Mammoth Spiders: Urban Legends or Fact
Thoughts of giant spiders eating birds, creeping over your bed at night, throwing hairs into your flesh, and sinking their fangs into your flesh have invaded the human mind for ages. Urban legends about these giant spiders flourish. But are they really legends? Urban legends after all, are usually based on truth, many times largly exaggerated from story to story.
Spiders, giant or tiny, have played an integral part in the origin of many cultures. For example, Anansi the spider is prominently featured throughout Africa as a trickster or a great god. The Japanese believe that Spider Woman can ensnare careless travelers, and many Southwestern Native American tribes believe that Spider Woman created the Universe. Iktomi, the trickster spider of the Lakota, is associated with the famous legend of the dreamcatcher. In addition, the Greeks and Norse looked upon Spiders as connecting the past with the future and with weaving the fates of people.
Giant Monster Spiders of the Amazon
Around the world people have told legends of giant spiders measuring up to five feet across, but the largest Monster Spiders have been sighted mainly deep in the Amazon jungle, a legendary location for lurking creatures, such as the poisonous dart frogs and anaconda snakes.
Among the Monster Spider sightings across the world, sizes and descriptions vary, but on the extreme end of the spectrum, eyewitnesses have described specimens up to five feet long. They are said to have huge fangs and hairy bodies the size of small dogs. The largest Monster Spiders are said to have fangs as long as eight or nine inches.
The predatory Monster Spiders are said to viciously attack animals. A shaman in the small town of San Rafael, on the border of Colombia and Venezuela, apparently witnessed a giant tarantula creep out of the jungle and into the village, where it caught a small dog. The spider delivered a fatal dose of poison, and then dragged the dog into the jungle.
People have claimed to have seen giant spiders throughout history. One recorded example took place in the jungles of the Congo in Central Africa. In 1938 British explorer R.K. Lloyd and his wife Marguerite took an adventure safari for their honeymoon. As they were driving down a jungle track in the middle of the rainforest, they saw a large creature crossing the trail ahead of them. They thought it was a large monkey on all fours but were horrified to see on closer inspection that it was a gigantic spider, with a four to five-foot leg span. They were relieved when it turned and fled at their approach.
To date, no one has produced scientific evidence of a spider larger than 10.5 inches. But giant pre-historic creatures called Jaekelopterus Rhenaniae existed 390 million years ago. They were large sea scorpions and measured some eight feet in length. In 2007 a fossilized claw of this creature was found in Germany. The claw measured more than 1.5 feet long, suggesting that creatures like scorpions and spiders once grew to monster-sized proportions. The Jaekelopterus Rhenaniae ate large fish and even members of its own kind.
American G.I.s in Iraq has claimed they have seen massive flesh-eating arachnids the size of small cats. They are known as "Camel Spiders" and have been reported to race along the desert floor at speeds of 25 miles per hour. A photograph of an enormous spider surfaced on the Internet after the start of the Second Gulf War but was quickly found out to be a hoax. The real Camel Spiders are not actually spiders but are close cousins called Solifugue.
Giant Monster Spider 1st reported by R.K. Lloyd
Most of the many anecdotal tales describe the spiders digging a shallow tunnel under tree roots and camouflaging it with a large bed of leaves. Then they create an almost invisible web between their burrow and a nearby tree, booby-trapping the whole thing with a network of trip lines. Some hapless creature—soon to end up on the menu—will trip the line alerting the spider. The victim will be chased into the web. This predatory entrapment is similar to some species of tarantula.
Presumably, the J'ba FoFi eggs are a pale yellow-white and shaped like peanuts. Native claim the hatchlings are bright yellow with a purple abdomen. Their coloration becomes darker and brown as they mature. Some of the natives indigenous to the regions in the Congo where the J'ba FoFi has been seen assert that the spider was once quite common, but has become very rare.
The fullest account by Westerners appears in a cryptozoological book by George Eberhart. On page 204, Eberhart relates the terrifying experience of an English couple traveling through a jungle region of what is now called the Congo: "R.K. Lloyd and his wife were motoring in the Belgium Congo in 1938 when they saw a large object crossing the trail in front of them. At first, they thought it was a cat or monkey, but they soon realized it was a spider with legs nearly 3 feet."
Famous naturalist and cryptozoologist, William J. Gibbons, has hunted for what some think may be a living African dinosaur called Mokele-mbembe. On his third expedition in search of the creature he came upon natives who related their experiences with giant spiders. He shared his experience with readers upon his return to Canada:
"On this third expedition to Equatorial Africa, I took the opportunity to inquire if the pygmies knew of such a giant spider, and indeed they did! They speak of the Jba Fofi, which is a "giant" or "great spider." They described a spider that is generally brown in color with a purple abdomen. They grow to quite an enormous size with a leg span of at least five feet. The giant arachnids weave together a lair made of leaves similar in shape to a traditional pygmy hut, and spin a circular web (said to be very strong) between two trees with a strand stretched across a game trail."
"These giant ground-dwelling spiders prey on the diminutive forest antelope, birds, and other small game, and are said to be extremely dangerous, not to mention highly venomous," Gibbons states. "The spiders are said to lay white, peanut-sized eggs in a cluster, and the pygmies give them a wide birth when encountered, but have killed them in the past. The giant spiders were once very common but are now a rare sight."
Many of the natives describe the spiders as once being numerous, but now a vanishing species. Encroachment by civilization in the form of rain forest being converted to farming may have driven the spiders from their natural habitats.