The essay seeks to read some of the recent and current disputes over global cultural heritage through the metaphor of fear. The essay opens with an analysis of a little-known early German Expressionist feature film entitled 'Fear', the narrative of which centres upon the illicit removal of a cultural object from a distant sacred site and its subsequent re-location to a European private collection. The subsequent 'haunting' of the collector, triggered by the illicit act of removal, provides the essay with a starting point for an exploration of the extent to which many of today's cultural heritage disputes are fuelled by variant types of fear. On the one hand, Western 'universal' museums fear losing their collections to repatriation, collections which symbolize their identity and power. This can be contrasted with the fear felt by many in the formerly subaltern nations of the developing world who interpret these mainly European and North American encyclopaedic institutions as tyrannical symbols of imperial greed. The essay explores the roots of this mutual fear and asks how it can be assuaged in an increasingly globalised world of contested cultural objects.