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What Is Cetaphobia?

Cetaphobia is a fear of whales.
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  • Written By: Debra Barnhart
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2014
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Perhaps it is true that the human mind has the capacity to imagine anything. According to anecdotal reports on the Internet, people who have never seen a real, live whale can suffer from bouts of cetaphobia, or a fear of whales. Apparently, watching movies with whales can induce this irrational fear. Cetaphobia, also known as mobyphobia, seems to preoccupy some people and be largely akin to the childhood fear of monsters.

Collective wisdom might propose that the occurrence of cetaphobia would be limited to Inuit tribe members or other indigenous people who hunt whales and have reason to fear for their lives. Japanese whalers might also be vulnerable to this dread, but apparently they have far more to fear from environmental groups, as commercial whale hunting was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986 due to fear of whale extinction. A 2007 clash between environmentalists and Japanese whalers resulted in a Japanese ship catching fire.

As of 2011 no information leads to cases of cetaphobia among the Inuits or Japanese whalers. AAnecdotal reports do seem to indicate, however, that cetaphobia exists among people, especially younger people, who have watched the movies Finding Nemo and Free Willy. These people shared their phobia about whales in posts online. One woman claimed that her fear of whales was passed down to her by her mother.

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The cinematic scene in Finding Nemo in which Nemo's friend Dory is talking to whale, wreaked havoc with one young woman who confessed her fears online. Granted, the scene does have an element of suspense as the whale makes his way to the foreground. He first starts out swimming in the distance, a mere speck, but by the end of the scene his mouth takes up the entire screen. In a movie theatre this might have seemed very disconcerting.

According to an online post, the movie Free Willy induced terror in one small child. Of course Orcas, or killer whales, have earned that name for a reason. Whales, by virtue of their size, can be quite intimidating, however, the unfounded fears of people who are unlikely to have any contact with whales in their lifetime does seem questionable. There are other, more plausible phobics to have like birds, for instance. As of 2011 the word cetaphobia was not a recognized word in the English dictionary, though it did list the word ornithophobia — the fear of birds.

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Discuss this Article

anon951357
Post 2

I am 22 years old and am so terrified of whales. Pictures, videos, and especially their sounds terrify me. Weirdly, this appeared out of nowhere about five years ago. I have been whale watching with no fear, seen free willy, etc. All of a sudden, years later, I am ridiculously scared of them. So strange.

anon304451
Post 1

I am 24 years old and I have severe cetaphobia. I can be in another room and hear the sound of a whale and my body trembles. I have no idea why I have it. It probably came about nine years ago, out of the blue!

"Free Willy" was actually a favorite movie of mine as a kid growing up. What got me was in the movie aundre with the seal, where he's in the window watching the lady next door watching TV and she was watching Moby Dick. When I saw that big blue whale come through the boat, that was enough for me. Yeah, I know I'll never actually see one, but you never know.

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