Creatures of Fear: Spiders . . . I’ll Really Have to Muscle Through This One

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I had to make it a funny meme because this is something that will lock me up, make me cry, and pray for unconsciousness.  Even that picture is a tough one since spiders freak me out.  I’ve gotten better with being able to see them at a distance, but one move in my direction sets off my fight or flight instinct.  Worst is when you run into a spider in the shower and you don’t have your glasses on.  So, all you see is a creeping blur and you aren’t sure what it is.  At first, you think it’s your imagination, but then it sticks around.  Ignoring past experiences, you lean in close enough to get a look and that’s when it strikes you that your naked, drenched, and the door is closed.

Sticking with my own personal experiences, I think part of it stems from an incident when I was younger.  There was a large web at camp and we were flicking tiny rocks at it.  I kept doing it after the other kids left and ended up getting closer.  Next thing I know, something landed on my face and crawled along my skin.  There was a brief, frozen moment of wonder until things clicked.  I flailed and screamed while the spider got up my nose for a bit, but I swear was an hour.  Sneezed it out and watched it run away with nobody really noticing because it probably happened faster than it felt.  Ever since then, I could only deal with spiders when they were really humans wearing spandex and fighting crime.

Now, I’d love to sit here and go over why one could fear spiders like I did with snakes, but I know this isn’t a rational one.  Is it the venomous angle again?  Yes even though I know that the spiders around here typically aren’t venomous.  There are occasional incidents with brown recluses that have stowed away on somebody’s luggage, but that’s really it.  It could be another ancient instinct created as humans learned that this tiny creatures could kill them.  Is it also the hairy bodies and soulless eyes?  Yes and I stand by those statements.  What about how they seem to just turn up in a corner or come dropping from the ceiling to terrify you during your favorite TV show?  I really need to keep a flyswatter near my bed.

The knowledge that they eat bad insects and are helpful doesn’t really break through because we are talking about an irrational fear.  There’s just something about spiders that drives me away.  Yet, we need to have a reason for this in fiction.  People have trouble accepting that a character is scared of spiders just because they are.  Even a minor incident can result in complaints as if phobias only stem from major traumas.  This is probably because people expect it to be a hurdle that is defeated through realizing the initial event was in the past or not what it seemed.  Maybe that spider was really eating a malaria-carrying mosquito and didn’t mean to land in your eye.

For example, Luke Callindor starts with arachnophobia and gradually gets a slight handle on it.  This was revealed in Beginning of a Hero when he froze at the sight of a tiny spider dangling in front of his face.  The winged and horned spiders Curse of the Dark Wind didn’t do him any wonders either.  Still, there were a few complaints over the years when I had this without an explanation.  This is prior to publishing and during the time I was letting anyone read it.  Readers said that it made him appear too weak to be a hero if he was irrationally scared of spiders.  I didn’t really understand that, but I went along and had it that he got trapped in a large spider infested area as a child.  Luke was rescued by his grandfather, but one of the spiders was hiding in his backpack.  It crawled out that night and attacked him in his bed.  Geez, just writing that is making my skin squirm and pulse quicken.

I really should try to defend spiders here.  They are important organisms for any ecosystem and it isn’t their fault that they’re creepy.  Doubt they even consider our emotions and feelings on the subject, which is how it should be.  Though, would it really hurt them to avoid the shower and not go for the face?  Okay, this definitely isn’t working like I’d hoped.  Anybody want to take over in the comments?  Feel free.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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53 Responses to Creatures of Fear: Spiders . . . I’ll Really Have to Muscle Through This One

  1. I’m kind of in to spiders and wish some of the huge cat faced kind would move into my rose garden. They are fun to watch and might thin out the summer wasp problem.

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  2. twixie13 says:

    I’m not personally creeped out by spiders, though I will not hesitate to get rid of one if I see it in my house. Yes, it has its purpose in the ecosystem and such, but nobody invited it. Also, one of the characters I write is scared of them. Never figured out why, exactly. But ever since learning magic, he’s taken to attacking them with ice spells. Going back to the other day’s post about snakes, I also have a character with a fear of those (and clowns) that also tends to attack when scared. Almost tempted to write something involving my characters’ fears now.

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    • Interesting how the characters attack the things they fear. Do they do it on sight or only when provoked?

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      • twixie13 says:

        Yes. In their case, seeing it counts as provocation. In one character’s case, she was raised/trained as an assassin. For the other one, he didn’t start learning magic until after this assassin started dating his brother-in-law. So there’s a good chance that she’s influenced that reaction with him.

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      • Have you ever been tempted to make a villain that embodies her fear? Just to see what happens.

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      • twixie13 says:

        Not a full-blown one. The closest I’ve gotten was her taking out a clown (her other major fear, aside from snakes). No hesitation. Just a full-on “kill-or-be-killed” mentality. There is one guy around the city that’s part-snake, so I do wonder how an encounter between those two would go…*thinking now*

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      • That’s going to be a fun fight. Are we talking regular or evil clown?

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      • twixie13 says:

        I’ve started writing some random thing about her encountering this half-snake dude while on a date. So there’s some hesitation on her part, since she wouldn’t want to risk hurting her boyfriend. I’ve had that situation defused, and it’s not going to be A clown…nah, there’s a whole tiny car full of them. The one that’s been listed as an assassination target is a regular clown in terms of design, but a completely morally bankrupt one underneath. In the case of regular clowns with regular motivations…yeah, she’s probably lucky to have avoided major assault charges.

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  3. kieranmckiel says:

    There’s a lot I like about spiders, but if one comes near me, I can’t guarantee its safety. Kind of weird feeling both respect and revulsion towards something simultaneously.

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  4. Lol omg!! Your very first sentence cracked me up!!” I had to make it a funny meme because this is something that will lock me up, make me cry, and pray for unconsciousness.” Thanks!! I needed that laugh today hahahahahaha!!

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  5. L. Marie says:

    Venomous spiders like the brown recluse spider frighten me! But Daddy long-legs are okay.

    A spider popped out of my coffee maker once. I was half asleep and had just turned on the coffeemaker. The spider hurriedly exited the coffeemaker by letting itself down on a thread like a fire fighter. Scared me half to death! I hadn’t realized it was in the coffeemaker.

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  6. I tend to usher spiders out of the house if they make it by the barbed wire, claymore mines, and moat. I recognize their benefit but don’t want to live with them.

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  7. You think being in the shower only just able to see the blur that is the spider is bad… Try not even being able to see that much!

    I DO NOT like spiders! Not even a little. I don’t know how it got started, but I was scared of them even when I could see them, and now I’m terrified of unseen spiders potentially creeping around. What if they’re right there, just waiting to crawl on me? Just the thought is freaking me out!

    I’ll freely admit they creep me out enough that I’ve been known to resort to bribing kids I’m babysitting in to getting rid of them. “You know the piece of cake you wanted and I said you couldn’t have? Get rid of that spider and it’s yours!”

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  8. Spiders give me the creeps, but I find them fascinating as well – especially those giant Huntsman jobs. I’ve wasted good writing time looking at those bad boys on YouTube. I’m just glad we don’t get them in the UK.

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  9. I don’t mind spiders in most situations, but if it’s a black one, I’ll kill it just because there are the rare black widows here and I’m not going to take a chance.
    I’ve been startled several times by spiders suddenly rappelling down from the ceiling while I’m watching tv, I typically try to ignore them if they aren’t right in front of me.
    I do my best to remember the old luck saying; if you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.

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  10. I hate spiders.

    And I live in the desert… with spiders. And scorpions.

    And gallons of Home Defense. 😦

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  11. Don’t think of Luke’s fear as a weakness… Think of it as a foible. Every character needs foibles. They’re why readers love the characters so much.

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  12. If it’s any consolation, it’s a common enough fear. Indeed, I was reading that this is exactly why Carpenter chose spiders as the visual inspiration behind one of his most disgusting creatures (https://geekoutsw.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/vlcsnap-2011-12-30-07h28m32s112.png).

    And a true story, taking place during one of my wife’s first sleepovers (she was still in her late teens at the time). She had been brought up in the city, but we were in the middle of a forest and rather too familiar with woodland creatures ranging from spiders to rats and foxes. As we lay down and turned off the light to sleep, she marveled at the fact she had seen none of the aforementioned creatures.

    Moments later, we heard a *thump*. Lying perfectly still, she whispered, “something just landed on my forehead.” We turned on the light and, true enough, a spider had landed on the poor girl’s face.

    That’s when we discovered that she does *not* suffer from arachnophobia, thank God. And that she can jinx about anything 😀

    And here’s a cute video to take your mind off the terrible things I’ve written so far…

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