Hey, guys. If you read the stuff below, you might end up a little insane and reach for the nearest source of Brain Bleach. However, try to remember that none of the things in this list are anywhere near as likely as they seem. Still, it can leave you scarred. You Have Been Warned.
Gaslighting actually runs on paranoia fuel; usually, it involves people tricking other people into thinking that their surroundings are changing behind their backs (or otherwise trying to convince them they are mentally deficient/mentally ill - one common gaslighting trick is asking someone to do something that even a genius couldn't do perfectly or without training, then berating them for stupidity or weakness, and another is calling for someone or setting off a fire alarm, for example, and then saying one didn't do it, which, if there is no third party willing to step in and say they heard it, can lead someone into thinking they are having auditory hallucinations) and playing innocent or pretending to be the caring protector when the victim starts to panic.
North Korea. As a country, it manages to wrap up much of the Paranoia Fuel present in this article into one brainwashed, nuclear-armed nation seeking revenge against the world...
Viruses. Pure undead malevolence encoded into genetic material and wrapped up in a creepy protein shell. Not even technically alive, they're just tiny zombies that you can't even shoot in their microscopic zombie heads, remaining active for years, even decades without a host, waiting patiently for the opportunity to infect you with nothing more than brief contact with or even being anywhere near a person or object that's been infected at any point. They then proceed to hijack your very cells with a proficiency that would put Headcrabs or the Yeerks to shame, forcing them to replicate more and more copies of themselves until the cell bursts, killing the cell and eventually you. The worst thing, however, is that their simplicity allows them to mutate at a fantastic rate, certain strains changing so rapidly that they render the latest vaccine irrelevant almost as soon as it is made. And, if you have a weak immune system, you can't do anything about it. If it's a virus similar to the Spanish Flu of 1918, then a strong immune system means it will kill you quicker... And if you've ever had Chicken Pox, you'll never be completely cured. No, the virus is hiding in your nerve cells, just waiting for you to weaken... and begin the horrific stage two of infection.
Prions. Entirely nonliving, inert proteins that can infect much the same as a virus or bacteria.
Incidentally, some retroviruses simply stay in your genes until something happens that prompts them to start reproducing. Oh, yes, and you might never have even caught it, because it got passed down from an ancestor—there might even be a few that are present in every single human. It should be added that while they're simply staying there? They're not 'silent'—the genes they introduced into you can and do get transcribed, and can even cause the stress to trigger the retrovirus to start reproducing... or just drive you insane. That paranoia you feel growing might even be due to one of these, we can't be sure.
AIDS. You can't know if you have it for up to 6 months after you contracted it, it shows no symptoms for years, and for all you know, your significant other may be cheating on you and bring it home! Unlike other STDs, AIDS isn't always transmitted by sex. The true Paranoia Fuel happens when you realize that every cut, every scratched mosquito bite, is a chance to accidentally allow someone else's blood into your body - though usually HIV infection requires direct contact between HIV infected blood or bodily fluid and the bloodstream.
At least in the First World and where one can seek treatment, antiretroviral drugs have turned HIV into a treatable disease, and therefore have made it somewhat less Nightmare Fuel than it was. The real nightmare fuel resides in both the cost and side effects of antiretrovirals (they're better than death from AIDS, but they're also not harmless and cheap) and even more so, that HIV becoming treatable means that some people are far more lax about safer sex and don't remember when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence - and that with continuing spread, resistance to at least some front line ARV drugs is developing.
Rabies. The only reliable treatment must be done before you get infected, or right afterward. Oh, and you might not even have been aware of the bite, so you might not even known until you've developed symptoms and get a full-on Rage. A grand total of six people have survived that... and almost all with intense medical care that most people that are the most likely to be infected cannot access.
The number of fatal diseases that start out with "flu-like symptoms." Meningitis, rabies, AIDS, the list goes on.
goes on, nothing! the list starts with flu itself, which can and does kill.
It's easy to contaminate someone's food and drink with bacteria or a parasitic worm. Including accidentally - sitting uncooked pork on a shelf in the fridge over other foods can lead to the pork dripping infected material (including pork tapeworm cysts) into foods that won't be cooked at a high enough temperature, frozen at subzero temperatures for weeks, or mixed with high-proof alcohol before eating.
Certain microbes; there's the now infamous Naegleria fowleri. It's fairly common in warm water, but infection is extremely rare; however, when pathogenic, it invades through the olfactory mucosa and cribriform plate of the nasal tissues, and causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. Infection is extremely rare, but the protist is very common, and can be introduced if you use your neti pot wrong or get water up your nose swimming, killing you within the week.
Multiresistent bacteria. Meaning in plain English "superbugs on which no antibiotics will work". There are already multiresistent variants of tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea and various other infections. Worse, the use of antibiotics in animals and the overuse of antibiotics in humans for viruses, fungal infections, and allergies (for which they are useless) almost ensures there will be more. And for those ignorant of history, a totally resistant tuberculosis or syphilis is just as terminal as aggressive metastatic cancer, or AIDS before antiretroviral drugs, with a slow but eventual 100 percent fatality rate unless the patient died of something unrelated like an accident or a more aggressive infection first. (In fact, tuberculosis killed similarly to how metastatic cancer does.)
What's worse is the number of people erroneously assume that the overuse of antibiotics somehow puts vaccines at fault, and thus refuse to get their children vaccinated. Thanks to anti-vax activists, deadly diseases like measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio are making a comeback, just when we had almost eradicated them. Almost really does only count when you're playing Horseshoes, it seems.
Cancer. These days, anything will cause your cells to mutate and grow horrible tumours.
The HeLa Cancer Cell Line is immortal. Thankfully, HeLa cells won't grow into strong tumors upon being injected into a human body, but one day there might come a cancer that's capable of doing that. There's already an infectious transmissible cancer that affects dogs. And yes, there is a cancerous STD in dogs called canine transmissible venereal tumor. The actual cancer cell itself is the infectious agent spread through sexual contact. Genetic analysis suggests that the original tumor appeared sometime between 200 and 2,500 years ago, making it the longest-lived known mammalian cell line. Since the cells' genome has diverged from the original dog's genome and the cells have been infecting other dogs, it's been effectively living as a unicellular, asexually reproducing organism. It's not unreasonable to assume from this information that someday, any of us could possibly be the progenitor of a mutant, cancerous STD pathogen.
The polyomaviruses. They're a family of viruses that, once active, can cause multiple tumors. The good news is that unless you're immunocompromised in some way (i.e. being infected with HIV, especially during the AIDS stage), the viruses are dormant and harmless. Here's the paranoia-inducing part: all of the discovered human polyomaviruses (9 so far) are commonly and asymptomatically contracted in childhood or early adulthood. That means right now, you probably have multiple species of viruses quietly lying in wait until something happens to your immune system (such as AIDS, mentioned above), at which point they can go on a tumor-causing rampage.
The origin of HeLa cells. The original sample came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks who came into a hospital in 1951 with virulent cervical cancer. The doctors took a sample without asking her; at the time, few doctors saw anything wrong with doing this, particularly because it was a free clinic for people who couldn't afford medical care anywhere else, and Henrietta was a poor black woman living in the southern US under Jim Crow. So a tiny bit of her tumor was taken and cultured without her consent or even knowledge. Even when the lab technicians realized that they'd finally found an immortal human cell line, they still didn't tell her, and she died of cancer several months later despite radiation treatments. Her family didn't find out that she'd revolutionized medical research until twenty years later.
Medical malpractice. One second, you are in the hospital to get your wisdom tooth removed; a minute later, you are dead. Doctors can also forget all kinds of instruments into your body after an operation, and you don't even notice! And how about the people that catch some deathly virus while being in the hospital, or the cases of psychopaths working in the health services? Have fun in the hospital.
An aneurysm could kill you any time. There is no test. There is no way to save you. Don't think you're safe just because you're at a "healthy weight". Weight is far from the most significant risk factor, and you're actually less likely to survive than someone who weighs more. Enjoy the gym!
Pregnancy and childbirth. Anything could go wrong! You could miscarriage for no reason. Your child could be born with missing limbs, a rare and possibly incurable illness, deformed organs, born very prematurely and the list goes on. And if you have two or more babies, they could be conjoined and possibly die in the next few hours. And if you are psychologically and financially unstable to handle the stress of a new family... Congrats on your new baby!
There's quite a few degenerative diseases that are inborn, but don't show up until you've been lulled into a false sense of security — you've been in good health, or maybe you've had some mysterious physiological quirk that doesn't seem to mean anything — for long enough to hit your teenage years, or your twenties, or your thirties or middle age or whenever. You could have a ticking time bomb in your genes and never know it until your body and possibly your mind suddenly start to unravel.
Computer viruses, worms, and spyware will make you paranoid even if you aren't at a serious risk. Many security experts do not like to over-discuss the possibility that someone could possibly make a multi-stage worm that attacks from multiple angles, using constantly shifting exploitation methods and counter-counter-methods that can be thought up to make things hard for people who don't want it. Oh wait, that's not a mere possibility! Someoneactually did it. That isn't as bad as it could be.
Combining this with the surveillance issue, there are some viruses cooked up by scammers that mimic FBI Cybercrime Warnings. To fool you into thinking it's authentic, it'll hijack your webcam and snap a picture of you just going about your business. It then pastes that picture onto an FBI warning telling you to either cough up $500 within a few days or face criminal charges.
Hackers, spyware, keyloggers, stuff like that in general. All it could take is one hole in your security... one visit to a unscrupulous website to bring your account, bank, or anything else of value crashing down. Especially prevalent since recent workarounds that add extra security (like the Blizzard Authenticator) have been worked around. It's pretty easy to avoid keyloggers and spyware, though: do your banking/online shopping from a non-Windows system. A Linux live-CD will do. Not completely safe, but a lot better. A Mac will also still work for providing safety against most attackers who aren't with the NSA or other spy agencies using the system backdoors, as long as you never download any untrusted unofficial programs or somehow override the system's built-in protections.
Anonymous tricked hundreds of pedophiles, covering their tracks using the anonymous internet browser Tor, into downloading a fake addon for the browser that recorded all their browsing activity. Imagine if this fake addon was used for evil.
Smartphone viruses. Possibly far easier to get, and these could do far worse things than computer viruses because of all the things linked to smartphones, from unlocking houses to direct bank account access, to just bricking the phones entirely or sending out instructions to commit criminal or terrorist activity.
The hacking of anything with similar components or with an internet connection. Cars can be hacked to do things that can kill the driver or passengers without the driver being able to override the system, such as cutting power to the brakes and pushing the acceleration, and maybe even one journalist has been killed as a result of a car hack already. And both rogue government agencies and organized criminals and likely others such as terrorists and similar lunatics/mass killers are likely involved with this kind of hacking because turning a car or a chemical plant/nuclear power plant into a deadly weapon via this form of sabotage is far more cost-effective and more easily passed off as an accident.
Screamers; any page on the internet could be specially programed to flash a frightening image, play a booming sound, or auto-link to another site at any moment.
Spiders and other creepy crawlies in the bed. Worst part is, you've given the sheets a very thorough shaking, inspected everything for spiders, but you still can't be sure they aren't under your bed... which they probably are... and creeping up to your face. Spiders won't crawl into your mouth. They're smarter than that. They know that getting eaten, even accidentally will kill them. But they're still there. In fact, there are probably even more there, because none of them have accidentally killed themselves by wandering into your mouth. And of course, just because they won't let you bite them doesn't mean that they won't bite you. It is said that for every one spider you see, there are aproximately twenty or more in your home at any one time that you don't see.
Except for the part where most spiders in the world are incapable of harming humans, and the ones that can usually have antivenoms.
Anyone who you let use your bathroom could actually be masturbating in there... Or they could be pooping. Worse: When they're done, they might not flush or wash their hands. Consider that the next time they hand something over to you.
The assassination of U.S President John F. Kennedy led to a Paranoia Fuel industry; not only did it result in countless different Government Conspiracy theories about who really bumped off Kennedy, but since most of these theories also ultimately suggest that everyone in a position of authority conspired to kill this guy, it destroyed any kind of faith that many people could have in any kind of government or authority; sure, they might say they weren't involved, but then they would say that, wouldn't they?
Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon — which revealed to the world that yeah, there were people in government who really were a bunch of venal criminals out to screw the electorate over for their own selfish gains — really didn't help matters. On the upside, the ones who are like that aren't very good at covering their tracks.
Some have suggested the popularity of the various Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories is because the alternative is even MORE paranoia inducing. After all, if the most powerful and well-protected man on earth can be killed without warning by a single nut working all by himself, how safe do you think you are?
Security experts say it takes just 48 hours to set up a professional kidnapping of a target who is not taking active defensive measures.
High-demand coercive groups, specifically of the Church of Happyology, Real LifePath of Inspiration, Religion of Evil, and Scam Religion varieties. Imagine being a part of a group that believes death is good (and may occasionally extend this to practicing Kill 'em All), and/or that one can find Happiness in Slavery and in giving all of one's time and money to the group, or some of the other wonderful things some of the nastier of such organizations have brought into being. Now imagine that this group looks like the solution to all of your life's problems or that, having been raised in it with no exposure to the Outside or being entirely convinced the Outside is evil/bad/destroying you/etcetera, it is your reality itself...
The Dinosaurs Attack! cards. Any mundane scenario that you're in - going to bed, riding the subway, being in class - is just ripe for interruption by horrific dinosaur attack. The fact that it makes no sense at all - trilobites eating people's eyes?! - is little comfort.
They have since then topped that with the 5 Cosmic Events That Could Kill You Before Lunch article. You could wake up one morning just like any other day, and before you've had lunch humanity has been made extinct so thoroughly that there is no trace of us left.
Supervolcanoes. In general, but for extra, more specific Paranoia Fuel, Yellowstone 'effing Park. It's overdue to go off. Vesuvius is also due this century.
It doesn't even have to be a supervolcano. Just look at how much the ordinary volcano eruption in Iceland in 2013 disrupted air travel and the like, or that if Mount Rainier or the Long Valley Caldera goes off there will be everything from a pyroclastic flow and lahar flowing through populated areas in Washington State with Rainier, or Los Angeles getting pelted with volcanic debris if a point far enough south in the Long Valley explodes.
The Canary Islands Mega Tsunami as well, but tsunamis in general can be this. Worst are tsunamis at the local point - for example, in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the reason so many people died was because all power and with it warning systems were knocked out by the earthquake, escape routes were blocked or damaged by the quake itself, and the escape time was anywhere from 5 to 20 (for the luckiest) after the quake began. Those in, say, Rikuzentakata where barely four minutes passed between quake and tsunami onset literally had no chance. At least with a distant tsunami, in modern times, there's a chance that some people can get the warning in time to successfully evacuate.
Phobias so deep you don't know why you have them. With most fears, psychology can convince you that, for example, bridges don't collapse very often. However, if you don't know why you are scared, you have to start from the very beginning, and everything that will possibly be the thing that you fear will scare you. It gets to a point where anything about what you fear can send you into a panic attack, even if it's about, to follow the first example, the most stable bridge in the world.
The Sacculina barnacle, as described by Stephen Jay Gould. It first sticks its needle into a crab, which then injects as little as one cell into the crab's nervous system. This cell then creates a network of tendrils, plus an externa that mimics the crab's own egg container. It then feminises the crab, drains its resources, and reduces it to little more than a cleaner, food supply, and transport system. The kicker? The crab doesn't even realize something's wrong; it honestly believes the externa is its own eggs, cleaning it and creating currents to help scatter the next generation of Sacculina. Evolution being fundamentally unpredictable, how do we know there isn't a human version?
The Trope Entry itself serves as Paranoia Fuel. It's sure to have inspired phobias in people that didn't have them before.
Pearl Harbor. Imagine waking up to a beautiful Hawaiian Sunday morning to a random Japanese air strike. Then imagine that the Japanese person standing next to you could be a spy.
Being a Japanese or Japanese-American person in Hawaii who isn't a spy, knowing that the authorities (or a mob) will likely be coming for you soon because they think you're a spy.
The Cold War. Kids, ask your parents or grandparents what it was like, not knowing if or when you'd hear that siren alerting you that you were going to be nuked. That is, IF you ever heard that siren.
UVB-76: A shortwave station in Russia that broadcasts nothing but creepy beeps, and every once in a while, coded voice messages. (Like: "93 882 naimina 74 14 35 74 — 9 3 8 8 2 nikolai, anna, ivan, michail, ivan, nikolai, anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4".) Nobody except probably Vladimir Putin knows what the hell it means. You can listen to it here. UVB-76 is probably part of the Russian "Dead Hand" system. When that buzzer stops, the world ends. Sleep well.
They used to have nuclear attack drills in schools, where they'd sound the alarm and you had to hide under your desk in as small a ball as you could. Not only was the alarm completely terrifying, Fridge Logic kicked in when you were older, and realized hiding under your desk wouldn't do a damn thing. They often also had evacuation routes, which usually turned into a giant mess even during a drill. Using them in an actual emergency would have been a nightmare. The curling into a ball is to help prevent flash-blindness. Small consolation, yes, but every little bit helps.
Nuclear weapons and nuclear war are still this for anyone aware of just how many of the damn things exist in the world, that any one of them going off accidentally or via hacking, installation attack, sabotage, or anything by anyone from a random lunatic to a rogue leader to a terrorist would kill and injure millions of people and, if things weren't gotten under control very fast, could easily lead to a massive attack that would be The End of the World as We Know It. Specifically, that Perimetr/"Dead Hand" can't be overridden by humans in some scenarios is some of the worst nightmare fuel there is.
Then there's the fact that actual nuclear war could happen very easily. Some have argued that the 2013 Syrian crisis could have led to it if a proxy war between the US and Russia had developed in Syria, and similar threats exist all over the world. In fact, here's just a few of the situations that could lead to large sections of the world flinging nukes back and forth with each other:
Pakistan Islamic extremists ally with Islamic separatists in China. The Chinese government finds out what happened when they attack/the separatists secede to make an Islamic state and they don't like it - enough that they stage an invasion of Pakistan for both revenge and to shut down the terror attacks or rebellion with an extreme show of force. The Pakistanis justly see their national sovereignty in extreme danger, and launch their entire nuclear arsenal at China (or threaten to do so), and the Chinese respond with their own nuclear weapons, turning Pakistan into a radioactive crater while sending fallout all over India and Southern Asia, and in the worst case, the Indians respond with their own nukes over the fallout and the fear they'll be next, and the Japanese are afraid that a revenge attack is possible, which draws the US into trying to threaten China to stop and getting attacked itself. In one week, much of Asia, the US, and China are all embroiled in a massive nuclear war.
The above Perimetr/Dead Hand scenario - somehow, via accident or sabotage, the US or another NATO country launches on Russia, but not just anywhere - directly on Moscow, setting off Perimetr. In less than five hours, the US and Russia are nuking each other like it's the Cold War gone hot all over again.
Who said anything about NATO? Perimetr protocols don't say anything about confirming the identity of the attacker. Even if somebody else attacks Moscow, the Perimetr system will assume it was NATO.
Israel is either attacked by its neighbors or faced with a scenario such as the US dropping support or impending war crimes trials, or is caught red handed trying to foment war in an Arab state - somehow, the leadership is convinced that the existence of the Israeli state is at risk, and Operation Samson is initiated, resulting in a massive nuclear attack on both NATO and non-NATO Europe. This means the Russians will almost immediately attack them back, and that the US, which is bound to protect Israel even if it attacks first would either have to get involved and attack Russia, unless it renounced the treaty citing No First Use.
India and Pakistan have a shooting war (like they have had plenty of in history), and someone in charge turns it into a nuclear war. While this one would be far more likely to be limited (as the North Korea scenario below would be), there are some ways it could spiral far beyond the initial combatants.
North Korea decides to initiate a nuclear attack. Ironically, this is the least scary of the scenarios as it's far more likely to be "one and done" than lead to global nuclear war (as in, they launch against China itself or against Taiwan, they'd just get invaded for stupidly betraying their only patron state, and they launch against Seoul or the US, it's more than likely China would give them up or invade North Korea as long as they had no US troops on their border than start a war with the US). That said, if they launched against Japan and the US instantly retaliated/charged in to deal with the problem and defend Japan rather than step back and demand China handle it - that could lead to the US and China having a nuclear war.
Talking about radio, number stations: Radio stations that only broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters, etc. Some of them are very creepy. No government has ever acknowledged transmitting the numbers. In any case they are most likely broadcasting messages to spies.
PIFTS.exe, anyone? Norton Antivirus is WATCHING you. And logging your keystrokes. And sending them EVERYWHERE.
Computer spyware and viruses. Especially keyloggers. Someone, somewhere, can see every keystroke you make. Every password, every IM, every email, every search for porn, every single thing you type.
The most likely person to kill or rape or abuse you is someone you know. Enjoy the family reunion.
Sexual predators and murderers in general. Anyone in your neighborhood, on your block, or even living next door could be a crazed maniac. And having a personal interest on shows about forensics/prisons/criminal behaviors doesn't help much either...
Comedian Dane Cook once pointed out that using the internet to check how many sexual predators are in your town/neighbor will 'scare the shit out of you in ways you cannot imagine'. This is especially true for people like Dane who live in apartment complexes and have a dozen registered sex offenders in their building alone. Though it's sometimes a bit of Paranoia Retardant to look up the actual offenses of said offenders and find them to be things like public urination and having high school age girlfriends after turning 18 instead of kidnapping and rape.
Pedophiles and rapists specifically. Anyone can be one, and the more "successful" don't lurk around playgrounds or the Internet: they get work in places that put them in places of trustwith access to children, or they have their own or abuse relatives. Same for rapists - the "successful" ones aren't the ones getting arrested, anyone can be one, and you usually won't know until it's too late. To say nothing about how horrifyingly low the actual arrest and conviction rate for rape is.
Inversely, Pædo Hunt and the False Rape Accusation. Someone accuses you of one of the most horrible crimes in existence. Congratulations, you're still seen as a monster even though the allegations are untrue, and since actual creeps lie about not being such, all of your protests will be pointless.
Using hypnosis to seek out "lost" memories can just as easily lead to birth of false memories. If you think you were abused as a child and seek help from a hypnotherapist, it's just as possible that the memories that emerge during the "treatment" are entirely or partially figments of your imagination. And you can't tell them apart from real memories!In. Any. Way. Now think that you are a parent of a grown up child, who, for no discernible reason you can think of, is suddenly convinced that you abused them as a child. In the 1980's and 90's this was a disturbingly common scenario, and it still hasn't entirely disappeared. It's an incredibly horrible situation for all parties involved.
One especially vile and nutty way for this manifested was related to alien abductions. Quite a few people that claimed to have been abducted by aliens were later found to be the victims of this sort of misapplied therapy. Often, it was simply a case of an overzealous therapist, but on occasion this was proven to have been intentionally done by unscrupulous types for all manner of reasons, from fame to manipulating the results for personal beliefs. Some of these victims have been so convinced by these false memories that they simply can't reconcile with them. The idea that they were mind raped by aliens is more appealing than accepting a therapist they trusted basically did the same thing. Even those who accept that they were manipulated may never live down the stigma of having claimed these events in the first place, harassed by wanna-be UFOlogists and treated as pariahs by their communities.
Undercovermarketing. The idea that some random person— anyone, really— could be hired to do normal social interaction and try to sell you something... eeergh.
During William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, the protagonist meets a cute girl who is paid to chat up men at bars, then order a certain drink. Now the guy has an association between that drink and the cute girl. They may have also mentioned how the girl herself ended up paranoid.
The wrong blood type in a transfusion can kill you in hours. And you die in horrible pain, if you're unlucky enough to be conscious. Let's hope those nurses picked up the correct bag from the fridge.
In Brazil, a nurse accidentally killed a girl injecting Vaseline in her veins. It was supposed to be saline. Imagine going to hospital because of a virosis and never come back because of a medical/staff error.
How do you make that mistake? The viscosity of Vaseline is nothing like that of saline, and anything that viscous clearly does not belong in the bloodstream.
The mistake was made in a public hospital, where the qualifications for the staff and the lack of care are usually mediocre.
Car crashes. Far, far more likely than plane crashes, or most other ways to die young, frankly. How many dead people out there thought they'd be back home in ten minutes? One moment's inattention in the fading light, a few feet of metal between you and the grille of a truck...
80% of violent crimes are committed by somebody the victim knows.
Many natural disasters, like rogue waves and sinkholes, can occur with little to no advance warning if the right conditions are met.
Sociopaths - people with no conscience or empathy who are nonetheless able to fake these qualities, with no qualms about hurting or killing you if it serves their purpose. Approx. 1-3% of the population. Highlighted here
This leads to fridge horror, too—sociopaths are more likely to be successful in life since they have no moral qualms about doing what they need to get ahead in life. It's very possible the most powerful people in the world are sociopaths.
The concept that objects might have souls we don't know of. Maybe your toaster hates you, maybe you hurt the feelings of that jacket you never wear.
Bugs. They are everywhere. You can swallow them in your sleep, they surely were in your food before you even bought it, they walk over your things and over the food in supermarkets. Can you be sure where that fly that is over your mug now have been before? It could be everywhere, from feces to corpses. Have a nice meal.
Surprisingly averted with cockroaches. They're simply too sleek and shiny for most microbes to get a grip, and in the event something does hang on, they're quite fastidious creatures.
Mosquitoes. Why does a mosquito's bug sound so noisy? It's not because it is loud, no sir. It's because it means there is a mosquito in your bedroom, waiting to feast on you and make your skin itch for days. KILL IT!!
Consider that there's no way to know that it's your brain in that vat. You could be a figment of someone else's imagination, and you could never tell — as you'd have no frame of reference from which to discern how this was different from actually existing. Our entire universe could be the coma dream of a hyper-intelligent cockroach, and we'd never be able to tell; all of existence would just end one day when the cockroach died or woke up, with no warning.
Problem is, Cogito Ergo Sum: I think therefore I am. Simply questioning your own existence proves your existence. If we are the figments of someone's imaginations, would that mean the universe then would die if they woke up or died? Not really. If a author died and all his books were burned, and nobody read them, would that mean that it never existed?
The problem with Cogito Ergo Sum is how can you be sure you truly think? It may well seem to you like you're thinking, but how do you know it's not just a cheap simulation of the process of thought that you can't distinguish from the real thing because you have no frame of reference for what thinking really is? Being capable of even a simulation of thought could be argued to mean you "exist" on some level... but would it not be on a lesser level than things capable of true thought?
You know those advertisements where the product is criticized by a random person and they find that person and go to them? You never might know when something like that could happen to you.
"Spontaneous human combustion." JUST spontaneous human combustion. And remembering they were simply minding their own business when they burned down to ash for no reason. And the same could happen to YOU!
Especially if you have limited mobility and either smoke or heat your home with a traditional fireplace, which is true of most alleged SHC victims. This is one case where knowing the facts makes it less scary, but no less tragic.
That poor guy. He's got a cast on his arm, and he's having trouble loading that big heavy box into his car. And he's pretty cute, too! You offer to help. That guy is Ted Bundy, and he's got you now.
The Slender Man. The more you know about him, the more likely he'll stalk you. The more he stalks you, more you'll want to know about him. The more you know about him, the more he stalks you. So when you're being stalked, you're being forced to want to be stalked.
The Sun. It provides us heat and light, but in 5 billion years, that same Sun will actually swell up and destroy the Earth as well as a huge portion of our Solar System.
Remember: if someone else cooks for you, they control what goes into the food that you eat. Even if you ask them really nicely to make it a certain way, you can never be sure.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Food and Drug administrations "Defect Levels Handbook" aka the "Guidelines of Filth." Ever wanted to know just how many mosquito eggs can be contained in your peanut butter?
Try not to piss off any biology students. They could fake your DNA with a centrifuge and frame you for murder.
Or don't piss of any students who are going to become doctors or surgeons. You may one day find yourself in the operating room at the complete and total mercy of said student, and he/she has the knowhow and a scalpel... Sweet dreams.
Try googling your credit card number sometime.
If you already have, remember that AOL leaked their search records.
Look up your house on Google Maps. Note that they likely have an image of it...
Related, consider that Google makes its money by recording your searches and data, and then giving them to advertisement companies, who then deliver the ads to your browser. Now, consider that if you're getting ads for bizarre medical problems, scary political extremist groups, or weird sex toys, that could have been because you googled something even semi-related months ago.
Consider how much dirt Google has on you in general. What would happen if say, it all got leaked, or they changed their policies and sold its gathered data to the highest bidder. How do you know they haven't already? You'd surely know if there has been a leak at Google, or some massive screw-up like Google Buzz...right? Right?
Note that you can't actually opt-out of everything now. Want to opt out of Google's TOS? Well, then you simply don't use Google, at all. And good luck finding ways to get around Google that don't end up with even more draconian Terms of Service...they're actually one of the better companies about posting your private info online.
Look up your own address or your place of work on Google Maps. Note that the picture on Street Views may be recent. As hilarious as they may sometimes be, consider the fact that having your picture up there means that somebody was by there with a camera. Oh, and they can be looking in through the window or even inside your place of work, catching people doing stuff like this. (Warning: nsfw implications) Even if Google blurs out faces and license plate numbers, your face isn't the only way a potential stalker can find you... The idea of a stalker finding you via Google doesn't sound so farfetched now, does it?
ANY company, Mega Corp. to mom and pop business could be engaging in shifty underhanded techniques. Surely, nobody does that because it's illegal, right? Well consider this: Many people complain about businesses engaging in unethical practices, secretly gouging/scamming their customers, etc... but those are just the ones who get caught. Some companies are smart enough to hide all the skeletons in their closet.
Know what a company is doing with your money? The owners of your favourite grocery store could be donating their profits (YOUR MONEY) to an extremist terrorist group or to anti-gay legislations. But surely if they were doing that...you'd know, right? After all, word got out that Chick-Fil-A was donating to anti-gay groups in 2012, right? Well they had been doing so for years without anyone raising a fuss - and other companies that have been doing similar things with their money for longer haven't had calls to boycott them. Why? Because companies are not legally obliged to tell you what they're doing with their profits. So for all you know you're unknowingly helping a political party you do not agree with at all because you're shopping at a store owned by one of their donators. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
Oh, so supposed you do find out what a company is doing with your money and don't like it. So you vote with your feet and look for a substitute. Better make sure the new business you patronize isn't doing similar things... or is actually owned by the same company so you're still indirectly helping them. No other options? Hope you don't like food then - or electricity. Or appliances. Or clothing. Hope you like paying through the nose getting an import from a company you know isn't secretly sending money to some dictator in South America or an extremist religious group.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money! surely can only happen in fiction, right? Well... there's a Real Life section in there... because it's absolutely true. Suppose a company is caught gouging their customers or violating laws and is fined. Well they'll just hand over a small purse of pocket change. Fines of tens of thousands of dollars or more may be enough to bankrupt you... but to them? That's nothing... they make more than that in as little as days. Maybe they'll find it cheaper to just keep paying fines cause all they get is a slap on the wrist... and how do you know they don't already?
How do you know that anyone else is living? For all you know, you're the only existing being, and everyone around you is a lifeless, moving NPC of sorts.
NPC nothing. How do you know they're even there at all? Remember, hallucinations seem just like real things to those who experience them.
The selective service. Yeah, its probably never going to be put to use again, but just imagine if it DID. You're having a great day and everything seems to be going spectacular for you, your life couldn't be better. Then you open up the mail box and find a letter from the U.S. army...
You know that Internet Tough Guy you mocked that one time? The one who swore he'd track you down and make you sorry? You laughed at him, dared him to try, and forgot about it ten minutes later. Now, a week later, you can't shake this feeling that you're being watched...
The Bluebeard and the Black Widow in Real Life, along with their nonromantic "business" analogues. You find someone who seems to be your absolute true love. This person is not only your love but has amazing ideas and contacts... so you follow along, doing whatever they suggest, whether it's joining their religion, taking out an insurance policy on your life, signing your career over to them or the people they know, being their best friend or lover and providing for them, whatever they ask you to do. Because you're not a bad person after all, or maybe you were and they found some good in you... except they're milking you for every bit of financial profit they can acquire, and then once he/she/they are done with you? You are already dead.
The Dirty Cop, Rabid Cop, and especially Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop. They can frame you, they can physically attack or even kill you, they hold almost all power not only to fuck up your life in so many ways - but to rewrite all versions of events and cover for each other.
Face Doodling. When you're asleep, you're most likely unaware of your surroundings and if someone is skilled enough at it and/or you're an especially heavy sleeper, someone could draw on your face while you're sleeping and you wouldn't even know it until you got to a reflective surface 'cause you can't see your own face otherwise. It may seem harmless, but it gets horrifying when you realize that some face doodlers have drawn things that are especially nasty, like swastikas. Imagine having to explain that to your boss or your teachers or professors.
Swatting. Someone calls in a false report to your local police reporting you are doing something deserving of a SWAT team response. You don't have to be doing anything. You may not even know it's happened until you find yourself facing the SWAT team and possibly dead from a sniper's bullet.
Another addition from the Internet: The Water Army. Before you think it's only a China related problem, realize this: any group, from a nation to a Mega Corp. wanting to convey being Peace & Love, Incorporated, to a religion such as the Church of Happyology or even a smaller but more aggressive group, or to anyone who can get enough people, paid or volunteer, together to create an opinion or simply to make your life a living hell until you shut up or go away. Worse, this form of Astro Turf is growing into one of the most popular forms of spam and Trolling worldwide.
On that note, note the existence of Sock Puppetsoftware, created by the US military and likely now open to corporations and others. No one even needs to recruit actual people (who might even sabotage the effort) for the "water army" now - one person can operate software that creates thousands of believable Sock Puppet s to discredit someone or threaten someone online.
And Tartan, which is software that exploits social networks for ways to destroy them from within or discredit or track down the people involved. Good when used against terrorists and pedophiles, right? Not so good that its primary use seems to have involved peaceful if strident and outspoken political activism.
Thrill killers. You don't have to piss someone off for them to kill you. Thrill killers set out to murder people for the adrenalin rush and they don't care who the victim is. They are also the hardest kind of serial/mass murderer to profile and catch, because they frequently do not follow any specific modus operandi, killing anyone of any age, race, nationality or orientation purely for the hell of it. They also tend to not have any specific "hunting ground", some having murdered people across multiple states/provinces or even countries.
Machines don't exactly have any concept of personal privacy. Something that could be made for safety, like if you fell down and can't get to the phone to call emergency services, could wind up unintentionally turning on and record you using the toilet or taking a bath... and keep the videos or audio of you for months simply because you never told the machine to delete them. (Worst of all, do you even know it's keeping recordings of you?)
Related, what if they malfunction and accidentally call the emergency services because it simply misinterpreted something completely mundane as being an emergency. Get in a tiff with your spouse or boyfriend, as what happens between friends every now and then? Boom - here come the cops being alerted to a domestic disturbance. Watching something on TV or playing a game, and the volume is juuust loud enough to trigger the alarm? Here come the cops thinking there's something going on because the machine may not be able to tell the difference between a break-in or something on TV. Sleepwalking or walking down to get a midnight snack at 2 AM, and the machine can't tell the difference between you and a burglar? Here come the cops.
And no, this isn't some kind of Orwellian situation - even as far back as the 80s, alarms have been set up in retirement centres where emergency dispatchers would listen in if there was something loud enough like a cry for help. Almost all the time, the dispatchers would hear the audio feeds triggered by televisions (old people turn the volume up if they become hard of hearing), or when they're fighting... consider how many dispatchers heard personal matters because they thought there might have been an emergency. Or listened in thinking someone might have been calling for help only to hear some talk show turned up to eleven-thousand decibels because the resident doesn't believe in hearing aids.
Even social media sites - oh look I put a picture of myself up flipping off the camera after someone pranked me with the world's hottest hot sauce. Heehee that's so fun-wait, when did my parents get on Facebook? And when did my boss follow me? OH SHIII-
If you're in the UK, you appear on dozens of closed circuit TVs every day. Even if there are limits to where they can be placed (eg, not in the bathroom or over a fitting room), how do you know there isn't some form of Loophole Abuse that lets them be put in such?
Even in the US, you may appear on Closed Circuit television just because you walk by a common thing. Now consider that in the US, people will speak up if the government puts these up... but if there are surveillance cameras that are put up by private businesses? It's not violating any laws.
Paparazzi. You're a celebrity, and certain people are constantly on the lookout for a scoop of you doing something embarrassing or funny. You're on a date with your loved one, and you just want a quiet evening... and suddenly you spot people following you with cameras.
Gets better. Say you yawn, or simply close your eyes. You haven't shaved or cut your hair in a while since you have had a stressful shoot or are simply grooming for a role. Then some random Paparatzzi takes your picture. Next thing you know, out come the stories of you being a disheveled drunk who beats their kids or is about to drop dead. You know it is fake, but you also know that there is nothing keeping these people from twisting it to whatever they like.
And what happens if there is an embarrassing picture of you? Surely you can get it removed, right? Fat chance.
For people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, life is a constant struggle with this trope. In the case of the former, the subject just can't stop worrying; anything and everything is a potential cause for alarm, even if it's something that's realistically out of their control, sometimes to the point that their worrying ends up crippling their career or their social life. For the latter there's usually a specific trigger, but in the aftermath of a panic attack there's always that lingering fear that another one could be just around the corner. Also, some panic attacks are so severe that people mistake them for other conditions like heart attacks, which can end up adding yet more stress to fuel the fire.
Internet review services. Say you put your business up online? Who is to say that any of the comments you receive on there are real? If you get a lot of dislikes, it could be that they are expressing legitimate grievances or doing Astroturfing on the behalf of themselves or someone else. Alternatively, being a reviewer on these sites can also lead you to wonder how many—if any—of the reviews are honest. Are all the reviews for this movie coming from people who genuinely liked it? Or are they from cast members, families of the film makers, hired ad agencies or the film makers themselves? Complicating matters further, there are some companies that provide the service of going to your site and putting their own good reviews up or erasing the bad ones completely. Who's to say that these "malicious" reviews weren't legitimate? Especially frightening when applied to medical or insurance websites.
Disproportionate Retribution. So you got into a fight with someone? Depending on the place you got into the very same fight you can find yourself getting hit with federal felony charges carrying up to 10 years in prison with no bail until trial. Downloaded some documents in a manner that contravened a EULA, even if the people you downloaded from realized you meant no harm and dropped charges? Here is 20 years in the federal pen for you! Lived with a drug dealer who put his crack in your things to conceal it? 30 years for you! And that's just in the US - being discovered with a marijuana cigarette in Indonesia or Singapore can technically get you the death penalty. And not breaking the law will not necessarily save you - there have been cases of entirely innocent people facing cases such as these. Also, even if somehow you do get found innocent, the money you have likely spent on lawyers and such will financially ruin you - and the time you've spent in detention and court and similar will never be returned to you. And that's if you're lucky enough to have not encountered Police Brutality and/or been Driven to Suicide on the way.
The Holocaust. One of, if not the most horrifying, appalling acts of violence against human beings ever committed. What triggered Hitler coming into power in the first place? A global recession. What are we in the middle of right now? A global recession, which doesn't seem to be getting any better...
The scariest part? Nobody, save for a few high-ranking people in the know, knew about this. Even then, outside of the Nazis that organized it, it was mostly considered just a nasty rumor, because who could believe such a horrifying thing? It wasn't until the first camps were liberated by Allied soldiers that the public had any idea of the truth. This includes German citizens, some of whom lived just a few miles away from the camps.
The Nazis managed to brainwash young people to a point where they could encourage them to betray their parents or other family members for the tiniest acts of insubordination. Yes, people were betrayed by their OWN CHILDREN, who usually didn't know what they were getting their family members into.
Drone aircraft. Remote controlled vehicles that can be operated by someone half-way around the world, these vehicles tend to be smaller, more maneuverable, stealthier and most importantly, cheaper than traditional piloted aircraft. Drone aircraft are already being used for surveillance, but now they are starting to be sold commercially. Not just to big corporations either. You can look one up for purchase on Amazon right now if you wanted. Police agencies are also looking to purchase UAV's and agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S Border Patrol already use Unmanned Areal Vehicles for surveillance purposes. As if all that wasn't enough, they can also be armed. On top of that, the U.S Air Force is already starting to outright replace some air wings with Unmanned Combat Areal Vehicles. Such as the 174th Fighter Wing, which is a National Guard unit.
Traitors, traitors, you know, Good Friends who aren't and caused more damage then good. You never find out till it's too late...
On that topic, pissing off songwriters, writers and other artists is never any good, think Taylor Swift or The Veronicas. You never know...You might become famous, for hurting someone...
exes can be vengeful...Leverage / Revenge plots and schemes...
April Fools' Day. Sure, most pranks on this day may be harmless, but the paranoia fuel comes when the sereious events that require immediate attention such as medical emergencies, crimes, disasters and the like happen on April 1. You can never be so sure if the crime you just witnessed is just a well-planned prank or an actual crime.
Are you really clumsy? Tend to fall down a lot? Do you have strabismus? And maybe ADHD and/or issues with executive functioning? Congratulations, you too might have Cerebral Palsy... but unlike me, you don't even know it! Yes, some cases are so mild that the patient only ends up being diagnosed on a fluke [*raises hand, waves at you*]... and it's likely that some cases are so mild that they're never diagnosed at all!
A more mild example than most others, but still paranoia inducing in its own right: you wake up, smile, have a nice breakfast, and then go down to check on those super important files you're storing for a project/job/whatever. You're smart, knowing how unreliable computers can be, so you've stored the important files on an external hard drive. Only guess what? The computer starts acting up. Then the hard drive does. After frantic scouring of the web, searching for the answers, you find page after page of irrelevant help. Then - without warning - the hard drive and computer resume normal functions. All the data is intact, and it's as if nothing bad happened in the first place. Except you never did find out what the problem was, did you? And who knows if this could happen again, just when you're feeling safe and secure once more?