Spiders. So many people are terrifed of them and they usually don’t get any bigger than a few inches. But it’s not an entirely irrational fear as some spiders can kill. However, imagine a spider the size of a cat or dog coming at you? Not convinced they exist? Read on…
Tarzan, as played by Johnny Weismuller, fought them. They menaced the Incredible Shrinking Man. The third Doctor [Who] died fighting them and people all over the world are terrified at the very mention of their name. But what if in certain parts of the world there are giant spiders the size of dogs that can take a person from their very beds? Sounds silly doesn’t it? But there are examples of larger than normal spiders all over the place. There are the camel spiders photographed and talked about by soldiers serving in the likes of the Gulf War (see pic above – shudder) and Goliath spiders, the largest spiders in the world, with leg spans of twelve inches and the Burgundy Goliath Bird-eating Spider has a ten or eleven inch leg span and a ferocious temperament.
But in the jungles of the Amazon there are legends of spiders that are five feet long and terrify the natives. In 1938, a British explorer called RK Lloyd and his wife reported what they at frsr thought was a large monkey running on all fours but was in fact a huge spider with a five feet leg span that ran back into the jungle at the approach of their vehicle. Now, remember the Amazon is a vast and in parts impossible place to travel into and where many new species of arachnids have been found. In the movie Arachnophobia, a new species manages to get itself back to a small rural community where it mates with a normal spider and creates a swarm of new venomous spiders that terrorize the community. And shows like Monsterquest have travelled deep into the country to find these giant spiders. They are known to the natives as the J’ba Fofi which translates as ‘giant’ or ‘great spider.’ One village shaman reported that he watched a giant tarantula creep into his village and attack a small dog. It moved fast, sank eight to nine inch fangs into the dog and dragged it back into the jungle.
They are dark in colour, the brown getting darker with age, and the natives say they spin intricate tubular, almost invisible webs between two trees with a trip line across a game trail and hide at the base of them using leaves similar to the way the pygmies do when building their huts. When an animal hits the trip wire they are forced into the web which can be anything from birds to mammals. Recent scientific studies have discovered a species of spider that actually creates a false spider in its web out of debris so spider intelligence is a fact.
They live at ground level in burrows like the trap door spider and are very fast. They can take down antelope and the pygmies are well aware of their existence. They lay white peanut shaped eggs in a cluster and when the natives see these, they give them a very wide berth. Babies emerge from the eggs bright yellow with purple abdomens but they darken as they mature. Such is the detail of the pygmys’ knowledge of the J’ba Fofi that they have told that they are a diminishing species as encroachment by civilization and the clearing of the rain forests have driven them from their habitats.
Sightings may be rare but there is documented evidence that the pygmies have actually fought the giant spiders on occasion. William J Gibbons who was searching for another fabled animal there, the Mokele Mbembe, also heard the tales of these giant arachnids. While science has recorded the largest spider on record to be 10.5 inches, it is the fact that the local natives can not only describe the creatures but can give detailed accounts of their life cycles and habits. This was also the case with the panda and the gorilla and these people have no need to make things up. They live in a harsh environment with no need for wealth or luxury and there is no need to make up such stories.
These stories were around long before the white man came and for the people living there, these creatures are all too real. And this is in the Congo, also home to the legendary Mokele which is a dinosaur like creature natives have been fearful of for years. There have been reports of them in Uganda and the Central African republic. And although the natives say the J’ba Fofi are a vanishing species, one thing is for sure; they breed quickly and the Congo is a huge place. Many expeditions have disappeared there, lost forever. What was their fate? No-one knows as the Congo swallows you whole and for all we know they may have fallen into a giant web.
Now we know spiders are smart and cunning, then there’s no reason to believe they can’t hide from man and strike when you least expect it.