Friday, May 11, 2007


Phobias. I have a few phobias that are fairly common: fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of sharp pointed objects such as needles. But I have one phobia that is not at all common, and I call it domophobia.

Domophobia: the fear of large enclosed spaces.

Large wide open spaces, fine. Small confined spaces, fine. I don't suffer from agoraphobia or claustrophobia. But put me in a really, really large enclosed space, and I start panicking. Heart pounding, hard to breathe, icy fearful full-blown panic.

Actually school gymnasiums are okay. Cathedrals are usually okay, though it depends on how big they are— the big cathedral-like chapel at Duke University always used to send me into a tailspin. Large barns, usually not okay. Large enclosed spaces with dark or "primitive" or unfinished interiors, definitely not okay. Capitol rotundas, aiiiieeee!! When I walk across the rotunda of the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, I am careful never to look up into the empty space inside the capitol dome, lest I suffer a panic attack. I suppose it would be the same for me in a roofed-over sports stadium; though, you know, I assiduously avoid such places...

Looking back, I'm pretty sure that a capitol dome is how it all got started. June 1963, I was six going on seven. My dad was a commissioner to the Presbyterian General Assembly, which was meeting that year in Des Moines. So while he was off attending meetings, my mom took me and my brother around to see various places in Des Moines. Including the Iowa state capitol.

Back in those days, you could go climbing up to an observation dealie up on the very top of the capitol dome. We started from ground level, climbing up endless flights of stairs, one after another. Finally we got to a doorway at the base of the capitol dome, which led to the final flight of stairs up to the observation post.

We opened the door, and stepped through. And believe me, I panicked. We all panicked.

Because there was the huge, dark, unlit interior of the Iowa state capitol dome. Huge! With rickety wooden stairs winding up and around, attached to the inside of the dome, stairway enclosed in chicken wire. Spiraling up and around in the gigantic enclosed darkness, up to the top of the dome. Huge, dark, primeval: there may have been a few small windows here and there, letting in a little light. But overall it was the most horrifying view of large, dark, enclosed space I had ever seen.

Panic! We turned around and went back down, retracing our steps. And from then on, I had a phobia of large, enclosed spaces. I had a monthly comic book I drew in little note pads, and I have stories in there from that era of my super hero, the Scarlet Streak, fighting super villains inside the huge dark immensity of the Iowa state capitol dome.

Domophobia: the fear of large enclosed spaces.


Blogger The Tetrast said...

Avoid the central area at Grand Central Station in NYC.

That one in Chicago which they used in the The Untouchables movie would probably be even worse.

Friday, May 11, 2007 8:50:00 AM  
Blogger Richmond said...

Oh wow - scary stuff!

Friday, May 11, 2007 2:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude seriously i'm going to have nightmares of large enclosed spaces

some immense dark underground cave or something

Friday, May 11, 2007 8:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only person who had this problem. Just been given a ticket to a concert at The Royal Albert Hall next week - think I'll have to have a few drinks first!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad I'm not the only one that has this fear, all my friends make fun of me for it. I was at a speech contest at Iowa State University's giant auditorium and we were in the balcony and everyone was freaking out because of how high up we were, but I was pretty close to a panic attack just because of how big the space was. Ugh it was so awful.

Sunday, April 06, 2014 8:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also yes, grand central station was kind of awful when our school went on a trip there ugh

Sunday, April 06, 2014 8:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG!...I felt i was the only one with this phobia! it has a name, even reading your story made me panic.

if the hall is filled with people i may not get scared, i had to hold my partner's hands so tight when i entered royal Albert hall.

but i kept having nightmares about entering and extremely large and dark hall with little or no windows with gigantic stuffed animals/dolls lined up along the walls and curtains hanging from the very top of the ceiling down to the floor and that i panicked till i passed out.

is there a cure to this?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 3:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

I read all your comments and some of them make me shudder just reading about your experiences.I dislike spaces such as the inside of an air balloon bag when it is filled.I think looking back at my childhood that my fear began when I was small and looked inside a ballroom which was rather large and well lit and had mirrors all around.When I was somewhere in the centre I seem to remember someone turning the lights out and all I could see in a large distance was many of me in the mirrors.I can remember the thought today and I am now 70 years old and was then under 10.I just cant think of any other thing that made me shudder so much.I get a similar feeling now as my house is immediately opposite another in our street.When I go upstairs at night to close the curtains and switch on the light I can see myself reflected in the house windows opposite and cannot look as it is so frightening for me.Tends to support my earlier thoughts of what might have caused my problem at an early age.

Thursday, February 04, 2016 6:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Large superstores with high ceilings like Walmart, Sam's Club, Target's get me reeling. I start to feel stufficated, hot, sweaty, dizzy, can't breathe, & can't get out of there fast enough! I wonder if it has something to do with barometric pressure in these types of buildings? Capital dome building in Austin, TX was another place I'll never visit again ��

Thursday, May 04, 2017 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found the name Altocelarophobia. It means 'fear of high ceilings' but it seems to be used interchangeably with fear of large enclosed spaces.

Thursday, November 08, 2018 5:59:00 PM  
Blogger kim said...

Looking up into the large space in a hot air balloon creeps me, also looking around in the deep end of a swimming pool scares me, I don’t know if it’s the limited field of vision and not seeing what’s beyond.... or just thinking about all that space of water around me. It’s strange, but real.

Saturday, December 01, 2018 1:57:00 PM  

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