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Attack of the Butt Spider
Email prank warns of deadly South American “Blush Spiders” (scientific name: Arachnius gluteus, or “Butt Spider”) migrating to the U.S. in airliner bathrooms and lurking under public toilet seats everywhere. Read all about it in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA)!
Description: Email hoax / Joke
Circulating since: Aug. 1999
Status: False (see details below)
Email text contributed August 31, 1999:
FW: Warning! Spider in the toilet!
I’m told this isn’t a joke. Take it or leave it!: Please pass this on to everyone on your email list:
According to 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. 3 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 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 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 the doctor, 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 beleived 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.
Analysis: Don’t panic, it’s a joke. It gives itself away as such in the very first sentence:
According to an article by Dr. Beverly Clark, in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA)…
There is no such medical journal. There is no “United Medical Association.” If “Dr. Beverly Clark” has ever had an article published in any legitimate scientific publication, for some mysterious reason it does not turn up in online searches. Moreover, there have been no recent news reports of spider-caused deaths among air travelers in Chicago.
Nor, for that matter, is there a “Blare Airport” in Chicago (try O’Hare International Airport); nor a restaurant in Chicago (or anywhere else on earth) called “Big Chappies.”
Lastly, there is no real genus of spider known as Arachnius gluteus (apparently meant to be translated “butt spider”).
Update: New Variant – A new version of this hoax first spotted in 2002 alleges that an Asian spider called the Two-striped Telamonia is now migrating to the U.S. under airliner toilet seats and has already killed five women in North Florida.
Note: Australian Redback Spider – I’ve heard from several Aussie readers keen to point out that there is a spider in Australia known as the Redback (Latrodectus hasselti), the bite of which can be toxic and which is famous in popular lore — much like its American relative, the Black Widow — for residing under outdoor toilet seats. Though “Arachnius gluteus” remains a fiction, it is not without its precedents in real life and world folklore.