By Jean Matthew Hall


Does anyone actually like spiders? Seriously. I don’t know anyone who thinks they are cute and cuddly. Oops! I must retract that statement. One of our sons went through a spider-snake-creepy thing stage. He gave it up, though, when both his Tarantula and his 20-foot-long reticulating Python died. Seems they are delicate creatures and highly susceptible to viruses. He moved on to bigger and better things like horses and Great Danes.

However, at this time, I don’t know anyone who actually likes those eight-legged creatures. I suspect that most of us have at least an itsy-bitsy fear of them. But my husband and his entire family are absolutely, unbelievably horrified of spiders. Our daughter shares that same irrational fear. So, I’ve decided there must be an arachnophobia gene.

My husband’s sister, Nita, often calls me early in the morning on her way to work. She lives hundreds of miles away and we both enjoy those little morning chats. But, when she called late one night I was surprised. You know, that gut reaction we all get when the phone rings in the wee hours of the morning.

“Hi Nita,” I said.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” she screamed into her cell phone.

“What’s wrong? Nita, are you all right?” I could hear her breathing heavily.

“I’m driving to Kansas City and I’m all alone in the car and it’s dark and I’ve tried to call everyone but nobody else I know will answer their phone that’s why I called you,” she said in one long breath.

“What’s wrong? Have you had an accident?” I asked.

“No! But, I’m going to,” she yelled. “There’s a spider in my car!”

Great, I’m thinking. She’s in Kansas, I’m in North Carolina, and she wants me to kill a spider for her.

“He’s humongous! He just dropped down on his horrible web-thingy right in front of my face! I almost ran off the road,” she said.

I have learned that the word “humongous” in this context generally means the size of an apple seed. Despite its size, I could tell she was on the verge of hyperventilating.

“Where is he…it…now? Can you see it?” I asked.

“No! That’s what’s so horrible. I tried to stay calm. I tried not to be afraid. I very slowly reached for a magazine in the front seat to swat him with. But he jumped down between my feet and disappeared. He’s in my car somewhere and I don’t know where!”

“Take it easy. Take deep breaths. Can you pull off the road?”

“No! I’m going 80 mph on an interstate and it’s about 40 miles to the next exit. I’m all alone in the car with a monster. What am I going to do?”

Did I use the word irrational already?

Nita has had several near-death encounters with spiders lately. She’s decided they are tracking her down.

Two months ago she was visiting family in Florida. She went to the bedroom to get her purse and crawling across the quilt next to her purse was another humongous spider. She screamed for our niece, as if that would do some good, since she is also terrified of spiders. Both of them ran outside and got on their cell phones. They called everyone within 20 miles to come and kill the thing. Several people showed up with hoes and machetes – poor little spider.

A few Sundays ago, Nita opened her Bible at church. Guess who crawled maliciously across the page? Yep, one of God’s less-than-beloved creatures. Everyone thought Nita had gotten a huge dose of the Holy Spirit when she flung her Bible into the air and ran out the back door of the auditorium screaming.

A few days later she was driving to work in rush hour in a construction zone (and talking to me, of course) when an 18-wheeler the size of a 747 Jumbo Jet cut her off. There on the hood of the truck was a huge rubber snake (at least I hoped it was rubber!). And on the left front bumper at Nita’s eye level was – you guessed it – a giant-sized rubber spider. I thought she was going to hyperventilate again.

But here’s the real clincher. A few weeks ago at work in a spotlessly clean downtown hospital, an insidious Brown Recluse spider made its way down the freshly scrubbed halls to Nita’s station. That demon crawled right up her leg and attacked her for no reason at all. This time, Nita landed in the E.R. A Brown Recluse is not only vicious and cruel, it is armed and dangerous.

Nita’s been praying a lot about spiders since then. On our last phone call she told me she thinks God is trying to tell her something – that maybe her fear is a teeny bit overblown? That maybe she needs to face her fear of one of God’s wonderful creatures? That maybe spiders are her friends and she should embrace them?

Nah! I don’t think God wants Nita or anyone to go that far.

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2 Responses to “Arachnophobia”

  1. Joyce Austin says:

    I am a close friend of Nita’s and she e-mailed me your article. My husband Vern and I just loved it. We know first hand how afraid she is as we have been various places with her when she has encountered a spider. I am sorry to admit that once we thought we would play a trick on her and brought to her house a VERY large battery-operated hairy tarantula (spelling ?) spider that crawls across the floor. When she saw it she turned white, was panic-stricken and ran out of the room. We learned never to do that to her again as it was really traumatic. We have felt badly ever since about our little prank. I must admit we though the spider was so very large and obviously not real that we would think it funny. She is so special to us that we felt really remorseful for what we had done.
    You write very well. Keep on keeping on.
    Vern and Joyce Austin

  2. Carol Ranck says:

    I am a co-worker of Nita’s and I have seen first hand her fear of spiders.
    One day, I took a picture of a spider, enlarged it and put it in a magazine that
    she was reading. It was obvious when she got to that page becuase there was
    a shreak that could be heard for miles!
    Once she got past that initial shock, we had a good laugh about it.
    ~Carol Ranck

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