Schopen recounts fears faced during his career


November 10, 2017

There’s a phobia for just about everything, it seems.

Photo: © TommL

Did you know that phobophobia is the fear of phobias?

We are all scared of something. I hate fleas (more on that in a minute). I also hate heights, tight places and snakes.

Sometimes our fears are irrational, and sometimes they are triggered by a traumatic event (see: fleas). Because Halloween is close at hand, I thought it would be fun to look at some pests, people and situations that have caused me anxiety during my pest management career.

Glossophobia (fear of public speaking)

Last February, I spoke to a large group of my peers in Orlando, Fla., and Dr. Austin Frishman was in attendance. Normally, I don’t have a problem with public speaking, but this was a special group of business owners and I was petrified. After my speech, Doc congratulated me on my presentation. I confided to him that I was more scared than Han Solo at a father-son weekend retreat. He told me that sometimes you need to be nervous to perform at your best.

Entomophobia (fear of a specific insect)

When I was 19, I went to a client’s home and found that raccoons had nested in her chimney. Fleas were taking over her home as a result. I captured the raccoons, but the fleas were still horrific. I went down to her basement, opened her chimney clean-out door, and reached in to set off a one-shot fogger. When I pulled my arm back out, my hand and sleeve were black. Not with soot, but with hundreds of fleas. They jumped into my hair, up my nose, into my ears, into my waistband, my mouth, etc. I screamed and ran out of her home, undressing as I was running. While still in my boxers, I washed off with her garden hose. Later that night, I was still pulling fleas out of my hair while in the shower.

Photo: ©

Agoraphobia (fear of wide open spaces)

One of our clients owns a 16,000-sq.-ft. home in Burlington, Wis., way out in the woods. I hate servicing this home. For some reason, its total seclusion creeps me out. A Stephen King short story, “The Man in the Black Suit,” details how a 9-year-old boy meets Satan while fishing. Whenever I go to this mansion, I feel like Ol’ Scratch is going to sneak up behind me and poke me on the shoulder.

Acrophobia (fear of heights)

I wasn’t always afraid of heights. I used to be that kid who would climb up giant oak trees or play tag on 12-ft.-tall railroad cars. I even serviced billboards for pigeons. I had no problems with any signs at the typical 50- to 60-ft. height range. About 15 years ago, though, I sold a job for a sign on the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago. This sign was nearly 120 ft. off the ground. As I was climbing, I did the one thing you are never supposed to do: I looked down! I froze at about 90 ft. Froze! Like a batter watching a Clayton Kershaw curveball. I was stuck on the ladder rungs for nearly 20 minutes before I could finish climbing. Coming down was no picnic, either.

Photo: ©

Murophobia (fear of rodents)

A few years ago, I was performing a termite inspection in a 30-in. crawlspace in Chicago. The crawl was 125 ft. long and 75 ft. wide. There were rats in the tiny space with me. I was fine until my flashlight broke on a rock. I wasn’t fine when they starting scurrying past me, with one brushing up against my calf.

Spheksophobia (fear of wasps)

When I was 18, my dad sent me up a 40-ft. ladder to treat a bald-faced hornet nest at the peak of a barn. I was wearing a T-shirt, jeans and baseball cap, armed with nothing but a green bulb duster. My first attempt to pump bendiocarb into the nest failed, leaving just a little trickle of dust. My second attempt worked so well that it woke up a few hundred very ticked off Dolichovespula maculata. After getting stung several times, I did a fireman slide down the ladder and ran to my work truck.

Photo: ©

Lycanthropy (fear of werewolves)

Several years ago, I bought a book about ghosts and weird sightings in Wisconsin. I thought it would make good bathroom reading. One night I read the story about the Beast of Bray Road. There were several werewolf sightings in and around Elkhorn, Wis., in the 1980s and ’90s. The very next day, I was on Bray Road servicing a farmhouse for a client. I know I’m an adult and campfire stories shouldn’t bother me, but I could not focus the entire time I was in that home.

Then, of course, there’s martinwhitfordobia (fear that PMP Editorial Director and Publisher Marty Whitford won’t publish this story).

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


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