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The 24 worst places on earth for an acrophobic
June 7, 2014 9:43 PM   Subscribe

The 24 worst places on Earth for someone with acrophobia.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (119 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would add as #25 the Milau Viaduct, which is 270 meters above the ground in some places.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:48 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


D:
posted by slater at 9:50 PM on June 7


“The Ledge” (at Sears Tower) is a glass balcony suspended 1300 feet in the air. Although the glass panes can take a weight of 10,000 pounds, visitors still have a hard time keeping their stomach settled as they look down on helicopters and roof tops.

Perfectly safe.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:53 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


These are the most incredible (and mortifying) places to stand...and look down.

I should be embarrassed to stand at these places?
posted by cmoj at 9:57 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


NOPE NOPE NOPE NOT CLICKING.

(Sharing, though)
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:04 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


NOPE
posted by double block and bleed at 10:11 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


These are the most incredible (and mortifying) places to stand...and look down.

I should be embarrassed to stand at these places?



I believe the mortifying part comes in when your curled into a fetal position sobbing and crying while they have to drag you out.


Or perhaps Choc Pickle is harking back to the word origin:
1350–1400; Middle English mortifien Middle French mortifier Late Latin mortificāre to put to death, equivalent to Latin morti- (stem of mors ) death + -ficāre -fy

falls over scared to death
posted by BlueHorse at 10:14 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I am obsessed with that rooftop pool in Singapore.
posted by elizardbits at 10:15 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I'm afraid of a 300 foot fall. A 3,000 or 30,000 foot fall doesn't bother me at all.

I can't find it now but Garrison Keillor described it well when he said that he wasn't afraid of falling but he was afraid of a magical force that would pull you over the edge.
posted by vapidave at 10:16 PM on June 7 [45 favorites]


One of these better be the outdoor catwalk on the CN Tower...
posted by trackofalljades at 10:18 PM on June 7


Nope nope nope nope nope nope. Nope. Did I mention "nope"?
posted by scalefree at 10:20 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Fuck, no.
posted by pjern at 10:20 PM on June 7


I've leaned out over an almost 3000 foot cliff without issue, but I've had the crap scared out of me on a low ledge. Brains are funny and there's no consistency to why one situation is scary and another isn't.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:22 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Seriously, I'm feeling waves of queasiness roll through me as I scroll through them. Each one presents a new constellation of wrongness. Yeah, I gotta go. Have a nice thread, guys & gals!
posted by scalefree at 10:25 PM on June 7


I jumped off an 8 foot cliff into a lake once. It took like 5 tries to get my feet to keep going to the rim and then off and out. Somehow that was the most terrifying moment of my life. I haven't been afraid of heights since. Maybe because I know how hard it is to go over the edge of something even when you're trying!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:27 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


In general I'm OK if I feel like there's sufficient barrier between me and the ground. A fully enclosed tower 1000 feet high is fine. A concert hall balcony with a short barrier: no way.

Those glass bottom viewing things can still fuck right off though.
posted by kmz at 10:27 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


I don't consider myself particularly fearful of heights, but I would never stand on one of those little protruding glass observation decks of terror. I just know the headline would be all Observation Deck Shockingly Crashes Thousands of Feet to Earth; Engineers Cite "One in a Billion" Likelihood.
posted by threeants at 10:33 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Oddly enough I have visited a large number of these and I think it is nonsense. They just picked a bunch of interesting high places and not scary ones.

First of all, that ride at the Stratosphere in Vegas isn't the scary one. The other one that is like a roller coaster car that drops you over edge is way, way more frightening.
posted by Literaryhero at 10:33 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Perfectly safe.

...which it is, because that's a protective coating.

Anyway, I recently saw that described as a "great place to take in views of Chicago" and I'm not sure I agree that's what people are doing when they go on it. It's just a type of thrill ride.
posted by dhartung at 10:37 PM on June 7


oh my god that protruding rock thing in Norway how the fuck can you trust geology so much
posted by threeants at 10:40 PM on June 7 [23 favorites]


Hmmm, I've been to five of these places. None of them struck me as particularly scary.
Now, this, which I've done, is actually scary.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:48 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Everyone described it as a transparent platform but when I finally managed to look down it was brown and opaque, at least where I was standing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:52 PM on June 7 [11 favorites]


I can't find it now but Garrison Keillor described it well when he said that he wasn't afraid of falling but he was afraid of a magical force that would pull you over the edge.

The times when I've actually experienced acrophobia I had the physical sensation that the entire structure upon which I stood was tilting at an angle in order to make me fall off. Like-- it's not 'Oh gee I hope I don't fall' it's the physics center of my brain telling me 'OH JESUS LEAN BACK'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:54 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


i've jumped off the santa monica pier a few times.
posted by bruce at 10:55 PM on June 7


ah, so that's the name of that thing I totally have
posted by koeselitz at 10:59 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid, my parents wouldn't let me have a television for my bedroom. So I staked out the town dump, which was a short walk from my house, until one Saturday morning somebody left a small television on the concrete ledge. I carried it up the hill to my house, snuck it upstairs to my bedroom, and sure enough it worked. It was a bit smaller than today's MacBooks, so I could hide it from my parents. It had a VHF dial, a UHF dial, and a telescoping antenna. It was black-and-white.

I could sit in my bedroom on the sunniest of days relaxing comfortably on my bed, a bowl of ice cream in my lap, watching this little black-and-white television and 1933-era special effects as King Kong climbed the Empire State Building...and my palms would sweat.

People who compile lists like this don't understand acrophobia.
posted by cribcage at 11:02 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


The worst ever for me, honestly, was the time I foolishly went on the Sandia Peak Tramway.

As others have described, otherwise solid ground can be terrifying enough for me; the mind can imagine all sorts of things, from magical forces to tripping on a pebble to earthquakes or whatever. So standing on mountains has been harrowing enough for me.

But this stupid tramway - I mean, I should have thought about this, what it would be like - it's fifteen minutes up and fifteen minutes down of dangling 900 feet above the ground in an old flimsy-seeming boxes (the tram cars were last replaced in 1986) suspended in air by nothing but some tiny little cables. The wind blows; the box bounces. It always goes very slowly, grinding up and up and up, just hanging in the air there, and periodically they stop the thing so people can "look out."

I ducked down for what felt like hours, and when I finally got up the courage to look out I was just in time to see the wreckage of TWA Flight 260, all smashed up against the mountain down there.

I literally spent the rest of the way up and the entire way down curled in a fetal position on the floor of the car. Which barely made it any better, but at least I could hum to myself and pretend I wasn't there and try to ignore the small child that kept asking his mommy if I was okay.
posted by koeselitz at 11:10 PM on June 7 [16 favorites]


This doesn't really bother me

Imagine if you crossed this with that organic texture phobia

That would probably bother me
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:26 PM on June 7


24 worst places blah blah blah and they didn't include this place?
posted by seawallrunner at 11:37 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


This would be the Stawamus Chief, erroneously referred to as the Squamish Chief, after the small town north of Vancouver, BC it towers over.
2200 feet that granite wall is, and there's a trail around the back you can hike up if you so desire.
I grew up in Squamish and occasionally we would hike that trail carrying many beer.
So beautiful at the top but essentially you are looking 2200 feet straight down from that view.
We would crawl on our bellies to peer over the edge but I still remember a close friend from the time who would walk to edge and look down. The rest of us would scream at him not to, but I have never seen anyone so unfazed by heights.
So yeah, I think this deserves to be on the list.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:51 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Imagine if you crossed this with that organic texture phobia

Why did I goog-- *faints*
posted by peripathetic at 12:04 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Slightly off-topic, but that photo of the Burj Kallifa makes it look like a special effect.

I know it's real but my brain struggles to deal with it's size relative to everything else.
posted by ambivalentic at 12:04 AM on June 8


Seawallrunner-I was going to post El Camino del Ray, but saw you got there first. The place is (was?) damn scary with all the concrete chunks fallen from the path and the drop below. And the concrete you are standing on is no better than the concrete that is gone. Gave up a ways down the path.
posted by Xoc at 12:05 AM on June 8


By the standards of these other places, my particular problem isn't all that impressive. It's the place where US97 crosses the Crooked River Canyon in Eastern Oregon, and there's a viewpoint there with a low wall where you can look down the sheer rock face of the canyon.

Poe described it as "the imp of the perverse". When I was standing there looking at the spectacular scenery, a little voice in my head whispered "Jump!" And then I got scared, and my hands began to sweat and I backed away from the edge and got back into my car and drove away.

Here are some pictures.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:17 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


I jumped off an 8 foot cliff into a lake once.

I'm so afraid of heights that I can't even look at other people near ledges. I also am not a very strong swimmer. All the same, for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to tour somoto canyon in Nicaragua. The guide said there would be 'some swimming'. He didn't mention that 'swimming' entailed going over rapids with nothing but a life vest.

At one point, he stopped us, and said that we had to go around the next section because 'too many people drown here'.

So we walk up a cliff around a waterfall. I'm wearing glasses, and am also wearing a pair of vans sneakers that the guide gave me before we left so I wouldn't ruin my own shoes. We get about eight feet up, and the guy says, 'okay, let's jump'. The cliff is soaking wet, I can't get a grip on the surface with my shoes. I have my glasses tied to my face with a shoe lace. I've never jumped off of anything higher than the ledge of a neighborhood pool. I'm looking at an eight foot drop into water that I can't see the bottom of, which is maybe 10 feet downstream from a waterfall and whirlpool.

I basically was staring my own death in the face, is what I'm saying. I tell them that I'm done, I'm not going to do it. He says that there is no other way out. I can't even go back. The top of the canyon is a good twenty feet higher up from where I'm standing.

Long story short, I jump. It wasn't even the drop that almost killed me, that was actually fine. It was coming up in a rushing river that was sending me toward the *next* waterfall. Which either they hadn't told me about, or I was so focused on my own impending death by falling that I had missed. Either way, I come up and soon after I realized I wasn't dead, I saw everyone on the shore screaming at me to swim. And I was getting further and further away from them.

Eventually the guide jumped into the water, and somehow through the panic, i noticed he was *walking*. So I put my foot down and realized the water was only three feet deep and walked out.

Tldr; overcame my fear of heights in order to discover a new fear of rivers.
posted by empath at 12:22 AM on June 8 [46 favorites]


I hear you, koeselitz - I'm not particularly afraid of heights, and I found the Sandia Peak Tramway terrifying. I was looking for it on the list, and came to the thread specifically to mention it. Glad I'm not the only one.
posted by Chanther at 12:32 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Ghostbar in Las Vegas is located at the top of the Palms Hotel, 55 stories up. So not as high as some of the sights showcased in this article, but definitely high enough to meet the "scary because you'd surely die if you fell from there" criteria. The balcony of the bar has a glass insert in the floor that you can stand on to get a real feeling of just how high above the ground you are.

The one time I went there it was funny how early in the evening you'd have people very, very tentatively poking barely the toe of their shoe onto the glass, while as the night wore on, after the drinks started to kick in, security would frequently have to jump in as people would gleefully jump up and down on the glass.
posted by The Gooch at 12:34 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


That roller coaster ain't no thang, haven't they seen Eclipse at Gröna Lund in Stockholm. It's an old fashioned swing-carousel, no big deal. Except it's 121m (400ft) up in the air.
posted by Iteki at 12:48 AM on June 8


I love looking out plane windows during takeoff or landing and watch the buildings fall away and turn to match heads. Standing at the edge of an overlook fills me with dread and an almost overpowering urge to slip / fall. Can barely stand on a chair to change a light bulb.
Still really enjoyed these.
Odd, but there ya go. Thanks for this, Chocolate Pickle.
posted by Fibognocchi at 12:52 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I know the. CN tower sways a little in the breeze. I wonder if the others do?
posted by peppermind at 12:55 AM on June 8


Ah, another virtual vacation in Sweaty Palms.
posted by pracowity at 12:58 AM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Weeeeeee!

Biggest thing I've ever jumped off of is probably a cliff on Lake Powell at around 60-80 feet. The jumping takes some doing for the first jump but after that it's easy.

Except for the impact with the water, which really hurts if you do it wrong and stings a lot even when you do it right. Some people can dive that, but I was more about punching in feet first with my legs crossed and my arms tightly clamped around my ears so the collapsing hole didn't box my head in.

The highest things I've looked down would probably be Half Dome or the relatively puny Space Needle, though ifmountains count I've been up Whitney, Lassen and San Gregonio. I've also freeclimbed some decent rock pilesand chimneys in Joshua Tree and Monument Valley. Damn near died on one when I found a sleepy rattlesnakeon a ledge and almost pushed back in a panic when I saw it.

I've illicitly been up some smaller radio towers, which are unnerving without a harness because they're just a pain in the ass to climb. Rocks are easier than angled struts or guano-crusted ladders.

If I could chose any method of death it might be falling from near space or low earth orbit. Maybe geosynchronous, spread it out over a few days, or go sundiving.
posted by loquacious at 1:14 AM on June 8


Also, is there a phobia for very flat places? I get kinda freaked out in Kansas. I need mountains and hills around. Desert dry lakes are cool as long as there are mountains in view, but when the horizon is totally flat I feel too naked. The open ocean does it sometimes too.
posted by loquacious at 1:18 AM on June 8 [10 favorites]


If I could chose any method of death it might be falling from near space or low earth orbit. Maybe geosynchronous, spread it out over a few days, or go sundiving.

What. The. Everloving. Fuck? *shudder*

A couple of years back I visited a treetop walk in NSW. 20m up in the air, with a tower that takes you another 25m up. That's, what, 140ft? It was stunning, but holy crap that pushed my limits, and it had lots of solid looking metal to stand on. Replace it with glass and you'd not have got me 6ft off the ground.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 1:23 AM on June 8


loquacious if that's a phobia, I have it too. I feel constantly queasy in flat landscapes. I need mountains.
posted by dabitch at 1:35 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Don't look down
posted by growabrain at 1:48 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


The times when I've actually experienced acrophobia I had the physical sensation that the entire structure upon which I stood was tilting at an angle in order to make me fall off. Like-- it's not 'Oh gee I hope I don't fall' it's the physics center of my brain telling me 'OH JESUS LEAN BACK'

Maybe you were just visiting Tilt?
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:50 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


At least the Hua Shan site offered the (admittedly unconfirmed) promise of The Best Tea in the World. The rest if them just offer death....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:23 AM on June 8


I'm scared of heights; not deathly afraid, but afraid enough that my palms were very sweaty looking over this link.

Only one on this list I've done is the Harbor Bridge Climb in Sydney. Not actually as scary as it looks. You're tethered to a cable the entire time, and the arch of the bridge you walk on is actually very wide. Maybe 6' to 8', and you're right in the middle.

Scariest part of the whole Bridge Climb was actually getting out to the main span. You walk on this very narrow I-beam beam (about 2' across) under the road deck, and then for a short distance you're on this wire mesh gangway suspended underneath the road deck. You look down and it's a good 60' drop, and the wire mesh floor is just a little springy.
posted by sbutler at 2:33 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I haven't been on the Sandia tram since I was in school, but I always got a thrill of fear out of the Bottomless Pit at Carlsbad Caverns. It's only about 140 feet down, but you can't see the bottom.
posted by NoraReed at 2:51 AM on June 8


peppermind: "I know the. CN tower sways a little in the breeze. I wonder if the others do?"

The Sears Tower does. The phrase "up to six inches" is in my head, but I didn't double check. I assume all sufficiently tall buildings do.
posted by hoyland at 3:40 AM on June 8


If you’re brave enough, you can overlook Dubai from what is likely the most awe-inspiring observation deck in the world.

Awe-inspiring - apart from the fact that it's in the world's most featureless city in a fairly featureless desert.
posted by mattoxic at 4:04 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Verti-No-Goes
posted by KMB at 4:08 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Also, is there a phobia for very flat places? I get kinda freaked out in Kansas. I need mountains and hills around. Desert dry lakes are cool as long as there are mountains in view, but when the horizon is totally flat I feel too naked. The open ocean does it sometimes too.
posted by loquacious at 4:18 AM on June 8 [1 favorite +] [!]

Loquacious, dabitch, either agoraphobia if you're afraid of open spaces, or cadastraphobia if you're afraid of falling into the sky.

Dunno whether it's true or not but they say that many of the first generation of CIA/NSA/NRO/military/whatever techs sent out to staff Pine Gap went mad because they were from cities, and the pull of the open sky in Central Australia was just too much for them. So the powers that be started recruiting from the plains states and the problem was solved.

Personally I didn't get scared of heights until I'd been climbing for a few years. And then, rather suddenly, I realised that the combination of edges or heights and not being roped in to protection I'd placed myself (or seen a trusted partner place) was scaring the hell out of me. It's still a problem in indoor gyms.
posted by Ahab at 4:26 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


These kinds of pictures don't make my palms sweat, they make my ankles hurt.

Of course, I'm the person who hid my eyes during parts of Gravity because OMG FALLING. FALLING FOREVER.
posted by Archer25 at 4:41 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I can't find it now but Garrison Keillor described it well when he said that he wasn't afraid of falling but he was afraid of a magical force that would pull you over the edge.

This is called intrusive thoughts. This first came to me when I visited the Grand Canyon at about age 15. I was blown away by the beauty of it, but at some point my brain wondered "Hey! Isn't it fucked up that I could just fling myself off this ledge and that would be The End? Just like THAT". And after that thought, that took all of a thousandth of a second, I stayed the hell away from any edge. I was fine if I gave myself a good five feet or so.

That said, none of these really frighten me that much, because I put trust (naively?) in the engineering behind it all. That China walkway of rotted planks nailed to the mountain a hundred years ago is absurd and I wouldn't dream of doing that and similarly sketchy places, but the glass floors and the like are just the illusion of danger, like roller coasters or horror movies. Or like a plane ride, which does have a probability of danger, but it's so small that it's not really worth considering. Because the smart engineers have already done their homework.
posted by zardoz at 4:47 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


It's not so much that I fear heights; it's more that I distrust structural engineering and believe in a Stephen Crane universe that's indifferent to our lunatic chimpy pretensions about conquering it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:03 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Well, I didn't want to spend the first few minutes of waking up mewling in terror but here we are.
posted by Kitteh at 5:23 AM on June 8 [5 favorites]


It's "only" 125 ft high, but the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in north Wales is my measuring stick for how bad my (slight) acrophobia is getting. I used to be able to ride the towpath on my bike. Now I can walk across, with a hand on the rail. But there's no way on earth you would get me across that thing on a boat.
posted by ceiriog at 5:24 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I am scared of ALL those places but here's something that used to make me feel sick and terrified on a regular basis. That's the escalator down to the sky train platform at Granville station in Vancouver. It's somehow just exactly too steep and too long for my comfort. Also I think the patterning on the walls only reinforces a sense of unstoppable motion. Anyway I could only go down that thing with my head bowed low staring at my shoes. Ugh.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:38 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna be the odd one out and say I love these kinds of things. I found the Capilano suspension bridge that you take to get to the cliff walk in Vancouver more nervewracking.
posted by peppermind at 5:41 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I used to be able to ride the towpath on my bike. Now I can walk across, with a hand on the rail.

It's weird what happens to acrophobia with age. I'm much better at ladders and moderately better with bridges, but lately, if I drive just a little too fast over the crest of an unexpected hill, even a small one, I get a momentary case of the fantods and the irrational sense that my car is about to become airborne. I'm starting to understand why some old people take corners at .000002 mph.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:47 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I have a picture of my wife sitting with her feet dangling off Preikestolen. It's taken with a zoom lens as I was gibbering like an idiot 20 feet from the edge while she's grinning away.

Elizardbits - the pool in Singapore is fantastic, the pic doesn't do it justice.
posted by arcticseal at 6:00 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


You guys got nuth'n, all that solid rock and steel doesn't even sway. Top of a sailboat mast is where it's at!
posted by sammyo at 6:02 AM on June 8


I can't find it now but Garrison Keillor described it well when he said that he wasn't afraid of falling but he was afraid of a magical force that would pull you over the edge.

Oh my god yes this so much this. I'm fine with (really, really) high spaces as long as they are totally enclosed. As soon as they're open, there's this magnetic force pulling me to the edge.

The glass floor at the CN Tower is one of my happy places. Totally enclosed, and I can just completely surrender to that magnetic force and lay face down on the glass. The first time I ever did that was probably the most purely happy moment I have ever had in my life.

You probably couldn't pay me enough to do the skywalk at the tower though. Just looking at photos of people doing it makes me NOPE right outta there.

This may also explain my permanent consuming desire to go skydiving.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:07 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


The Peak-To-Peak Gondola that traverses the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains probably deserves mention here. For maximum effect, wait for one of the cars with an observation window in the floor.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 6:13 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The Sky Tower in Auckland is pretty cool. As the article mentioned, other buildings are taller but this one allows people to jump off it, which is insane.

Other interesting facts about the Sky Tower, at the very top (on the same level as the platform where maniacs jump) is a restaurant. A rotating restaurant. (Here's what it looks like at night).

Also, the elevator has a partial glass floor, so you get to experience how far away from the earth you are. Whee!
posted by jeremias at 6:20 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


That Hua Shan one, and the other one scabbed onto a mountainside in China are the two I'm least likely to go anywhere near, because the engineering looks so sketchy. Not that I'm going to any of those glass-floor places, either.

Note: 'Mt. Hua Shan" is redundant. It's like saying "Rio Grande River."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:26 AM on June 8


For maximum effect, wait for one of the cars with an observation window in the floor.

Only if you want to be cowering in a corner with your hands covering your face
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:27 AM on June 8


Thirding Sandia Tram. Never again.
posted by pearlybob at 6:27 AM on June 8


Glad to see Half Dome on the list. Having climbed up the cables to get to to the top, and seeing a few people lose cameras and bags over the granite surface to drop a few thousand feet below, I then had to spend an hour convincing a friend that a helicopter back down wasn't an option. Slowest decent on the cables ever....
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:31 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


One of the more amusing things they discuss on the LOTR special features is Sean Bean's absolute, no questions, utter refusal to get in a helicopter ever again after a bumpy ride. (For those playing along at home, it was the ride to the scene in FOTR in which Boromir picks up the ring out of the snow. He did ride back, having no choice, but never set foot in one again).

He would actually leave the base camp hours early, and hike up the mountain--in full costume!--to get to the set. I honestly have no idea how the insurance company allowed that to happen, since at least part of his journey involved actually scaling cliffs without equipment.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:35 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I don't consider myself particularly fearful of heights, but I would never stand on one of those little protruding glass observation decks of terror. I just know the headline would be all Observation Deck Shockingly Crashes Thousands of Feet to Earth; Engineers Cite "One in a Billion" Likelihood.

But you would land on a pile of your lottery winnings!
posted by stargell at 6:47 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Brains are funny and there's no consistency to why one situation is scary and another isn't.

One of the more interesting things I've found, for me anyway, about glass floors is that if I stand on the edge of the glass floor with my feet on seemingly solid ground and lean a tiny bit over to look through the glass floor, my heart starts racing and my brain screams at me to get back before I plunge to my death. If I step out onto the glass floor, it all goes away.

It doesn't seem to be the leaning, because I've tried standing on the glass floor and leaning the same way I do from the edge, and still no reaction.

I think my lizard brain just can't tell for sure that there's an actual glass floor there until I'm standing on it, and then it just decides 'oh, that's all right then'. And if I step off again, it's not quite sure someone hasn't whisked the floor away in the meantime, to it goes back to panicking from the edge.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:49 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Totally enclosed, and I can just completely surrender to that magnetic force and lay face down on the glass.

OMFG, can someone please sedate me now? The third-story waiting room area of my former campus office building has a 2 foot-wide floor-to-ceiling window, and I won't even stand within 5 feet of that. Lying face down on a glass floor that far up is approximately as appealing as diving headfirst into a barrel of cockroaches.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:58 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


peppermind: "I know the. CN tower sways a little in the breeze. I wonder if the others do?"

They do; people get seasick in the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago when it sways considerably in Chicago's periodic high winds. Tall skyscrapers HAVE to flex in the winds or they'll topple. It goes six inches in each direction, for a foot of movement if you're at the top.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:06 AM on June 8


Brains are funny

If you look down from inside the stairwell in my office building you can see all the way to the ground floor, through the little internal section where the stairs turn. I'm 31 floors up, and every time I peer down my cremaster tightens and my heart starts to race. Every time, though I know exactly what to expect and there's no way anyone could fit through the space.

I have no problem in high places where I'm strapped in (parasailing is awesome) or looking down from my office window, but untethered or unprotected over a long drop ...sheesh.
posted by stargell at 7:20 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Ahab: "Dunno whether it's true or not but they say that many of the first generation of CIA/NSA/NRO/military/whatever techs sent out to staff Pine Gap went mad because they were from cities, and the pull of the open sky in Central Australia was just too much for them. So the powers that be started recruiting from the plains states and the problem was solved."

I'd believe it; prairie madness comes up a lot in 19th-century American fiction, and there are many diaries and letters of the time written by or mentioning people who seem to be going mad from the empty, flat space and its isolation. The vast open space gives many people existential crises even when they don't go mad. Prairies in literary fiction are almost always used as a motif to emphasize either a great expansion of soul by the protagonist who comes to understand his place in the infinite universe and as a result becomes great, or the oppressive existential crisis of a protagonist who comes to understand his meaninglessness and insignificance in the infinite universe and as a result goes mad.

I'm sympathetic; as a life-long prairie girl, I get very antsy when I go to mountainous places. They make me feel all closed-in, like I can't quite breathe. Even if I can't see the mountains, I remain uneasy the whole time I'm there. It's not so bad if I'm on TOP of a mountain, but people tend to live in valleys, where there is clearly not nearly enough sky visible! It doesn't, like, interfere with my life or my enjoyment of tourism, but I totally get why mountain/plains people have trouble moving from one to the other.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:21 AM on June 8 [14 favorites]


#25: any ladder
posted by Renoroc at 7:31 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Same here, Eyebrows McGee. When cornfield-Illinois me moved to this rather woodsy and occasionally hilly part of Michigan, it took several months to shake the vague sense of claustrophobia. Whereas my pal who grew up in the mountains reports feeling like naked tornado bait every minute in a flat region. Even in winter.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:33 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


That Hua Shan one, and the other one scabbed onto a mountainside in China are the two I'm least likely to go anywhere near, because the engineering looks so sketchy.

I read this a few years back: an account of climbing up the Hua Shan trail. It's absolutely ridiculous, and includes a steel rope ladder stuck into a crevasse, and several points where they either had (1) a wooden plank nailed into the cliff with a rope chain to hold on to, or (2) just a rope chain to hold on to as they shimmied across the rocks.
posted by damayanti at 7:37 AM on June 8


How nice to live in an age of Youtube and GoPros, when I can give you a video of someone on the Knife Edge on Katahdin in Maine.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:06 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


the Knife Edge on Katahdin in Maine

This one in Wales looks way worse to me because every the rock is so old and crumbly-looking. There's not one piece that I'd trust to not roll off when you touched it. There are a lot of knife-edge ridges out west with terrible exposure, too. I've never crossed one that bad, but I've had to do the thing where you just focus on the section directly in front of you and try not to freeze up. Exposure to one side isn't so bad, but to both sides gives me the willies.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:15 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Ah, another virtual vacation in Sweaty Palms.

Hmm, I seem to be the odd one out... I get cold sweat on my feet instead.

I suspect that it's because I go to a climbing gym. The evil imp in my brain has figured out that it can't kill me with sweaty hands because I'll just use chalk, and has to try to kill me by making my feet sweat so they move around unpredictably in my shoes.

I love these kinds of photos and videos. I think my favorite of the genre is this one of a guy ski-gliding down the Eiger. It's stomach churning enough when it starts, but about a minute in, it gets even worse!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:17 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


The glass floor at the Sears Tower (Willis? whatchu talkin' about?) has broken many times before. Just not usually under the camera lens of a Instagram user.

The deck is a multilayered piece of glass, the top layer is a sacrificial layer of tempered glass to prevent vandals from breaking the structurual layer.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:21 AM on June 8


Hmmmm, some further googling on Trip Advisor suggests Hua Shan has ropes and harnesses. And cable cars. And that the plank walk does not lead to any tea house but is instead a "dangerous" tourist attraction for local college students.

For fun, you could rewrite the other attractions to add some local colour/mystery. For example, Blackpool Tower is only open to those born north of Watford. Or you could fact check.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 8:29 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I grew up within a mile of the Capilano Suspension Bridge and spend many happy hours exploring the canyon below it so it's great to see it included here. We used to sneak in to the property and cross the bridge from the wrong side.
posted by islander at 8:38 AM on June 8


Also, is there a phobia for very flat places? I get kinda freaked out in Kansas. I need mountains and hills around.

HA every time I mention this on mefi I get accused of being an arrogant hater of the midwest. IT'S JUST TOO MUCH HORIZON OKAY.
posted by elizardbits at 8:43 AM on June 8 [8 favorites]


I love heights. I have about zero problems with most man-made transportation and lookouts because I'm enough of an engineer to know the safety margins involved. From the pictures, the ones that bothered me the most were the shots of people sitting or perched on natural features, without any safety devices, because of that aforementioned imp of the perverse. And just because sh!t happens, even to the most prepared and experienced of rock climbers.

Fire-towers are usually a great rush. There's a nice one on a hilltop in Dorset, Ontario, with a great view.

What bothers me? Caves and deep, tight, enclosed spaces. No thank you. I was into scuba diving as a teenager, til I saw my buddy swimming into and out of wrecks. Gaaaaaah.

So, for the initial part at least, I was enjoying this thread. Until someone brought up that biological pattern phobia. When it comes to human afflictions, I have this phobia in spades and its mere mention (or typing it) still makes me nauseous. Thanks a pantload.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:59 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Or you could fact check.

The glass-floored observation deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center is 124m higher than the highest level of the Oriental Pearl Tower. The top floor of the soon-to-be-completed Shanghai Tower will be another ~100m above that.
posted by bradf at 9:00 AM on June 8


Say what you want, but I'm pretty sure that this doesn't hold a candle to "The 24 worst places on earth for an aracnophobic."
posted by schmod at 9:10 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


What about the the Sears Tower observation deck... filled with spiders???

Ah fuck, I just made myself crap my pants.
posted by kmz at 9:31 AM on June 8


Hell, I bet that Grand Canyon scenic overlook nightmare actually is frequented by rattlesnakes, gila monsters, scorpions, brown recluses, and plague-carrying prairie dogs.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:46 AM on June 8


Thank you for that link, damayanti. That article and the Huashan Letters followup are a really interesting case study on how information gets corrupted as it's passed around the web.

The route appears to have been incredibly frightening—at least to Westerners—before 2007, with few safety features. Most of the pictures that get circulated in lists like these pre-date 2007.

At some point, a narrative was added to the pictures that presented them as a step-by-step guide to ascending the mountain, even though many of the details reported were wrong: for example, the wooden plank trail is not part of the ascent and is just an optional route to an overlook. Also, the cable car ride that's often listed as the first step didn't exist when most of the other pictures were taken.

Post-2007, the Chinese government has undertaken numerous safety upgrades on the trail, making it (if not exactly easy) much more accessible. In fact, the biggest complaint about the mountain these days isn't that it's dangerous but that it's so crowded with tourists, including children and the elderly.

For the author of the linked site, this led to years of confusion and criticism, as people who'd been to Huashan wrote in to tell him his page was wrong, a lie, a hoax, because they'd been to the site and it wasn't nearly as dangerous as he'd described it. How were they to know that the site had once been much more frightening? And how could he have found out that things had changed on a mountain peak on the other side of the world? Because the only other pages out there, aside from his site, are hundreds of clickbaity listicles using old pictures and invented details.

(Actually, for me this is the most fascinating aspect of the story: the followup becomes a kind of character study of a middle-aged owner of a Houston dance studio who unexpectedly finds himself running the most comprehensive source on Huashan in English, and then comes under harsh criticism on the contents. I won't go into detail about why I find it so fascinating, but I definitely recommend skimming through the Letters page if you're interested in a certain kind of unintentional Internet self-portrait.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:46 AM on June 8 [10 favorites]


HA every time I mention this on mefi I get accused of being an arrogant hater of the midwest. IT'S JUST TOO MUCH HORIZON OKAY.

I grew up in a big sky place and hated it. Went to college in Connecticut, could finally breathe for a little bit, then moved to Seattle and was like THANK FUCKING GOD. I like being nestled down in a network of hills. Out there in the 360-degree horizon world, I'm constantly afraid that the Wendigo will find me or something.
posted by KathrynT at 10:14 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Just looking at most of these makes me want to do what Djokovic did in the middle of the French Open final today, which NBC showed in vomitous slo-mo.
And yet, the first one doesn't bother me as much. For some reason *that* glass enclosure seems cozy and safe.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:16 AM on June 8


Say what you want, but I'm pretty sure that this doesn't hold a candle to "The 24 worst places on earth for an aracnophobic."

All of which are in Australia.

Oz: Where fucking everything is trying to kill you
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:16 AM on June 8


If you're ever in the UAE, Ras al Khaimah is good hiking country. You might want to skip the Stairway to Heaven though.
posted by CrowthorneRoad at 10:18 AM on June 8


elizardbits: "IT'S JUST TOO MUCH HORIZON OKAY."

It lets us spot the coastal riffraff coming!

To steal our corn.

Our precious, precious corn. *narrows eyes*
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 AM on June 8 [16 favorites]


The route appears to have been incredibly frightening—at least to Westerners—before 2007, with few safety features. Most of the pictures that get circulated in lists like these pre-date 2007.

I think I actually originally read the article pre-2007 (I think it was back in college, sometime, anyway); interesting to see how it's evolved. And even then, the original article itself points out that some of the more frightening aspects aren't really that bad- there's the comment about "Honestly, when have you ever fallen off of a ladder when you were paying attention?"

But even with the safety features, it's worth noting that any climb/hike like this, with a sheer rock face, is going to involve some risk, especially in the winter; see this article which mentions deaths at Stone Mountain and Half-Dome in the states. If things are icy, wet, or you're goofing around, yes, you can fall off of a cliff, even if there is a railing.
posted by damayanti at 10:41 AM on June 8


There are two types of these in particular that bother me, the rest don't really.

The natural rock platforms would worry me due to the brittle nature of rock and lack of any kind of structural redundancy. I feel like there would be no way of knowing that a crack has developed and is propagating through the rock, until the remaining cross-section is too weak to support it, and it gives way without any warning.

The ones with water in them are sort of nightmare fuel given what happens if the outer wall gives way. That 'magic force' people are afraid of that will pull them over the edge? Imagine what happens when all that water starts gushing out through a big hole in the wall. You might be nowhere near it and yet still would get sucked into the hole, right?
posted by FishBike at 10:56 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I'm not particularly acrophobic and even like being up high, but I do get some episodic vertigo, which makes being in high places a bit of a roll of the dice.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:03 AM on June 8


When I'm on something tall (observation deck, stadium seating, etc), I'm not scared I'm going to fall - I'm scared I'm going to jump. Just jump. Not because I would want to jump but because I just would.

I've been told this is a common feeling for control freaks.
posted by double bubble at 11:50 AM on June 8 [5 favorites]


Just this morning I went up to the top of a local mountain range (Verdugo). I have pretty bad acrophobia, but have found that I can stand (barely, I prefer sitting) on the top of a mountain and feel the fear drain out of me. Pretty thrilling, but not quite as good as the rush of biking back down it.

The worst was when that tipping sensation shakespeherian describes happened on top of Cerro Alto while the marine layer moved in over the range below. Peaking at the summit probably didn't help much, truthfully.

I will not be going to any of the placed in the linked article though. *shudder*
posted by carsonb at 12:02 PM on June 8


My favorite place to taunt gravity is nicknamed Buzzard's Roost. It's a spot that overlooks I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge west of Asheville. I'm not sure what the dropoff is, but it's pretty substantial. Some people have poor initial reactions to it.
posted by workerant at 12:30 PM on June 8


When I'm on something tall (observation deck, stadium seating, etc), I'm not scared I'm going to fall - I'm scared I'm going to jump. Just jump. Not because I would want to jump but because I just would.

Me too. I'm not sure of the "logic" of that, though: sometimes I think that it's because if you are afrarid of heights, then you are worried that you are going to fall -- so jumping, especially for the control freak, is a way to take charge and get the inevitable over.
posted by anothermug at 12:30 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Hey Vancouver MeFites, hey Washington (state) Mefites, have you driven Dead Horse Point on Harts Pass road? Dead Horse is a half-mile bit of one-lane rough road cut away inside a cliff, with sheer drops above and below. That half-mile part will loosen the most determined bowels. I drove up last year and survived the drive down (it's scarier on the return). Had to pull over to the empty side (there are pullouts) on the return trip to let three SUVs go up on the narrow stretch, still have memories. I felt so pleased by the end of the weekend that I didn't turn around at the base, I would have missed out on the pleasant camping and the stunning views at the summit.

Here's a short video, and here's a description of this scenic road.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:35 PM on June 8


Fun theory:
The adaptations to our present weight and grounded physiology came later. They are instinctive, but they are overlaid on the older reflexes.

So what we experience is a conversation between two parts of our brain...

posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 12:52 PM on June 8


The vast open space gives many people existential crises even when they don't go mad.

One of the things that has been nagging at me is there is nothing like the universe showing you your place than being in the middle of a seemingly endless, featureless landscape (or in the ocean when you cannot see any land on any horizon).

"I am nothing" is the usual response. It's the Total Perspective Vortex, writ small.

Which leads me to: In the movie "Titanic", the "I'm king of the world!" thing is just proof of someone who has gone completely around the bend. It's not a normal response to being confronted with an endless barren seascape.
posted by maxwelton at 1:06 PM on June 8


Somebody please take the last para of maxwelton's comment, write it really small on a piece of paper and bake it into a fortune cookie. Then, the next time James Cameron's down at the bottom of the Marianas Trench make sure he finds it and opens it. TIA.
posted by carsonb at 2:00 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


My wife won't ever watch this wonderful radio tower maintenance video.

"Now we've reached the base of the antenna, it's only another 60 feet to the top."
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:21 PM on June 8


growabrain's link above wins the thread for me. I keep trying to watch the whole thing and each time I get so anxious I have to close the tab. He links to a reddit thread about the video. If you want a direct link to it, here you go.
posted by marsha56 at 5:41 PM on June 8


The view down from the Blackpool Tower is, of course, grim and depressing.
posted by Flashman at 6:09 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Our precious, precious corn. *narrows eyes*

No worries.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:12 PM on June 8


I just can't follow that link. Hell, one of the comments above had me leaning over to the right in my chair in an effort to make the subject of the anecdote behave more safely. *shudder*

I think I gotta go use the bathroom now.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:20 PM on June 8


I've been to Huashan and gone out on the ledge (that sometimes isn't even a ledge). They give you a harness now. It was fun! (proof).

There's no hand holding there, though (sometimes literally!). You're expected to be responsible. Less spry tourists will have a problem. I spent over an hour going up (sometimes vertical) stairs to get to the plateau from which you can access the different peaks.

Here's a context photo for the ridge shot (2).

These guys, though, are the real champs. Stoic toughs.
posted by flippant at 9:17 PM on June 8


When I'm on something tall (observation deck, stadium seating, etc), I'm not scared I'm going to fall - I'm scared I'm going to jump. Just jump. Not because I would want to jump but because I just would.

Me too. I'm not sure of the "logic" of that, though: sometimes I think that it's because if you are afrarid of heights, then you are worried that you are going to fall -- so jumping, especially for the control freak, is a way to take charge and get the inevitable over.




Maybe.

I'm not afraid of heights and will happily walk on glass-bottomed views to infinity or climb a tower with a harness. I've dangled my legs off airplanes with a missing door in preparation for parachuting out. None of the linked photos "do" anything for me.

But I am afraid of my non-fear of heights. I'll avoid going to unprotected places because I can imagine also just slipping off into the void. It is a fear of my urge to jump, to tempt fate and to do something stupid and irrevocable.
posted by vacapinta at 5:37 AM on June 9


Thanks for posting my bucket list!
posted by desjardins at 10:48 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Try the Birdcage at Bishop Castle in Colorado. Not as high as the other entries on this list, but they were built largely by professionals and have withstood the test of time. The birdcage was not and hasn't. It was built by an "eccentric" and consists of tacked-together angle iron and scrap. And it sways. Ominously.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:11 AM on June 10


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