Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

ALAN FRISWELL: Scary Spider Stories #2


Forteans have always had a soft spot in their hearts for tabloid newspapers and their Sunday counterparts. These seemingly disrespectable venues for lurid, sensationalist low-brow fodder have often--paradoxically perhaps, and even inadvertently--provided a platform for stories and news items that otherwise would be ignored and abandoned by the ‘classier’ publications who would consider such material beneath them.

Where else could we be afforded the indispensable intelligence that a UFO LANDS IN SUFFOLK, AND THAT’S OFFICIAL, or that FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER, or that the wind-turbine in Lincolnshire was actually laid low by a low-flying mothership from Zeta Reticuli, or wherever…

But on occasion, the lower echelons of Fleet Street print something worthwhile, and even educational. The problem, however, is that I can find nobody--and I mean nobody--who has the slightest recollection of the news story that I am about to relate. Richard F has already posted
much of this information on the CFZ forum, but as the blog site is so popular, I am hoping that somebody out there might also remember this item.

In the 1970’s, my dad would regularly buy a Sunday newspaper. I can’t remember for certain, but I’m pretty sure that it was The News Of The World. On this particular Sunday, my dad had been reading all about the “SEX-CHANGE BISHOP IN PERVY PORNO PARADISE“, when he suddenly handed it to me and said: “How about that then!” I looked at the page that he indicated, and there was a reasonably long story about a group of explorers that had launched an expedition into some previously unknown jungle region. I can’t be 100% sure, but I think it was South America.

They had travelled about a mile into dense, almost inaccessible rainforest, having to literally chop their way through the undergrowth, when one of their number suffered some serious stomach illness--I think it was appendicitis but again, I’m not sure--and the expedition had to
be abandoned. They brought the chap out and got him into hospital, reporting that during their short time in the jungle they had seen previously unclassified creatures such as a species of frog that rolled downhill in order to evade predators, and a gigantic spider. I don’t actually remember if the spider attacked them, but they had killed it-- dismembered it in fact--with a machete.

Fortunately, they had taken pictures of the spider’s corpse which, although in pieces, had been ‘reassembled’ for the photo to give some approximation of it’s original form. They had placed a matchbox next to the remains to give a sense of scale, and the spider’s legs must have been at least a foot long, giving the living creature a leg span of well over two feet with the abdomen and cephalothorax in between.

I have attempted to recreate the image as well as I can with Photoshop. It’s not exact--how can it be--but I think that it’s pretty close.

So does anyone out there remember this? Did I actually see it? Or was it the bilious imaginings of a pre-teen who’d seen King Kong once too often? But seriously, it must be in a archive somewhere, or surely someone else has some record of the expedition, so now it’s over to


Tabitca said...

oops may have left this in wrong place. This was the Bashford-Sneel expedition that fits your description

Tabitca said...

that should be John Blashford Snell
I think. sorry tired today after travelling to the Big cat Conference yesterday.Which was an interesting day and thoroughly enjoyable.
Back to the plot:
It was an overland expedition in Central/ South America and it talks of spiders the size of dinner plates.

dinosaurman said...

Hi Tabitca.
Richard Freeman kindly sent me the details of the Blashford-Snell expedition, and it does sound very similar, particularly the chap with appendicitis.
The real clincher, would be to find the photo of the dismembered spider.

Charlie said...

Theraphosa leblondi, the "Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula", is indigenous to South America and can have a leg span of over 12" with a body length around 5". Given a bit of creative license by the tabloid it could certainly fit your story: fortunately they're relatively harmless to humans.