn my head quickly to glance at the case by the door and just to my luck its the hideous anti-christs that are Punch and Judy. I hate Punch and Judy. And I am not lying when I say I screamed. I actually screamed at puppets, whilst in a museum… by myself. It wasn’t until I started doing psychology in sixth form when I decided to google what this phobia was.
The phobia is called ‘automatonophobia’, which is the the fear of humanoid objects, so anything that falsely represents a sentient being. This includes, waxwork figures, ventriloquist dummies, mannequins, china dolls… and sometimes puppets. It is actually quite funny that I’m not scared of humans or things like knives or snakes but I am petrified of these things that aren’t real, don’t move and literally pose no threat to my life whatsoever, but I can’t help it and have been scared of them since I was a child. But I have no intention of trying to cure my phobia as it has got slightly better as I’ve got older, seeing as I went to Yorkshire Dungeons once and didn’t cry at all!
When I googled ‘automatonophobia’, I found an article on the Daily Mail Online website about a woman who has a ‘Crippling fear of the Muppets’. The article explains how she is petrified of ‘the Muppets’ and is terrified that her daughter will choose a Kermit the Frog doll as a toy as she ‘wouldn’t be able to live with it’. Despite the fact she has pupaphobia, the fear of puppets, not automatonophobia, this interested me as in this case it is severely affecting her life and causing her a great deal of anxiety when not in the presence of a puppet. For me, automatonophobic situations are very uncomfortable but it is most definitely not ruining my life. I would also like to add, the writer of the article didn’t seem to think that adding 3 large pictures of the muppets would be a horrible thing to do to the woman involved. She can’t even read her own news article without being petrified.
I also believe she wouldn’t be able to watch Geordie Shore either, seeing as they’re all muppets too.