FREAKY TRIGGER Top 25 Scariest Things

No.24: Crocodiles

Ending up as something’s lunch is an unpleasant prospect in whatever case, but crocodiles are scarier than cannibals, because being eaten alive is where the real horror lies. In a film where the antagonist has food on their mind, the fear comes not so much with the stalking of the prey (which creates tension) but with the moments after the bite. Crocodiles, sharks et al are not the kind of predators known for instant kills and tidy eating: the – imagined – horror is in realising your leg’s been bitten off, in knowing you’re being eaten.

What lies behind the fear of any animal with a large mouth and fleshy appetite is the stark realisation that our place on the food chain is dependent on our collective brains, not our rather vulnerable and slow-moving bodies. The crocodile and shark have the edge over the man-eating tiger (say) because they operate in the water, an element our species is particularly slow and vulnerable in. And the crocodile is more frightening than the shark because of its element of disguise and also because it has – perhaps unfairly – a reputation for being cleverer.

Crocodiles are also very old – evolution has finished with them, the hooded eyes, rows of teeth, horridly powerful tail and leathery hide are as good (or as unpleasantly efficient) as it gets. They were around with the dinosaurs. In fact they basically are dinosaurs that somehow survived the rest of their race’s extinction. As Professor D’Cruz of the Wenlock Institute has speculated, the crocodile’s longevity may be down to the simple fact that it ate all the other dinosaurs up!