Arachnophobes look away now. This week I’m looking at the story of the girl who had an unfortunate encounter with a spider while sunbathing; a woman whose own beehive hairdo yielded a deadly spidery surprise; and the accidental release of giant mutant spiders into the wild…
The Spider Bite
‘The Spider Bite’ or ‘The Red Spot’ is probably the most famous of the spider urban legends. Circulating since the 1970s, it’s the story of a young English girl who went on holiday with her family to South America. While sunbathing, a spider crawled onto her cheek and bit her, before crawling away.
The girl was left with a red spot on her cheek and complained to her mother, who said, “It’s just a spider bite. It will go away. Just don’t scratch it.” Over time, the spot swelled into a small boil. The girl complained to her mother again that it was sore and unsightly and could be infected.
So her mother took her to a doctor. The doctor inspected the bite and burst the boil with a lancet. Both the doctor and the girl were horrified when hundreds of baby spiders hatched from the wound and scuttled across the girl’s face. The girl then went mad with shock.
Some versions of the story say that the boil burst while the girl was in the bath, releasing the baby spiders into her bathwater.
The legend also makes an appearance in 1987 movie The Believers…
But is there any truth to it? Most experts say no – no spider would lay its eggs on or in a human. Thank Christ for that. It’s thought that the legend originates in a 19th century short story about a woman who is kissed on the cheek by the Devil and later hatches baby spiders from her face.
A beehive full of… not bees
Even more horrific than The Spider Bite urban legend is the beehive story. This tale originates in the 1960s and concerns a 30-something woman who began wearing her hair in a “beehive” style. The style involved piling up long hair into a big dome shape on top of the head, resembling a traditional beehive – a popular trend in the 60s.
The woman didn’t want to ruin her beehive, so she never took it down and never washed her hair. When it needed to be washed, she just put hairspray on it instead. When it was so dirty that it itched, she put more hairspray on it.
One night, the woman died suddenly from a mysterious illness. Her hair was still up in the beehive when the police found her. When the funeral directors were preparing her body for burial, they finally took down her hair. To their horror, hundreds of tiny spiders crawled out from within the strands of her hair. They had been nesting there for ages. And it was at this point the funeral directors discovered the cause of death. The spiders had been eating through the woman’s skull and had managed to burrow into her brain, which was showing.
This urban legend is a ‘fatal vanity’ type of story, about a person who chooses looks and fashion over basic hygiene. Variations of the legend have involved spiders nesting in men’s unkempt and unwashed dreadlocks.
Anyone remember Luke Friend on X Factor?
Whether these stories have any basis in real life is unconfirmed…
Giant mutant spiders in Missouri
This story circulated on social media in 2014. It said that giant mutant spiders had escaped into the wild from a secret government lab in Missouri. They were said to be the spawn of DNA experiments and, now that they were free, were breeding rapidly. The government was franticly trying to eliminate them, but warned people to stay indoors and call the police if they saw one.
As it turned out, while the mutant spider story has managed to attain urban legend status in a pretty short time, this one’s genuinely untrue. However, this is one of those occasions where the truth is no less terrifying than the legend.
Basically, the truth is that these astonishing photographs are real. They just don’t depict giant spiders. You might’ve guessed that from the fact that the creatures have six legs, not eight.
So what the hell are they, you ask?
Coconut crabs. The world’s largest terrestrial arthropod, with claws powerful enough to crack open coconuts. They’re not arachnids at all, but if one of these enormous monsters came crawling towards me, I’m pretty sure I’d still wee myself.
So there you have it. Sorry if you’re now dreadfully concerned about the insect bite on your arm, or worriedly wondering how long it’s been since you washed your hair.
Happy Halloween! 🙂
Next week: what was Francis Tresham’s true involvement in the Gunpowder Plot?