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Okay, boys and girls, here's the sitch...

I'm hacking around in a place called Churchill -- which is a little town about three hours southeast of Melbourn, Australian in what could arguably be called the literal middle of nowhere -- with my fav person in the world, Christine Healey, when she went outside to check on something in the carport. She came back inside excitedly, looking for a really big jar.

She smiled and said, "I got somethin' for ya," winked, and then ran back outside.

She came back in and handed me the jar. It wasn't empty. In fact, it was filled with a monster.

<center>

A baby Australian Wolf Spider</center>


My first impulse was to drop it and run for a can of good old-fashioned Raid. Inside was an Australian Wolf Spider. Wolf spiders are found all around the world, and we do, of course, have them in the United States. But the biggest American Wolf Spider is nowhere near the size of this thing.

But that didn't freak me out as much as what Christine said next. She leaned close and whispered, "This one is only a baby."

It was a baby, just beyond the stage of hatchling. It probably only recently had crawled off its mother's back, which is how Wolf Spider's carry their hatchlings until they're old enough to hunt on their own. The full-grown adult would be nearly as big as my hand.

And it isn't even as big as a Huntsman.

In the states, it isn't unusual to to find a grass spider of some kind sitting on the wall beneath a calendar. Finding one is a startling freak out every time, even though they're no bigger than your thumbnail. Well, the Huntsman is the equivelent of an American grass spider, the only difference being that it's the size of a Tarantula. Christine told me of a time she was moving a calendar on the wall only to have one of these things crawl out from between a couple of the pages.

She thought it was incredibly funny. Such a thing would have had me leaping out a window. But then I was a stranger in a strange land.

While the Huntsman isn't particularly dangerous, and the Wolf Spider's kiss isn't lethal, the Aussie's do have some nightmarish aracnids that would, in typical horror-movie fashion, have you running for the national guard. One such beastie is called the Tunnelweb Spider. It lives around Sydney, it's bigger than an American Tarantula, it has really big fangs and it's poison is so toxic that it makes Black Widow venom seem like itching power. The upshot is that if one bites you, you have about enough time left to say ouch before keeling over in convulsions and winding up deader that crap the next day. The Aussie's have only recently developed an anti-toxin for this monster's kiss, and you'd better pray that which ever paramidic you call has some if you're bitten unless you think you might be good at playing a harp.

Another little critter you wouldn't want to find hiding in your shoe is called the Whitetail. This one isn't as big as the Wolf Spider Christine presented to me in the jar, and it is identifable by a whitish tip on its abdomin. It's claim to fame is that its bite melts flesh away, much the same as a Californian Brown Recluse Spider's kiss will do.

I've had first-hand experience with a Recluse. I have a scar on my right calf the size of a .38 calibre bullet wound from a Brown Recluse bit. The tiny spider secretes an enzyme that dissolves flesh. It ate a hole in my leg that would have eventually consumed most of my calf had a doctor not treated it quickly.

While the Whitetail does the same thing, it does three times the damage in a third of the time.

Which means that if one of them did get into your shoe and bit you between your toes, you'd only have a couple of days before people were calling you "Peg."

While the giant, deadly spider is a staple of drive-in horror flicks like Eight-Legged Freaks, Aracnaphobia and the all-time 50's classic, Tarantula, and the spider itself is a readily identifiable symbol of Halloween as recognizable as bats, black cats and broomsticks, the Aussies don't widely celebrate Halloween at all.
In fact, you won't even find Halloween on an Aussie calendar.

Last year Christine, who is involved with local groups such as the Churchill Girl Guides (sort of like the American Girl Scouts) and the Lynx Trefoil Guild, decorated her home in ghoulish fashion and hosted a Halloween haunt for all the local kids. While she said that the children loved it, all her adult neighbors literally snubbed the event, looking down their noses in shock and dismay.

"Halloween," they said, with a distinctive, nationalistic nose in the air, "is an American holiday!"

And although Halloween is an Irish tradition that only bloomed and flowered in America, perhaps the Aussies are right.

Nonetheless, I for one -- particularly while holding that jar and the monster it contained -- couldn't understand the attitude. Given the circumstances, the Aussies ought to embrace the holiday rather than disdain it.

I mean, where else can you throw a Halloween bash and have the decorations crawl to You?
 

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It's actually called the funnelweb spider and I saw a special on it on National Geographic. Not only is it dangerously poisonous, I couldn't believe how agressive it is. It doesn't seem to shy away from larger creatures like most spiders. I'm glad it's on the other side of the world!!!
 

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Big round of applause for Christine!

Sadly (?) we get nothing of the kind in the UK - the nearest we get are about the same size as your thumb - boo!

Regards,

Rich.

Don't laugh, yes I am British! (and proud of it now!)
 

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Spiders are somewhat seasonal here. They aren't to be found at all for most of the year, but there will be a few weeks when they run wild.
The film crew from the Home and Garden network filming a show called "Extreme Homes" were in my wine cellar when it was "Spider-week" , they caught two of them on-camera crawling across the wine cellar ceiling(If only I could figure out how to do this!?)
They put the camera on the floor looking up at it and wanted me in the shot(for scale?) I pointed up at it (ceiling's 12 feet high)) and with the film rolling I said, "Spiders never hurt anybody." Then I grab my neck and scream! (but I turned laughing to the camera too soon to leave it as being something possibly scary.)
The big spiders of the wine cellar , if you stretched out their legs would be about 4 1/2 inches as a circle, with a main body about the size of my thumb. As with most spiders this big, they don't bother with spinning webs, they just run-down their prey, "Gotcha!"
As far as what kind they are, ? They have brown and yellowish stripes in their furry-ness, so I don't really know, oh, wait, one of them dropped his business card,...it says "Zeurplghkuutds!"

"My Insanity is well-respected, until they wiggle free and become a stringer for a tabloid"
 

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Discussion Starter #7
While we're on the subject of spiders, I just found a spider prop for next Halloween that would even put the creepy-crawly nasties from down under to shame! I was wandering through this gift shop on the Redondo Beach pier when I chanced on a rack of furry, cute, animal hand puppets. Stuffed between a pig puppet and a teddy bear, however was a bulbous black spider puppet made of fake fur with six-inch black leather legs. The body is attached to a glove with the long spider legs attached to the fingers. Just moving your hand makes this thing a holy terror to watch! I can hardly wait to try this out on my ever-faithful Shipwreck victims come next October. In case anybody is interested in it, I'm not sure where it might be available, but the manufacturer is Folkmanis, Inc. of Emeryville, CA 94608. All I know is that it's a very cool prop, and I won't have to keep it in a jar!


<center>Here is the spider puppet, obviously eager to get on the web</center>
 
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