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WORLD

The quest for fear

By Producer Neil Curry

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(CNN) -- This month Richard is on a Quest for Fear.

There's not much which scares Quest, but he's uncomfortable around bees and wasps and, perhaps surprisingly for someone who spends so much of his time on board planes, he's far from happy with heights.

The producers have challenged him to face up to his own fears, with the ultimate goal of jumping from a hot air balloon high over Austria.

Before that though, he'll have his nerve tested by a series of scary encounters to overcome.

Along the way he'll meet a fascinating collection of characters all connected by the common thread of fear.

Richard starts his Quest in the dark. He's in Madame Tussaud's famous waxworks and he's not alone.

He's sharing the darkness with a group of knife-wielding maniacs lurking behind every corner.

Night vision cameras vividly capture Richard's expression as he comes face to face with these frightening freaks.

This is the starting point for the first aspect of his Quest for fear: Fear for Fun.

In the century since Stoker and Shelley created Dracula and Frankenstein, horror has become a multi-million dollar business.

Richard travels to Dublin to meet "Dracula's heir" -- in the form of Stoker's great grandson. He also talks to present day horror writer Brett Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho and Lunar Park, who believes our appetite for horror is all about releasing our fears.

Widespread panic

"I think it's about confronting the things we're most afraid, and experiencing them through another medium, such as novels, or films. And then having it be a cathartic experience."

Japanese director Hideo Nakata's horror movie "Ringu" led to widespread panic in Japan while Tim Burton corners the cheery end of the creepy market with Corpse Bride and the Nightmare Before Christmas. They'll help to answer the question "why do we like to be frightened?"

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Quest steps into thin air to confront his fear of heights.

Can you think of anything more terrifying than entering a boxing ring with the ferocious Mike Tyson? Former World Heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield did so -- not once but twice -- and emerged victorious on both occasions, despite having his ear chewed for his trouble.

Quest goes eyeball-to-eyeball with the "Real Deal" in the ring at his home in Atlanta and discovers how boxers control fear and use intimidation to instill it into others.

"It's up to you to be intimidating. No one can act to intimidate you, you have to choose to be intimidating. So, in general, you know you, you can look mean and not be mean. You can't go by look, you have to go by action when you get in the ring."

Terrorists intimidated British envoy Terry Waite when they abducted him in Beirut and held him captive for five years. In an intimate conversation about an ordeal which left him a changed man, Terry tells Richard about the ultimate fear -- fear of death -- and what sustained him in his darkest hours.

"I was afraid but I wasn't afraid of death because death will come to all of us. I didn't want to die. I was afraid of the way in which I would die. Would it hurt when the bullet when through my head? That is what made me afraid."

Conquering his own fears, Terry Waite still has a fondness for the Middle East and looks to the future with hope for an end to fear in the region.

Death-defying

The next part of Richard's Quest finds him recruiting expert help as he tackles fears and phobias. London University's Professor Joanna Bourke has studied how fears and understanding of fear have changed through the centuries.

"Lots of people have severe phobias," she says. "Some thing like five percent of our population has severe phobias. In other words, ones that actually stop them from doing something. That is a bad terror. And they are the most intractable thing to cure."

As you might expect, Sigmund Freud put it all down to sex, but there are other reasons why people develop phobias.

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Quest goes eyeball to eyeball with boxing heavyweight Evander Holyfield.

Closed spaces, open spaces, spiders and snakes, needles and pins, cows to clowns -- and even peanut butter -- are among the everyday phenomena which cause people to shudder and break out in a sweat.

We meet some of the sufferers and Richard confronts his concerns over bees and wasps in the company of a master beekeeper who longs to make the world's biggest bee beard -- that's right a beard of bees!

Meanwhile, Richard's preparations for his personal challenge are not going well. He climbs the high-diving board, only to find fear ready to meet him at the top. He experiences skydiving - in the relative safety of a wind tunnel.

Finally he's bundled into a basket strapped beneath a hot air balloon and hauled 4,000 meters into the air above the Austrian Alps.

After words of advice from Felix Baumgartner -- a seemingly fearless professional BASE jumper who made a death-defying skydive across the English Channel -- Richard surveys the heavens with only a parachute and pluck to support him. Oh, yes and the burly free fall instructor strapped to his back.

But when it's time to look down will Richard have a head for heights - or simply lose his head? Find out by watching the next edition of Quest.

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