"I've always been afraid of holes," says Ally Mayfair-Richards in this week's episode of American Horror Story: Cult, eponymously titled "Holes." This comes after the shameful admission to her therapist that she dreamed of a series of holes forming on her neck, with centipedes crawling out of them -- the fear was so real that she dug her nails into her own skin in her sleep.
It sounds like a bizarre declaration. What's so scary about holes? All season long, we've watched Ally come undone by her very specific fear triggers: clowns, bees, social situations. But while those feel tangible and earned, the hole thing might seem a bit weird to anyone who doesn't suffer from trypophobia, or the irrational fear of hole clusters.
Though it's not a formally recognized phobia -- it doesn't appear in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, for instance -- trypophobia is fairly common, or so people claim on the internet. In 2013, a BuzzFeed article about the condition went viral, leading many to admit that they too are made uneasy by the tight gathering of holes, either occurring in nature or in body horror photo manipulations.
But is trypophobia a real thing or merely internet hoopla derived from the hive-mind attitude this season of American Horror Story critiques? Let's dig into the phenomena.