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Issue 107 - October 2010 - Page 13

Pages in this month's issue:
  1. UK Pensioners v Asylum Seekers Protest Message
  2. Fake LinkedIn Invitation Emails Point to Malware
  3. Travel Warning - Khas Khas (Poppy Seed) Imprisonment in UAE
  4. Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling Avowed Satanist Hoax
  5. Bogus Microsoft Critical Upgrade Notification Email
  6. Moon Split Miracle Chain Letter
  7. Death From Poisoned Rhino Horn Rumour
  8. Gang Initiation Warning Hoax - Infant Car Seat Left On Roadside
  9. Collapse Of 13 Story Building in China
  10. Rebirth Of The Eagle Hoax
  11. Facebook Virus Using Your Pictures Warning
  12. Kleneus66 Virus Hoax
  13. Spider Under Florida Toilet Seat Hoax
  14. Facebook Hacked 'BBC News Team' Warning Message

Issue 107 Start Menu

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Spider Under Florida Toilet Seat Hoax

Outline
Email claims that people have died after being bitten by a spider hiding under a restaurant toilet seat in Florida.



Brief Analysis
The claims in the message have no basis in fact. The message is just one version of a hoax that has been circulating since 1999. There have been no reports of deaths from spiders lurking in restaurant restrooms in Florida or anywhere else in the United States. The claim that venomous spiders have been discovered in the toilets on passenger aircraft travelling from India or elsewhere is untrue.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 21st September 2010
First published: 21st April 2004
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: Killer spiders

IMPORTANT INFORMATION (also inform your friends without emails!!!)
An article by Dr. Beverly Clark, in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA), the mystery behind a recent spate of deaths has been solved. If you haven't already heard about it in the news, here is what happened.

Three women in North Florida 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 (Olive Garden) 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 doctors 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 Two-Striped Telamonia (Telamonia dimidiata), 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 Jacksonville 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 Indonesia , changing planes in Singapore , before returning home.! He did NOT visit (Olive Garden), 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 India .

The Civilian Aeronautics Board (CAB) ordered an immediate inspection of the toilets of all flights from India and discovered the Two-Striped Telamonia (Telamonia dimidiata) spider's nests on 4 different planes!

It is now believed that these spiders can be anywhere in the world .

So please, before you use a public toilet, lift the seat to check for spiders. It can save your life!

Toilet Spider Image

Kindly pass this on to everyone you care about.




Detailed Analysis
This hoax message claims that three women in Florida have died after being bitten by a venomous spider that was hiding under a restaurant toilet seat. According to the email, the spiders were found in the toilets of several aircraft originating out of India and could be now "anywhere in the country".

However, the claims in the message are untrue. In fact, the message is just one version of a hoax that has been circulating since 1999. There have been no reports of deaths from spiders lurking in restaurant restrooms in Florida or anywhere else in the United States. And the claim that venomous spiders have been discovered in the toilets on passenger aircraft travelling from India or elsewhere is also totally unfounded. The Two-Striped Telamonia is a real spider that is native to Singapore, India, Bhutan, and Indonesia, but there are no reports of its bite causing illness or death in humans and it is generally considered harmless by spider experts. Given that many species are inadvertently transported out of their natural habitats by human activity, the spider may well be now found in other parts of the world as well. Perhaps, some of these spiders have even stowed away on aircraft from time to time, but this gives no credibility whatsoever to the claims in the message.

While the origin of many hoaxes is unclear, in this case the history of the hoax is well documented. This version of the hoax grew out of an earlier version (see example below) that featured an imaginary spider called Arachnius gluteus that supposedly came from South America and killed several women in Chicago. Spider expert Rick Vetter made contact with the person who actually created the original version of the hoax. In an article published on the University of California website, and in the printed publication Oh, what a tangled web we weave: the anatomy of an internet spider hoax, he notes:
The creator of the hoax contacted me and we have since kept in touch. The hoax was purposely filled with incorrect information such that if the reader checked into any bit of the information, a red flag would arise because there would be no credibility to the citation of information (no medical journal with that name, there is no spider named Arachnius, there is no Blare Airport, etc.) He wrote the hoax to show that 1) people are gullible, 2) that the internet is a frighteningly fast way to spread misinformation, 3) that people forward on information without checking the veracity of the information. He never expected this to spread so quickly and so widely.

Reference:
Vetter, R. S. and P. K. Visscher. 2000. Oh, what a tangled web we weave: the anatomy of an internet spider hoax. Amer. Entomol. 46: 221-223.


The person responsible for the hoax has certainly proved his point. More than a decade after its creation, versions of the hoax are still circulating. Bogus warnings such as this do nothing more than spread misinformation and cause unnecessary fear and alarm within communities. If you receive one of these hoax emails, be sure to let the sender know that the information in the message is untrue and do not forward it to others.

All that said, stories of people suffering spider bites whilst on the toilet are not all untrue. In Australia, venomous Redback spiders have been known to haunt outside bush toilets and, indeed, some poor individuals have been bitten in rather inappropriate areas of their anatomy. There is even a funny song about this called, "The Red-back on the Toilet Seat", which goes in part:

There was a Red-Back on the Toilet seat
When I was there last night
I didn't see it in the dark
But, boy, I felt it's bite


While untreated bites from Redback Spiders can be very painful and can cause serious illness or even death, an antivenom is available and no deaths have occurred since its introduction.

The original version:
Please pass this on to everyone on your email list:

According to an article by Dr. Beverly Clark, in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA), the mystery behind a recent spate of deaths has been solved. If you haven't already heard about it in the news, here is what happened.

3 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 doctors 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 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.

So 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.


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References
Vetter, R. S. and P. K. Visscher. 2000. Oh, what a tangled web we weave: the anatomy of an internet spider hoax. Amer. Entomol. 46: 221-223.
The Spider under the Toilet Seat Hoax
Telamonia dimidiata
Redback Spider




Previous Article            Next Article

Issue 107 Start Menu

Pages in this month's issue:
  1. UK Pensioners v Asylum Seekers Protest Message
  2. Fake LinkedIn Invitation Emails Point to Malware
  3. Travel Warning - Khas Khas (Poppy Seed) Imprisonment in UAE
  4. Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling Avowed Satanist Hoax
  5. Bogus Microsoft Critical Upgrade Notification Email
  6. Moon Split Miracle Chain Letter
  7. Death From Poisoned Rhino Horn Rumour
  8. Gang Initiation Warning Hoax - Infant Car Seat Left On Roadside
  9. Collapse Of 13 Story Building in China
  10. Rebirth Of The Eagle Hoax
  11. Facebook Virus Using Your Pictures Warning
  12. Kleneus66 Virus Hoax
  13. Spider Under Florida Toilet Seat Hoax
  14. Facebook Hacked 'BBC News Team' Warning Message