Snacking On Spiders
Ever heard of that horrifying so called fact that, on average, any given person swallows approximately eight live spiders in his or her sleep over the course of a lifetime, or even a year? Well you don’t have to start setting up fancy mosquito netting in your master bedroom just yet; this common ‘fact’ is actually just an urban legend, not a creepy crunchy truth!
How could blatantly false information spread so widely and so effectively, you ask? The answer is in the ‘yuck factor’ of this urban legend. Think about it; what could be more horrifying and disgusting than everyone’s most feared and loathed creepy crawlies dropping right into our snoring and exposed mouths while we sleep snugly in our beds? Nothing. And this is why this tale spread so incredibly quickly.
Because of widespread fears and phobias about many creepy animals, stories about them spread with record speed due to the panicky nature of how humans think about these misunderstood creatures. But just what types of animals qualify under the definition of creepy crawlies? The usual suspects in this category tend to be animals with either too many legs, or too few! Insects, arachnids and snakes are the most frequently talked about creepy crawlies, and therefore the most likely to be the subject of our most feared and talked about urban legends. For example, have you ever heard of the one about venomous snakes hiding in the ball pits at fast food restaurant chains, waiting for small unsuspecting children to walk across their path? Or how about the one claiming that certain food products contain spider eggs, or other bug parts, from being processed in dirty factory conditions? The truth is, these are the types of animals that scare us the most, so logically they are the ones we just can’t stop gossiping about!
Now that we know why these types of urban legends spread so quickly, we still need to know just how some of these ludicrous stories get started, and more specifically, we need to know the origins of our story about the incredible edible spider. According to one of the best sources for debunking myths and urban legends on the internet, Snopes.com, the earliest known origins of this tall tale are from a section on common misbeliefs in a book on insect folklore from the 1950’s. Strangely, this bug book wasn’t what created the panicky rumor we know today; this particular urban legend didn’t crawl onto the gossip scene until 1993! Spiders have been around for as long as humans have, however, so why did it take us so long to start thinking they might be creeping down our bellies while we’re sleeping?
According to Snopes, in 1993, a columnist named Lisa Holst decided to expose the explosive nature of rumors on the internet by creating a little rumor experiment herself. In order to battle the spam email craze of false ‘facts’ about everyday life that would spread like wildfire once begun, Lisa decided to create a list of her own and keep track of its rapid spread across the world wide web. Lisa took the piece of folklore about humans’ spider consumption from the 1950’s insect folklore book, and a few other believable yet false facts, and sent them out into the dangerous world of spam emailing. Just weeks later, results were pouring in.
As it turns out, Lisa Holst was able to thoroughly prove her point about the spread of misinformation on the internet, as the spider-swallowing urban legend is now one of the most popular and widely believed of all. If you were to poll twenty of your closest friends and family, odds are almost all of them will have heard this urban legend, and more than half of them would be surprised to learn that it is, in fact, false!
So no, humans do not swallow approximately eight spiders in their sleep over the course of a year or even a lifetime, but you can bet they probably fall for more than eight false urban legends every year!
So you can sleep peacefully tonight, knowing that no arachnids will be finding themselves on an interesting adventure into your digestive tract any time soon!
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