The Spider Bite

An Urban Legend

Spider close-up
Laurie Noble/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Example #1:
As told by reader Sheri Ukrainetz...

This woman went vacationing in some overseas country. While lying on the beach she fell asleep and a spider bit her (unknown by her). She woke up with the side of her face a little sore but attributed it to the fact that she had been tanning and maybe got slightly sunburned. Anyway, she finished her vacation, returned home, and her face began to swell, eventually forming a boil which really itched.  Upon visiting her doctor, he broke open the huge boil and hundreds of tiny spiders fell out.  The woman was so horrified that she went into shock and died of a heart attack right there. 

Example #2:
As told by reader Ayesha Cizmazija...

A young woman was sunbathing on the beach and was just about to drop off to sleep, when she felt an insect running along her jawbone and then down her neck. She brushed it away, and thought nothing more of it.

After about a week, she noticed what she thought was a pimple growing and growing. The skin was inflamed and it looked like a blister. Then, one day, she was blow-drying her hair and hit the inflamed spot with her hair dryer. The blistered skin broke open and hundreds of tiny white baby spiders and pus came pouring out of the wound!

It seems that while she was sunbathing, her pores had enlarged enough that a mama spider could deposit her egg sac in one. They incubated under her skin until she smacked herself in the jaw with the hair dryer!

Analysis: This urban legend from the 1960s reads like a nightmare-come-true for arachnophobics (people afflicted with an irrational fear of spiders), but fortunately for them it simply isn't true.

"Spiders, need I say," writes University of Washington arachnid expert Rod Crawford, "do not find the human body a suitable site for egg laying, and no actual case anything like this can be found anywhere in scientific or medical literature."

Bodily insect infestations are a recurring theme in folklore, however.

Have you heard the one about the child who fell asleep while eating cookies in bed and woke up with an ant colony in his brain? Or the young lady so enamored of her own "beehive" hairdo in the 1960s that she refused to wash it and died of a spider infestation?

Sources and further reading:

Spider Myths: Eggs Under Skin
Burke Museum: Spider Myths, 2 September 2010

Arachnophobia and Spider Fears - Causes and Symptoms Phobias, 4 June 2014

Medical Horrors
Brunvand, The Mexican Pet, 1988

Last updated 01/24/15