Gossamer Spider web

Internet Hoax

Blush spider Arachnius gluteus is a hoax

The Spider under the Toilet Seat Hoax

Updated December 2004

In September of 1999, an spider hoax started circulating on the internet about an alleged article allegedly published in the Journal of the United Medical Association regarding an allegedly deadly South American spider, Arachnius gluteus, which was supposedly brought into Chicago, had supposedly killed several women who had visited Big Chappie's Restaurant in Blare Airport.  This hoax was widely circulated and passed along by concerned people. A website link was erected here to debunk this hoax and it received 49,000 hits within 2 weeks. Several emails requested information regarding what the spider looked like because the concerned persons lived near Chicago.  The creator of the hoax contacted me and we have since kept in touch.  The hoax was purposely filled with incorrect information such that if the reader checked into any bit of the information, a red flag would arise because there would be no credibility to the citation of information (no medical journal with that name, there is no spider named Arachnius, there is no Blare Airport, etc.)  He wrote the hoax to show that 1) people are gullible, 2) that the internet is a frighteningly fast way to spread misinformation, 3) that people forward on information without checking the veracity of the information.  He never expected this to spread so quickly and so widely.   The account of the anatomy of the hoax is detailed in the following article:

Vetter, R. S. and P. K. Visscher. 2000.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave: the anatomy of an internet spider hoax.  American Entomologist 46: 221-223.

In 2003, this hoax was resuscitated and modified where it was shifted to north Florida, the restaurant was now the Olive Garden and the spider was Telamonia dimidiata.  The resuscitator of this hoax at least did a little homework because this is the scientific name of an actual jumping spider from India, Bhutan and Sumatra, however, it is harmless or at least there is no reason to suspect that it is dangerous (especially considering that the rest of the message is a recycled hoax anyway.)

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