Pest Control Experts Set it Straight: We Do Not Eat Spiders in Our Sleep

Monday, December 7, 2015

You may well have heard this idea being thrown around all over the place: apparently we unwittingly swallow a steady diet of spiders in our sleep. As our mouths loll open, passing arachnids find themselves strangely compelled to crawl in, where we cheerfully gulp them down without knowing. Makes you shudder doesn’t it? Well before you start wearing a surgical mask to bed, you’ll be pleased to hear that this is just an urban legend.

Over the past few years, the idea has been trotted out all over the internet and beyond. Some sources say the average is seven in an entire lifetime, while others insist it’s eight in a single year. Even the lowest estimates are significantly higher than the true figure – zero.

Although it apparently stretches back further, most of this urban legend’s spread is a product of the internet age. A very deliberate product, as it happens – it was put online specifically to show how quickly false information could spread on the internet. Way back in 1993, when the web was young, a PC Professional columnist named Lisa Holst wrote an article about how many false facts where circulating on the internet. To prove how readily they were believed and passed on, she deliberately put out a load of made-up trivia and watched it spread. One of these was the spider myth, taken from an old 1950s book of bug-based folklore. Appropriately, the spiders thrived on the web, and she found it took off much faster than even she had expected. It became one of the most widely-quoted urban legends on the whole internet, and spread offline to appear in books of trivia and even national newspapers.