- 2010 - now
Bats, snakes, spiders… some of the most interesting things at the ROM take a little getting used to. I’ll never forget the visitor who came to the museum to address her chiroptophobia (fear of bats). Her courage was inspiring and my conversation with her was one of many rewarding experiences I’ve had as part of the ROM’s Education Department.
When I began working at the ROM in 2010, our March Break programming was all about bats. I quickly learned that most of our young visitors had no fear of bats; they knew that bats do nice things like eat mosquitoes, and that no North American bats drink blood. The kids didn’t associate bats with scary Dracula images. It was the adults who feared bats the most - one particular visitor most of all.
After our presentation, a nervous-looking woman came over to talk. She explained that she had a phobia of bats. She had come to the ROM on the advice of her therapist, in order to be exposed to her fear. She needed to conquer her phobia as she had recently moved to a house in a rural area where there were many bats.
I only realized how serious her fear was when she pointed to the fuzzy bat puppet I was carrying and asked me if I would hide it behind my back as we talked. She laughed a little and said she was embarrassed to be so afraid of a children’s toy. Even saying the word “bat” bothered her – we agreed to call them “those animals.” I was interested to hear about her efforts to address the phobia. She had done a lot of work before coming to the ROM.
A few minutes into our conversation, she took a deep breath and asked if I would bring out the bat puppet from behind my back. It was amazing to see her confronting her fear. We talked for a while and eventually she was able to stand close to the bat puppet. She even managed to say the word “bat.”
We said goodbye, and she went on to look at some photographs and plastic models of bats. She wasn’t quite ready for the ROM’s Bat Cave that day, but, judging by her determination, I’m sure that by now she can walk through it – and through her own wooded backyard – with confidence. Just one of the ways that a visit to the ROM can help visitors feel more at home in our fascinating world.