There was a thing in the news last week about a man who was waiting for a bus in the Bronx when a sinkhole opened beneath his feet and he fell fifteen feet into a hole filled with rats.
Around the same time that I learned about this, my sister posted her “Question of the Day” on Facebook, and in honor of the Halloween season, she asked what people were afraid of. I had already been thinking about this, and I answered the two things that truly scare me: Triffids and Sinkholes.
I will elaborate.
If you aren’t familiar, The Day Of The Triffids is a 1951 science-fiction novel by author John Wyndham. It’s been adapted for radio, television, and movies several times over. The Day of the Triffids was even the inspiration for 28 Days Later. Triffids are tall, venomous, carnivorous plants that can actually get up and move around. They’re not particularly fast, but they have a whip-like stinger that can blind and even kill a person. They’re originally cultivated because they produce oil but they get loose because of course they do. Things are made worse by a meteor shower (in some versions it’s just lights in the sky) that renders everyone in the world who sees it entirely blind. The rest of the story is familiar to anyone who loves Zombie fiction because with most of the world blinded, society collapses almost immediately. After that, it’s a dystopian post-apocalyptic wonderland, but with man-eating plants instead of shambling undead.
I want to state clearly that I know that Triffids are fictional. Of course I know they don’t really exist. Nowhere on Earth is there currently a known plant capable of killing and eating humans. That being said, if we were ever going to get a Triffid infestation, 2020 would be the year for it. Regardless, a thing doesn’t have to be real to be scary.
Sinkholes, on the other hand, are very real. And they terrify me. The guy in that news story at the beginning of this post was swallowed by the ground in seconds. Then he was stuck down there, unable to move and covered in rats, for at least half an hour before fire rescue could pull him out. He was afraid to open his mouth because he was scared a rat would climb inside.
This is terrifying, and it happens a lot. Do a web search for “man swallowed by sinkhole” and check out the terrifying results. In 2013, a Florida man was asleep in his bed when a sinkhole opened beneath him and just swallowed his whole bedroom. That guy didn’t survive- his bedroom was just gone, in a matter of seconds. They had to evacuate nearby houses because it was continuing to widen.
There are lots of terrifying sinkhole stories. In 2010, a sinkhole 65 feet wide and 300 feet deep opened in Guatemala and it took out a three-story building.
In Florida, sinkholes are particularly active and unpredictable. In Gainesville, near the University of Florida, there’s a 120 foot deep sinkhole that has been there for so long they’ve named it Devil’s Milhopper and they’ve established a state park to contain it. It’s so deep that it has a slightly different microclimate at the bottom than at the top.
Then there’s Lake Eola. Lake Eola is in a central part of downtown Orlando, and there are events there year round. I’ve been there hundreds of times. If you don’t know the area, you’ve still probably seen Lake Eola because any time a television show “takes place” in Orlando they inevitably show pictures of Disney and then pictures of Lake Eola. The fountain and the band-shell are fairly well known and often photographed.
Here’s the thing about Lake Eola though- the lake is a giant freaking sinkhole. Or at least it’s on top of one- roughly a hundred feet east of the fountain, there’s a twenty-three foot sinkhole. Meanwhile, the city has sprung up around it, skyscrapers and thousands of people living and working nearby.
And everyone is perfectly calm.
And nobody (except for me) is freaking out that we’re all pretending that a giant gaping whole in the ground is perfectly and completely normal.
Sinkholes are terrifying, friends.
What is scary to you?
25/52 (and 4 of 30!)