Forget about faulty wings and bad engines -- the "killer spiders on airplanes" hoax wants you to believe that scary South American arachnids are preying on our friends in Chicago.
Here's the original e-mail:
An article by Dr. Beverly Clark, in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA), the mystery behind recent deaths has been solved. If you haven't already heard about it in the news, here is what happened.
Three women in Chicago, turned up at hospitals over a 5-day period, all with the same symptoms. Fever, chills, and vomiting, followed by muscular collapse, paralysis, and finally, death. There were no outward signs of trauma. Autopsy results showed toxicity in the blood. These women did not know each other, and seemed to have nothing in common.
It was discovered, however, that they had all visited the same restaurant (Big Chappies, at Blare Airport), within days of their deaths. The health department descended on the restaurant, shutting it down. The food, water, and air conditioning were all inspected and tested, to no avail.
The big break came when a waitress at the restaurant was rushed to the hospital with similar symptoms. She told doctor that she had been on vacation, and had only went to the restaurant to pick up her check. She did not eat or drink while she was there, but had used the restroom.
That is when one toxicologist, remembering an article he had read, drove out to the restaurant, went into the restroom, and lifted the toilet seat. Under the seat, out of normal view, was a small spider.
The spider was captured and brought back to the lab, where it was determined to be the South American Blush Spider (arachnius gluteus), so named because of its reddened flesh color. This spider's venom is extremely toxic, but can take several days to take effect. They live in cold, dark, damp, climates, and toilet rims provide just the right atmosphere.
Several days later a lawyer from Los Angeles showed up at a hospital emergency room. Before his death, he told the doctor, that he had been away on business, had taken a flight from New York, changing planes in Chicago, before returning home. He did not visit Big Chappies while there. He did, as did all of the other victims, have what was determined to be a puncture wound, on his right buttock.
Investigators discovered that the flight he was on had originated in South America. The Civilian Aeronautics Board (CAB) ordered an immediate inspection of the toilets of all flights from South America, and discovered the Blush spider's nests on 4 different planes!
It is now believed that these spiders can be anywhere in the country. Please, before you use a public toilet, lift the seat to check for spiders.
It can save your life! And please pass this on to everyone you care about
Officer Sylvia Steele
Texas A&M International University
5201 University Blvd.
Laredo, Tx 78041-1999
There are a few clues that something isn't right here, especially now, in the post-9/11 world.
- Where's the news? With stories of people trying to blow up airplanes by lighting their shoes on fire or individuals being routinely searched for such terrible weapons as a nail clipper, does it make any sense that three women could be killed by spiders on an airplane without each of us knowing of it?
- There's no JUMA: Do a search on the net for the Journal of the United Medical Association, and you'll come up empty. Well, that's not quite true -- you will find plenty of hoax sites explaining that a) this is a hoax and b) that journal doesn't exist.
- There's no such thing as a South American Blush Spider: Do a Google search on the "South American Blush Spider" and you'll find plenty of entries for this dangerous spider ... all of which will tell you it doesn't exist.
But hey, I'm just a geek who happens to like debunking hoaxes. So why take my word for it when you can go to the source: spider experts. The Department of Entomology at the University of California-Riverside, which so nicely debunked the "Spider Eggs in Braids" hoax for me, has a page dedicated to this hoax. It does an excellent job of debunking the science side of things.
For more debunkings, check out these sites: