My heart is beating fast. I know that there is no one else in the tunnel, there are no monsters. But at the same time, I just can’t stop panicking.
I get easily car sick on the Lake District roads. It’s a funny feeling: I know I am fine, not even going fast, but at the same time, I want to puke and get out of the car as soon as possible. There is no way I can stop my stomach from turning upside down.
I think of the motion sickness when I walk into the old miners’ tunnels in Little Langdale. The darkness feels kind of similar. There is no reason to be uncomfortable, yet I am.
I’ve taken a walk after arriving at Little Langdale. The sunshine reflecting from tiny water droplets on grass is inviting. I don’t have a plan, I just need fresh air. I follow the paths to the slater bridge and up the hills behind it through the woods to a lookout point. I nibble on wood sorrel and wild strawberries I find by the path.
I know that there are disused quarries and mines in the area with tunnels interlinking the quarries. The most famous quarry, Cathedral Cave, is somewhere nearby but I’m not trying to find it. So, when I come across an opening of a tunnel, I walk in. I’m curious.
Light from outside glimmers on the puddles on the floor. Otherwise it is dark. I can’t stand up straight and I can touch the wet sides of the tunnel with my both hands at the same time. I don’t like enclosed places.
The tunnel turns slightly and the light from entrance disappears, now I can’t see anything. I stumble over the rocks on the ground. I resist the urge to take out my phone and turn on the flashlight. It is just a dark tunnel. Yet, my heart is starting to race.
Because of our poor senses in the dark, it is quite natural to be more alert in the dark. But some people are more anxious when the lights go out. Interestingly a link between fear of the dark in adulthood and sleeping problems have been established in experimental studies.
I am a light sleeper, but I do not have Nyctophobia – I am just a bit uneasy.
The sounds of the dripping water make me nervous. It is just dripping water. Then I hear a louder splash. Like something plunged into a pool. It is just dripping water.
I like the way William Lyons describes the fear of the dark as “the absence of knowledge”. I don’t know what is out there, I can’t be certain. Maybe I suddenly fall into a pit, Maybe the puddle I am stepping into is several meters deep, maybe there are some other living things I do not anticipate encountering.
My imagination is following its own paths. How on earth do characters in books venture into unknown tunnels? Poor Bilbo Baggins wasn’t an adventurer, but he creeped around tunnels full of goblins and who knows what creatures. I would have frozen from fear if I’d come across the pale, withered shape of Gollum in the dark.
Another loud splash. I turn back and start rushing back to where I came from. This is ridiculous, but I can’t help myself. I got to get out.
I walk into a few more tunnels afterward, but I avoid embarrassing escapes. Little Langdale Quarries are inspected on a regular basis and they are open to the public. They are fairly safe, so don’t worry, there are no scary creatures in there. No need to panic…
Carney, C.E., Moss, T.G., Atwood, M.E., Crowe, B.M. and Andrews, A.J., 2014. Are poor sleepers afraid of the dark? A preliminary investigation. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 5(1), pp.2-13.
Grillon, C., Pellowski, M., Merikangas, K.R. and Davis, M., 1997. Darkness facilitates the acoustic startle reflex in humans. Biological psychiatry, 42(6), pp.453-460.
Lyons, W., 1985. Philosopy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge