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Story Of The Big Internet Spider Hoax

Spiders and their webs are always popular props used during the Halloween season. When you see haunted houses with cobwebs spread through every room, and big creepy black spiders crawling around that have glowing red eyes – you know it has to be one of the most horrifying times for anyone who suffers from arachnophobia!
Back in 1999, a gentleman decided to produce an internet hoax that played on people’s fear of spiders. This hoax quickly spread over the internet as readers assumed it was true, and many of them wanted to warn all of their friends and colleagues of this potential danger. Here is how his internet hoax read, including grammatical errors:

This Is Not A Joke.
It concerns The Blush Spider

“An article by Dr. Beverly Clark, in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA), the mystery behind a recent spate of deaths has been solved. If you haven’t already heard about it in the news, here is what happened. Three women in Chicago, turned up at hospitals over a 5 day period, all with the same symptoms. Fever, chills, and vomiting, followed by muscular collapse, paralysis, and finally, death. There were no outward signs of trauma. Autopsy results showed toxicity in the blood. These women did not know each other, and seemed to have nothing in common. It was discovered, however, that they had all visited the same restaurant (Big Chappies, at Blare Airport) within days of their deaths. The health department descended on the restaurant, shutting it down. The food, water, and air conditioning were all inspected and tested, to no avail. The big break came when a waitress at the restaurant was rushed to the hospital with similar symptoms. She told doctors that she had recently been on vacation, and had only went to the restaurant to pick up her check. She did not eat or drink while she was there, but had used the restroom. That is when one toxicologist, remembering an article he had read, drove out to the restaurant, went into the restroom, and lifted the toilet seat. Under the seat, out of normal view, was a small spider. The spider was captured and brought back to the lab, where it was determined to be the South American Blush Spider (Arachnius gluteus), so named because of its reddened flesh color. This spider’s venom is extremely toxic., but can take several days to take effect. They live in cold, dark, damp, climates, and toilet rims provide just the right atmosphere. Several days later a lawyer from Los Angeles showed up at a hospital emergency room. Before his death, he told doctors, that he had been away on business, had taken a flight from New York, changing planes in Chicago, before returning home. He did not visit Big Chappies while there. He did, as did all of the other victims, have what was determined to be a puncture wound, on his right buttock. Investigators discovered that the flight he was on had originated in South America. The Civilian Aeronautics Board (CAB) ordered an immediate inspection of the toilets of all flights from South America, and discovered the Blush spider’s nests on 4 different planes! It is now believed that these spiders can be anywhere in the country. So please, before you use a public toilet, lift the seat to check for spiders. It can save your life! And please pass this on to everyone you care about.”

Debunking This Story
If you do your research, you’ll find these holes in his story:
• There is no such thing as “The Journal of United Medical Association.
• There is no spider with a genus by the name of Arachnius.
• The specific epithet “gluteus” does not mean “red flesh” but indeed means buttocks.
• Because of the chemicals used in airliner toilets, the environment of these toilets would be too caustic for the successful transport and survival of spiders.
• Instead of using the name of O’Hare Airport, he changed it to say Blare Airport. There is no Blare Airport in Chicago.
• There was no Big Chappies restaurant in Chicago. The author of this hoax did not want to harm any real establishments.
• There is no Civilian Aeronautics Board. There was a Civil Aeronautics Board that was started in 1958, but it was dissolved in 1984. Also, the actual CAB’s main focus was on air traffic issues, not on airline health aspects.

The author of this hoax says that he probably sent this story out to a dozen people. It is so amazing that his story went worldwide.
As Sir Walter Scott said it so well,

“O, what a tangled web
we weave, when first
we practise to deceive.”