THE MUSEUM OF ABSURD FEARS
EXHIBIT #02 – Dead in a Ditch

 

FEAR OF THE WEEK: Disappearing and not having my family have any idea what happened.

 

“Are you home?”
“Nope, dead in a ditch on the side of the road.”
“Okay. If you happen to stop by a store on the way home, can you grab some lettuce?”

Variants of this are pretty common text exchanges in my family. Given our propensity for generally morbid humor and a generally flippant attitude toward death, anyone who knows us would be less than surprised. Add to that the fact that my parents pretty much stopped checking on what time I would be home when I was seventeen*, and I’ve often joked that I could go missing and it would be days before it dawned on anyone.

Now, on the note of morbidity, anyone who has known me longer than a minute probably also knows I grew up on a steady diet of murder mysteries and crime shows and am very much a “murderino,” the title coined by the podcast My Favorite Murder to describe those obsessed with true crime. However, as with any interest, I have specific flavors I prefer over others:

  • Serial killers? Awesome.
  • Bizarre murders? Definitely.
  • Survivor stories? Yeah, sure.
  • Unsolved crimes? YIKESYIKESYIKES.

Yeah, the unsolved cases are not so much my thing. A few of the more historical ones are alright, but the nearer we get to the present, the more freaked out I get, especially my least favorite variant: missing persons. Sure, they’re fascinating, but I personally find them far more unsettling than even the most bizarrely gruesome murders.

So, as I alluded to in my first post, it was a missing person story that originated the whole idea of the Absurd Fears. My latest listening binge has been a paranormal/ crime themed podcast called And That’s Why We Drink, and the first case they covered that I had never heard of was the case of Maura Murray, a 21-year old nursing student who disappeared in 2001. Since I both pride myself on my knowledge of weird things and I’m apparently a glutton for terrifying myself, I immediately turned down the Wikipedia rabbit hole to read about this case. For those of you smarter than me who want to save yourselves , here is the brief summary you need to understand where I’m going with the rest of this post:

  • She packed up her car and left on an unexplained trip with an unclear purpose and destination.
  • A handful of people met her on a snowy road where she had crashed her car, including one man who called the police to help her.
  • By the time the police showed up, she was gone.
  • To this day, no one knows if she ran away, was abducted, was murdered, or anything else in between. She literally just vanished.

“But,” I can hear you saying. “Going missing or being abducted is a perfectly rational fear. It doesn’t belong in this exhibit.”

Oh ho, my friends, but you see: my great overwhelming fear in this whole scenario is not that I go missing. No, the thing that keeps this absurd is that the really specific fear I have is my family having to spend the rest of their lives arguing over what they think happened and whether or not to keep looking for me.

I think this weirdo fear comes from my type-A personality need for closure – for example, I almost always have to finish books that I start even if I don’t enjoy them, for completionism sake. There’s probably also a lot of projection here, because I myself hate not having all the information I need in any situation (stage manager brain, I guess), and this would be basically the most extreme possible version of that.

But I think the other reason that this oddly specific preoccupation bothers me, is that it’s one of the only components in this scenario that I might not have any control over. Presuming I’m the one who goes missing, there could be any number of reasons why, and in spinning the gears of the 40,000 possible scenarios that have led to my theoretical disappearance in this overblown thought experiment, the vast majority of them have at least the possibility that I can attempt to do something to mitigate my end of the mystery, be it leaving evidence of an abduction, to literally leaving a note that says “I left on purpose so don’t look for me.” However, I can’t do anything about how people respond it it.

So, that’s more or less my theory about why in spite of my overwhelming interest in true crime, I still hate missing persons cases and get the most freaked out by the least likely obvious aspect of them. So I guess on the relative scale of of absurd fears, this one’s not the most unhealthy to manage.

On the other hand, maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something…

 

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*To be fair, I did not have a driver’s license until I was twenty-three or thereabouts, so if I was out late I was with a driving friend, all of whom were terrified of disappointing my parents.