I grew up in a house where spiders also lived. We were outnumbered by the eight-legged inhabitants, but mostly we adhered to a “don’t bite, don’t kill” policy in and everyone coexisted in the way humankind has been co-existing with house spiders since at least the time of the Roman empire.
If a spider drifted across no man’s land and ended up in the bathtub well, then, the spider had to suffer the consequences and was quickly washed down the drain, or scooped up in a wad of toilet tissue and flushed.
I learned early you had to sort of pinch the wad of tissue if you didn’t want the spider crawling out of its paper prison and looking up at you with its eight beady eyes.
I don’t remember who was the designated spider-killer in my house. My father was a combat veteran who’d grown up on a farm, my mother was the product of a Depression childhood. Both were tough, unsentimental, and fearless. We also had a cat that saw bugs as wonderfully interactive toys. With my parents and the cat on the case, an errant spider didn’t have much of a chance.
But despite everything, some spiders still skittered their way into my little sister’s room. She was irrationally afraid of spiders, phobic in a way that was easy to exploit—Stay out of my closet, there are spiders in there—but hard to soothe. The spider’s dead. I killed it. Really.
Somehow when there was a spider in my sister’s room, I was always the only other person who was home, so if there was spider killing to be done, it was my job.
I didn’t embrace the role of spider-bane but I didn’t shrink from it either.
I discovered that a spider’s blood is blue.
I thought that was fascinating.
I found myself wishing we could dissect a spider in biology. I’d read that spiders have hearts, things that look like tubes that only push the blood one way. I imagined something like those little pliable tubes you use to remove the skins from garlic cloves.
I thought eviscerating a spider would be much more interesting than dissecting the cow’s eye we were given in freshman biology. And a lot less icky. (And don’t get me started on the fetal cat corpse we were presented with later in the year.)
But spiders…I am fascinated by spiders. In the short story I’m publishing on Halloween, “Unsanctified,” I have created a group called “The Sisterhood of the Red Spider.” As you can imagine, they are a group to be reckoned with. And to lend the story some paranormal plausibility, I did a fair amount of research on spiders. I knew that in some cultures—Native American and African, for instance—revere the spider as a symbol of wisdom but I was curious to see how other cultures had viewed the spider throughout history.
But I kept getting distracted by articles like this one on Three ways to draw a spider web from WikiHhow,