Zombies Are no Match to
People’s Phobia of Spiders
Halloween is upon us, and the walking dead continue to bury the traditional cast of goblins, ghosts, vampires and werewolves that used to dominate the season, in the hallowed ground of popular imagination. Only one creature packs a bigger fright punch than zombies: spiders.
They’ve been around for millions of years, more species are discovered every day, and unlike all other scary monsters, they’re very much real. And guess what? they’re growing bolder, scarier, and all research done lately has only increased our paralyzing fear of them.
For however beautiful creatures spiders may be, with their intense maternal feelings, their amazing stronger-than-steel silk-making abilities, and their endearing habit of liquefying their prey, they still can’t shake their reputation as overlords of both the crevices of the real world and of our most intimate nightmares.
Science has often come to the rescue of arachnophobes everywhere, who’re helpless to ward off their deep-seated fear of these crawlers. Discoveries in medicine and promising psychological therapies have been developed in order to find ways of soothing such fears, to not much avail, we must say.
For example, the lethal poison of the Brazilian Wandering spider, for which there’s no antidote, may one day replace Viagra-like therapies in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, according to a recent study. Great, right? But then, along comes the Trogloraptor Marchingtoni, or ‘cave robber,’ a recently discovered species with a horrendous set of claws, and we’re back into our fetal position.
CAN’T SHAKE THAT FEELING
Two separate studies about our fear of spiders and snakes, have concluded that, first, it may date back to early mammals, who had to (more)
* Hallow Talk
* The Flours of Evil
* All Hallows’ Eve
quickly identify sources of potential harm, in order to survive in a world dominated by reptiles. Secondly, being afraid of them also distorts our perception of their size and we wound up thinking they’re bigger than they really are.
Both studies may one day lead to new therapies to ease people’s phobias against the two species. That’s wonderful. Until you read about a woman who had a spider living inside her ear for a week, and the hair behind your neck goes into instant shock mode. Even if there are questions as to whether this really happened, just the thought of it makes us literally cover our ears, say, forever.
And more. From the mild-fear inducing spectacle of watching a spider molt, to the invasion of large, biting ones that happened last summer in Gauhati, India, to their clever ability of not just walk on their sticky webs without getting glued to it, but douse their lines with poison, so to keep ants off them, we keep learning more and more about spiders.
Generally scary things, of course. So, even though there’s merit in using an imaginary invasion of zombies to educate the public for a potential virus outbreak, as done by the CDC recently, all we can say is: we don’t need no stinking zombies to feel utterly terrified. And, as with every phobia, we can’t get enough of it.
GUESS WHO’S DROPPED BY?
So during Halloween, along with all creepy but mostly fictional creatures that are part of the fun of it, there’s one critter that’s not just real, but scarier for a percentage of the population. For these folks, the ‘eight-leg freaks’ surpass even the fear of the walking dead, and many would be glad to spend a night at a cemetery but never in a room they knew there was a spider hidden somewhere.
For us, the final straw happened just the other day, live during a news broadcast program in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Todd Kunz, the anchor, was delivering the news when a spider started a long, skin-tingling descent and landed right next to his lapel mike. Kunz didn’t lose his composure, brave man. We would’ve screamed so hard we bet the studio floodlights would have exploded.
It took us a while to recover, but now we’re happy to report that we’re fine, calm, and collected. Incidentally, we’re about to watch our favorite seasonal movie, one that we’ve been watching at least twice a year since it came out. A real classic and our personal favorite. Great story, wonderful actors. A family movie, really. We’re about to press play to watch yet again, Arachnophobia.
(*) Originally published on Oct. 23, 2010.