A Fear of Kites

In looking around for the fancy “-phobia” word signifying a fear of kites, I ran across three things that this entry is not about: an episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” in which Dewey apparently puts to rest his dad’s fear of kites; the title of an episode of what appears to be an anime cartoon entitled “Marsupilami”; and a song by one Selma Booking entitled “A Cloud’s Fear of Kites.” I was unable to find the fancy word I wanted on the Web or in any of my books about strange words. Some “fear” words I did find that are of interest if not particular relevance include the following:

  • sophophobia. the fear of learning, which I don’t have
  • myrmecophobia. the fear of ants
  • maledictaphobia. the fear of bad words
  • phalacrophobia. the fear of going bald
  • pogonophobia. the fear of beards, which I’m inclined to say I don’t have, as I have a beard, though it may simply be the case that I’m too frightened of it to shave it off
  • taphephobia. the fear of being buried alive
  • bromidrosiphobia. the fear of body odor, which I keep at bay by using lots and lots and lots of deodorant
  • lepidophobia. the fear of butterflies
  • nephophobia. the fear of clouds
  • hypophobia. the fear of a lack of fear
  • arachibutyrophobia. the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
  • bathysiderodromophobia. the fear of subways or underground trains

When I mention a fear of kites, I don’t mean that I have a fear of any of the following things listed in the American Heritage Dictionary under the entry for kite:

  • Any of the light sails of a ship used in a light wind.
  • Any of various predatory birds of the hawk family Accipitridae, having a long, often forked tail and long pointed wings (ok, if I saw one of these up close with its talons going for my eyes, I’d probably be afraid of it, but I’m not generally speaking afraid of these birds).
  • A piece of negotiable paper representing a fictitious financial transaction and used temporarily to sustain credit or raise money.
  • A bank check drawn on insufficient funds to take advantage of the time interval required for collection
  • A bank check altered to show a larger amount
  • (Ok, these last three freak me out a bit too, but they’re still not what I’m ultimately talking about.)

It’s the standard definition I’m thinking of: The diamond of paper held rigid by two sticks and followed by a tail of bows; or the standard arrow-shaped kite you can get at your neighborhood drug store in April. Or, in my case, a big multi-colored parrot kite complete with fluttering tail feathers. It is this kite that I flew today, the first time I ever remember successfully flying a kite.

I do remember going out to the practice football field of the high school I lived near when I was a kid and flying kites with my family. On one such outing, I was stung by a bee and found myself treated to a poultice of saliva and tobacco. I was too young to manage a kite during these outings. And I don’t remember ever getting a kite very far up in the sky on later outings when I had my own kite (gray and black like a jet with discongruous eyespots on the wings that in retrospect I imagine would have made such a real jet a pretty easy target).

Today, we were entertaining the almost-four-year-old child of a couple friend who just had another baby. It had been windy last night, and we had the kite (an out-of-the-blue (figuratively speaking, though it could be taken literally) birthday present from a couple of years ago) in the car, so we decided to hit a park today and try to fly it. M flew it for a few minutes before landing it in a power line. Enter fear number one. I was sufficiently indoctrinated by the power company’s crudely-drawn cartoon commercials when I was a child to know that if you screw with power lines by doing such things as flying kites into them or attempting to get kites out of them, you’re looking for a cooking. This power line was thin and bent at the slightest provocation, so I wasn’t keen on tugging at it with the kite string lest it snap and fall down on me snakelike. So I cut the string. Luckily, the kite fluttered down a few minutes later thanks to a gust, and we retied the string and had another go, this time at a substantially greater distance from the power lines. It was my turn.

And I made a pretty good go of it. I got the kite pretty far up there, getting string burn on my hand as I paid out the line and guided the kite to prevent it from taking nose dives (of which it did several with what would surely have been catastrophic, beak-altering results for a real parrot). Now when I say I got it pretty far up there, I don’t mean that I got it way way up there. It was maybe 100 or 200 feet high, and I hear tell of people who get their kites so high that they’re unrecognizeable dots in the sky. The kite was high for me, but not high by a kite’s standards.

And the higher the kite went, the more apprehensive I became. I wasn’t afraid of kite as object. I wasn’t even afraid so much as increasingly uncomfortable about something I couldn’t and still can’t confidently put a label on.

I’m partially inclined to think my apprehension had to do with a perceived diminution of control: The higher the kite goes, the more influence smaller movements have on it; and the harder it becomes to steer; and the less attached it seems to the string, while at the same time it feels as if it must (or perish the world) stay on that string and in my sight and under my control. But I’m not sure that’s my issue. It may also have partially to do with my long-held notion that the reeling in of a kite is a Sisyphean task, that we tend to be reluctant to bring in the line when there’s a good wind, but as surely as we begin to bring it in, the wind picks up, the result being a kite in flux, never quite high enough and never home but always needing to be reeled in. Essentially, by flying a kite, you’re setting yourself up either to have to reel in a whole bunch of slack line once the string breaks at a point six miles from your spool or to keep up an Old-Man-And-The-Sea scale epic battle with the kite.

I suppose it’s uncertainty that gets my goat. That seems to be the unifying gotcha of both of my primary theories about this little neurosis. The closest thing to this in my phobia book is “kakorrhaphiophobia” — the fear of failure.

44 thoughts on “A Fear of Kites

  1. eric says:

    i have the same fear… i just get nervous and a nervouse feeling in my stomach!also when i hold a balloon, i have to grasp it very tight.i hate it

    • Laura Jean Hay says:

      I too have found myself researching to find a name for this phobia. I have to say, that your experience is described so very much like my own experience it motivated me to send this comment. And I never take time to comment on hardly anything. My fear was first encountered as a child. I live in Georgia and only a couple of days a year hold enough wind potential to get a kite really flying. As in that height factor you mentioned. Okay so most days we just ran with a failing kite. Unable to ever catch any flight to speak of. On those days the kite was fine in my mind. I had no anxiety. But then one day my father was able to get the kite so high that it was literally unrecognizable. I panicked. I begged for them to bring it down. This experience panicked me so badly that I would hide in the house anytime they brought out the kites. I described it then as a child and still now as I for some reason feel like I am that high and that some how its dangerous. Weird. I know but very real and honestly I am not an anxious person. I don’t fear spiders. I don’t freak out when in the car with dangerous drivers. I’m not scared of much really. But the kites thing makes me so uncomfortable. I always thought it was a childhood fear until recently saw a kite at a friends and had to take much effort to attempt to forget it was there and happening. Cause it has to be flying to bother me. Just the kite is benign in my mind. LoL sorry this was so long and the grammar is probably way off.

    • Laura Jean Hay says:

      If anyone finds out more on it I hope they post about it. I have never found anything and looked a few times since at least 2008 when I wrote a paper on it in college.

      • Laura Jean Hay says:

        Could we search fear of controlling or guiding something that is highly elevated or flying? If I find anything ill let y’all know.

  2. I have a sister, she actually has such a fear of kites that her husband made her hold one, and she pee’d her pants. Quite embarrassing. But she’s glad to hear others have the same phobia. (shes on the phone)

  3. My girlfriend is also a fellow Kite-o-phobic. We thought she was the only one. You guys should start your own club and have long in-depth discussions about your fear. And maybe, just maybe, you can all go out kite flying one day, together, holding each others hands, wearing diapers. But seriously, kite-o-phobics are awesome, i’m going to marry one some day.

  4. Andie says:

    Oh thank the sweet baby Jesus, it’s not just me. I have the same symptoms that the rest of you talked about — and something mentioned in the blog struck me — the loss of control. Maybe.. It just makes me break out in a sweat just thinking about it!

    Maybe there is no word for it because the greeks and romans (the founders of our language) were smart enough not to invent kites? 🙂

  5. Bruno says:

    Well, if they have a name for the phobia of peanut butter on your pallet, then they should have one for kites :S.
    I’m just always afraid of letting the kite go, or of being pulled into the air myself.
    I look up at the kite and get really uneasy and have to look down and hand the kite over before it gets too bad.I’m not even that afraid of heights, but when I see someone or something (especially if I’m controlling it)being somewhere high, it makes me sick :S.

  6. Sea says:

    Im So Glad Im Not The Only One. I Hate Kites, When I See A Kite Getting Higher And Higher I Feel Sick. I Have No Idea Why, I Guess I Feel Like Its Going To Pull Me Into The Sky. When I Was Young I Used To Hold The Rope So Tightly, Now I Daren’t Even Hold One, Just Looking Up At A Kite Makes Me Feel Nervous Then I Spend All Day Worrying About The Person Holding It, I Also Feel The Same About Balloons But Im Not Afraid Of Heights.

  7. My boyfriend has bought my son a kite and I told him that I wouldn’t beable to help him fly it because I have a fear of flying kites. He said that this was a weird phobia and I was a freak! I just had to find out whether there was other people with the same fear and thankfully came across this site.

    I have the same feeling that other people have described when trying to fly a kite. Even the thought of it makes me feel sick. When the string starts to pull and tug I feel total panic, I can’t even look up at the kite and have to hand it over. It’s definately the idea of being connected and in control of something so high up in the sky, that I’m unfomfortable with.

    When I was little I remember being bought a helium balloon at the fair and being told over and over again to hold it very tight or I’d lose it. As it flapped around I remember feeling sick with panic, convinced that I wouldn’t beable to hold it tight enough. Perhaps it stems from this!

  8. Wow, I can’t believe all these people have the same fear as me. I haven’t thought about it in a long time, because I just haven’t been around a kite in years. But, I watched a video on Myspace today, of a snowboarder getting carried away by a large kite, and that was it. I had to look into it. Like everyone else, I can’t figure out what exactly it is that I am afraid of. There is no reason for this fear, but like everyone else here, I get a sick, uncontrollable, dizzy feeling, that is so overwhelming it’s scary. My heart wants to jump out of my throat.

  9. sonya says:

    ditto ditto ditto!
    oh,let’s make up a name ourselves if there isn’t an official one!
    when i was 2 my mum said my grandfather bought me a helium baloon and left it in my bedroom while i was going to sleep. apparently i screamed and screamed until finally the baloon was taken out of the room and i settled. i wonder it that sparked it.
    for me it’s not just kites, rather expanses of fabric flying above me and out of control eg looking up into a hot air baloon..or the thought of a large sheet flying above me..or a large tent swept up in the wind.
    hmmmm yes, you’re right, it’s definitely something to do with it all being out of control. garden hoses with full pressure spurting around also worries me a bit…
    nice to meet you all, fellow kite-phobics! s

  10. Beth says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not crazy for having a fear of kites!! My fiancee and his mother think it’s completely irrational! One day I went to the beach for a party, and I saw a huge red kite complete with tails on the end. I saw it and started panicking, I’m not even completely sure why I’m afraid of them..never had any traumatic experiences with them. I just get sick every time I look at one flapping around.

  11. Jacob Schulz says:

    This is an amazing post. I have never been so glad to accidentally stumble upon a blog in my life. It’s perhaps the most sardonic thing I’ve ever read and I’m not entirely sure what that word means. I couldn’t even begin to guess the best line but this paragraph is perfect,

    “And I made a pretty good go of it. I got the kite pretty far up there, getting string burn on my hand as I paid out the line and guided the kite to prevent it from taking nose dives (of which it did several with what would surely have been catastrophic, beak-altering results for a real parrot). Now when I say I got it pretty far up there, I don’t mean that I got it way way up there. It was maybe 100 or 200 feet high, and I hear tell of people who get their kites so high that they’re unrecognizeable dots in the sky. The kite was high for me, but not high by a kite’s standards.”

    I tip my cap to you, good sir.

  12. Jodi says:

    My son is 6 yrs old. He can not handle a balloon. Nor be around them outside. He gets bugged out. Screaming and crying. He refuses to have balloons at his birthday party unless I blow them up inside. AND do not put any outside. Recently we learned that he had the same roblem with kites. He saw them in a store wanted one, couldn’t wait to fly it. He was eager to start, wanted to help put it in the air. What followed after that was horrific. He became hysterical. Sobbing beyond all recogniton. I had to hold on to him. He was okay as long as he was unaware they were still in the sky. Does anyone have suggestions on hw to manage this?

  13. Rachel says:

    Wow, I too was looking for a name for this phobia and found this site. Kites and helium ballons give me mini panic attacks. I honestly thought I was crazy, but seeing other people have the SAME 2 phobias does make me feel better! I still can’t believe there isn’t a name…

  14. carly says:

    i have a fear of flying a kite too, i was only about four but i got an overwhelming feeling of insecurity and remember having to curl up on the ground still holding on to the kite with my eyes closed so i wouldnt have to look at it in the air and i still panicked. i think it was a fear of letting the kite go mixed with the fear of me leaving the ground both totally irrational but i havent held a kite since and wouldnt want to!

  15. Jamie says:

    Me to… I know why I do though… it’s cause I was once hit by one of those professional ones with the really sharp tops at the beach and it split open my skull… now I won’t go near them! Really wish I could find the name for it!

  16. JoSh says:

    I hate flying kites or being near someone flying a kite. i also get a pit in my stomach when i try to stand under something really high and trying to throw stuff at it. I play baseball and dont get any of those feelings while playing. And i dont fear standing next to something tall unless im throwing something at it. Anyway all my friends make fun of me for it and i think it should be some kinda phobia… especially since they have a phobia for everything else. But i am so glad i found this site and im not the only one!

  17. Steve says:

    At last;
    I honestly thought I was the only one on the planet with this fear. I remember that as a kid I used to go onto the hills around Worcestershire and fly them like “normal people”.
    Ever since teenage years though I get the same feelings described above (giddiness etc). I have absolutely no fear of heights i.e looking down from the Eiffel Tower, tall buildings etc so I think like some of the examples above it’s related to being attached to something that I have limited control over. I also find the same weird feeling when trying to hoist a flag up a flag pole.

  18. Leanne says:

    WOW! My husband told me I was crazy when I was explaining to him how terrified I am of flying kites. I have the same symptoms as everyone here and after reading this blog feel just as panicky as I do when I am near a kite. I am so glad to know that there are more kite phobics out there!

  19. Bruce says:

    I can’t believe others have the same fear. Like others who commented, I’m afraid that I will be pulled into the sky and as the kite gets higher. Panic sets in. I’d like to go to a park on some Spring day and fly a kite to try and get over this fear, but I just can’t make myself do it. I’m sure it’s a “control thing” when you analyze it. While the fear seems so unlogical, phobias are not based on logic; it’s an emotion and makes little sense but it’s real to me. Friends think it’s crazy and I can undersand but it’s real to me. The thoughts of holding the string with my hands and the strong connected to something up in the air makes me feel like I’m up in the air, too, and completely out of control.

  20. Curtis says:

    Some people jump out of airplanes when they turn forty years old. I’m doing something even more crazy this year. I’m going to fly my kite and try to hold on for dear life.

    Although I absolutely loved the ‘idea’ of flying kites as a kid, I ‘secretly’ had a fear of letting the kite get too high. If the kite went too high, I would get dizzy, feel sick to my stomach, and an overwhelming sense of fear would just paralyze me. I wouldn’t be able to hold onto the string and would simply let go.

    Needless to say I went through a lot of kites. However, nobody really believed that I could be scared of holding onto a kite string, so I just shut up about it and would fly my kites low… ‘under the radar’, so to speak.

    I’m surprised I haven’t googled this phobia until now, and so I’m very happy to know I’m in good, albeit weirdo company. 😉 Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories.

    So I have bought a new kite and plan to fly it high. You only turn forty once, might as well do something crazy.

  21. Callie says:

    WOW! I am so glad to know I am not the only one! My husband and family and friends tease me about this constantly and I seriously thought I was the only person in the world with this fear! I am terrified the kite string will wrap around my arm and take me up into the sky (completely irrational, I know!) I can’t even watch someone fly a kite. It makes me a nervous wreck! I did try to fly them when I was younger because I didn’t want to get made fun of for being afraid of them, but I could only stomach it for a few minutes then I would either have to look down at the ground or give up all together. I know this sounds dumb, but you guys have made me feel better about my fear! 🙂

  22. Tim says:

    Me too. I had in fact forgotten about this particular phobia for many years until today. I was sitting near to someone flying a big kite and I felt very nervous all of a sudden. I had a strong urge to leave and go home, or somewhere where the kite wasn’t. I’m scared of heights and I have the ‘being pulled into the sky’ fear aswell. Plus I just don’t like them being up there, it’s very high isn’t it? I imagine if I was up there looking down at the ground, I would be terrified. Also, looking way up there into the sky makes me feel dizzy. And because I’m looking up in the sky it makes me feel like I’m flying in the sky too. Isn’t it strange?

    I remember flying one when I was very little, my Dad managed to get it up in the air for me and he handed the string over to me, and I had the very same panicky feeling that I did today. My sister let go of it that day and it flew off over some buildings, I remember chasing it trying to catch the string but it flew up too high for me to reach. Maybe that has something to with it.

    What a great blog. Such a relief to hear similar stories. Thank you!

  23. Andrew says:

    I experience the same feeling when flying a kite, ever since I was a small child. I associate it with another phobia, which I just learned of today. It’s called altocelarophobia, and it’s a fear of high ceilings. For me personally, it’s a fear of high things. Balloons that make their way to the ceiling if a mall, for example. I think it has to do with spatial awareness. I become too aware of my relative position and it causes a sort of vertigo for me.

    Not sure if it’s the same for you, but just wanted to share.

  24. David says:

    I have this phobia too…mines a little different in that I have no fear of heights or getting hauled into the air but rather the kite ripping my toenails off. No fear of anything else doing that….just kites.

  25. Lauren says:

    No fear of heights, here but SO GLAD I found other people with this same experience – terrified of flying a kite, but I can watch someone else as long as they don’t try to hand me the string. Then I’m done in.

  26. Steph says:

    I am the same!! I never knew there would be others like me! When it goes really high I feel instantly anxious and hand it over to someone else – I can’t even look! I think I feel connected to it – like its a little piece of me up there and I panic that the string will break and the kite will fly off and up into the unknown. Even thinking about it now makes me feel funny :s

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