I found a spider in my bathroom sink this morning. I swished it down the drain with some water and then waited for it to climb back up through the drain. It never returned. I wondered why I don’t like spiders. They are, after all, no worse than roaches–are actually better than roaches. They eat roaches and other creepy crawlies. My house is old; the spiders have been colonizing here for quite some time. They might even have more right to be here than I do. Why was I so ready to smash a tiny spider’s body against the porcelain in my sink if it dared to swim back up from my intended watery execution?
As I later strolled through the neighborhood, I spotted humongous black spiders hanging from gargantuan webs woven into hedges and porch railings. The horrors of Halloween. I’m not afraid of those. They represent that which we deem scary, horror-inducing, eek-worthy and other things that just plain freak us out, made large for our holiday enjoyment. Among the witches, skeletons, ghosts, monsters and ghoulies, spiders seem the least terrifying. Not one of these decorations looked like a black widow or a brown recluse or one of the many other species of poisonous spiders lurking in our basements. Sadly, we tend to lump them all into this category and smush them with adrenaline-induced vigor when they dare to occupy our living spaces. I too am guilty of homeowner injustice when it comes to these multi-legged creatures. I presume them all guilty of lethal intent–or at least, of having the potential to take me down.
Honestly though, there are worse bugs in the world than spiders (who look scary but most won’t hurt you). Blister beetles, for instance could kill you if you eat enough of them. Hopefully, you won’t. Fire ants are a swarming type that, if you step on their home, will treat you much the same as you treat their brethren– with attempted homicide. Then there is the assassin caterpillar with it’s nasty toxin, which could make you sick or die, or both. And talking about sick: ticks, fleas, tse tse flies and mosquitos kill many more people than spiders, as they are notorious disease vectors. Many a historic plague relied on some of these little fellas to take out swaths of humanity. Why do we not see gigantic squads of tse tse flies swarming the best-in-neighborhood decorated homes? I think it’s because we don’t really know what a tse tse fly looks like. We encounter only a few mosquitos at a time and have flea treatments for our pets to keep the population of these aggressive bugs at bay. So, they don’t seem nearly as threatening as the possibility that the spider in your sink is out to get you.
Bats also have a bad reputation. Somebody somewhere decided to link bats with vampires. Our folklore created a villain with a disguise and a hidey hole. Bats were the perfect camouflage as they are also creatures with dark hideaways. They only come out from their caves or belfries at night–much like the vampire. They have fangs and hang out in the dark during the day. I don’t know how they feel about crucifixes or garlic. Or mirrors. But, how delightfully creepy that vampires disguise themselves as ordinary animals with similar characteristics. We all know there is no such thing as a vampire (except metaphorically), yet we continue to hold onto our fear of bats. They could give you rabies, I guess, so don’t try to pick one up. You can pick up a veritable vampire-like human in most seedy bars or other dark haunts. It’s not your blood they’re after. Bats, by comparison, don’t deserve the same reputation. I’ve seen evidence of a bat renaissance lately, which makes me happy. We might want to watch the awesomeness as they emerge enmasse from a cave instead of using them as Halloween decorations. They also eat disease-carrying bugs.
I believe bats and spiders are scary to us because they represent the worst in ourselves. Spider types spin webs in which we become entangled and eventually, sacrificed for their needs. Bat types hide their innate fiendishness by showing themselves as other than what they really are. They are enriched by sucking the “life blood” out of their victims. Both are represented in modern culture. What are you really afraid of? Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers? Or is IT Pennywise the clown? Or any other fictitious villain with a human-like visage? Can evil exist as a thing in itself? Or is it part of the human condition? Hell, I don’t know.
I intend to celebrate Halloween by watching The Haunting (1963) for the umpteenth time. Author of the book (The Haunting of Hill House) Shirley Jackson knew what kind of stuff is scary. And not a bat or spider in sight. I’ll sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch the walls bend in a place nobody ever wants to stay. I may jump when the doorbell rings. All benign Disney and charming anime characters are welcome to our Halloween treats.
We’ve got Snickers!