Human encounters with spiders often provoke emphatic responses, as an article in The Sydney Morning Herald (Benny-Morrison 2015) evinces: it reports that police were called to a house after neighbours suspected domestic abuse, having heard sounds of furniture being thrown and a man shouting ‘I’m going to kill you, you’re dead, die, die’. When the police arrived they discovered that, in fact, the man had been shouting at a spider, albeit, as he told them, ‘a really big one!’. Of course, not every meeting with a spider excites such terror or violence, but spiders do get reactions: in the opening line of the preface to The Book of the Spider: from Arachnophobia to the Love of Spiders, arachnologist Paul Hillyard assures us that ‘When you meet a large spider unexpectedly it is normal to catch your breath’ (1995, p.ix). What is it about spiders that causes a person to stop breathing? The peculiarity of the creature itself, its eight legs and obsolescent eyes? Or is the fright related to its waywardness?
Ava Benny-Morrison, ‘Wollestonecraft man’s fear of spiders sparks multiple calls to the police’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2015 <http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/wollstonecraft-mans-fear-of-spiders-sparks-multiple-calls-to-police-20151126-gl8v7b.html> [accessed 5 April 2017]
Paul Hillyard, The Book of the Spider: from Aracnophobia to the Love of Spiders (London: Pimlico, 1995)