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Angolan Witch Spider – Giant Spider Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on  March 20, 2013

Outline:
Circulating message claims that an attached image depicts a huge “Angolan Witch Spider” photographed on the side of a house in Texas.


Brief Analysis:
Relax! The huge spider shown in the image is fake. The image was created in Photoshop by incorporating a photograph of a normal sized spider into a second photograph of a house wall. The image was created by artist and musician Paul Santa Maria. Paul posted it on his Facebook page just for fun but removed it soon after. By that time, however, the image had escaped into cyberspace and started circulating virally.

Example:
No it is no painting. it’s a new Spider call the Angolan Witch spider. they migrated from South America. they primarily eat dogs and cats In Texas this abnormally large spider was found on the side of this home. It took several gun shots to kill it…. I would literally faint if I saw a spider this BIG.
Angolan Witch Spider Hoax



Detailed Analysis:
This image, which is likely to thrust an icy shard of terror into the hearts of arachnophobics the world over, has been circulating via social media websites and email for several years. The image shows a mind-bogglingly massive spider on the wall of a house. The message that circulates with the image claims that the giant arachnid is an “Angolan Witch Spider”, a new species that has migrated from South America where they primarily feast on dogs and cats. According to the message, the photograph of the spider was taken at a house in Texas, and it took several gunshots before the beastie was finally killed.

However, things are not what they seem. The image is the result of some clever digital manipulation and comprises a photograph of a normal sized spider incorporated into a picture of a house wall. The gigantic wall-spanning spider in the image – thankfully – does not exist. I contacted Paul Santa Maria, the creator of the image to ask how he came to create it and he answered with the following explanation:

Well, the story is that I was sitting outside and saw the Wolf spider – I called him “Vulfie” like Stanzi from the film “Amadeus” – sitting on this grey concrete block, ran inside for my Canon point-and-shoot and nailed him twice. After a minute, the graphic artist who lives in my head said to go around the side of the house and shoot the same angle, cut him out in Photoshop and put him on the side of the house, not too big to be obviously ridiculous but big enough to scare the pants off of people by looking “acceptably” huge.

I did this in about 20 minutes and then uploaded to my Facebook page. Within hours, I got messages from freaked-out women (and the grandson of the woman’s house this was taken at, who was scared shit-less and refusing to come to visit 2 weeks later as he was scheduled to) and the woman begged me to take it down – I was just having fun and not looking for attention or to freak people out, so I removed it after about 9 hours.

 

About 4 weeks ago (1 year later and having practically forgotten it) I started getting these emails (like yours) asking if I did this, because I ALWAYS include my url on the pictures I make. Apparently, one person downloaded it and then shared it on their own page (as opposed to just sharing) … but then it got shared over 25 thousand times before it got back to me!

The image has now been reposted hundreds of thousands of times. The original photographs of the spider used in the image are shown below:

Witch Spider Source 1

Witch Spider Source Close Up

Paul originally called the piece “Sure You Want To Move To Florida?”. It is unclear who wrote the later description identifying the spider as an “Angolan Witch Spider” and relocating the action to Texas.

And to further salve the nerves of any still-quivering arachnophobics, I should point out that even the largest species of spiders on the planet don’t hold a candle to the gigantic Vulfie in the size stakes.

Editors’ Note:
Thank you to Paul Santa Maria for providing the information about the image’s creation and for his kind permission to republish his photographs. Paul is an accomplished artist and musician. You can view his art at ArtOfPencil.com and listen to some of his original music here.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer