Recycled email hoax warns of the Two-Striped Telamonia spider (Telamonia dimidiata), purportedly a poisonous species from Indonesia that hides under toilet seats and is responsible for the deaths of five people in N. Florida.
Description: Internet hoax
Circulating since: Oct. 2002 (this version)
Status: FALSE (see details below)
Email contributed by Brandy, Oct. 23, 2002:
Subject: FW: Spider warning
WARNING: From the University of North Florida
An article by Dr. Beverly Clark, in the Journal of the United Medical Association (JUMA), the mystery behind a recent spate of deaths has been solved. If you haven't already heard about it in the news, here is what happened.
Three women in North Florida, turned up at hospitals over a 5-day period, all with the same symptoms. Fever, chills, and vomiting, followed by muscular collapse, paralysis, and finally, death. There were no outward signs of trauma. Autopsy results showed toxicity in the blood. These women did not know each other, and seemed to have nothing in common.
It was discovered, however, that they had all visited the same restaurant (Olive Garden) within days of their deaths. The health department descended on the restaurant, shutting it down. The food, water,and air conditioning were all inspected and tested, to no avail.
The big break came when a waitress at the restaurant was rushed to the hospital with similar symptoms. She told doctors that she had been on vacation, and had only went to the restaurant to pick up her check. She did not eat or drink while she was there, but had used the restroom.
That is when one toxicologist, remembering an article he had read, drove out to the restaurant, went into the restroom, and lifted the toilet seat. Under the seat, out of normal view, was a small spider. The spider was captured and brought back to the lab, where it was determined to be the Two-Striped Telamonia (Telamonia dimidiata), so named because of its reddened flesh color. This spider's venom is extremely toxic, but can take several days to take effect. They live in cold, dark, damp, climates, and toilet rims provide just the right atmosphere.
Several days later a lawyer from Jacksonville showed up at a hospital emergency room. Before his death, he told the doctor, that he had been away on business, had taken a flight from Indonesia, changing planes in Singapore, before returning home. He did not visit(Olive Garden), while there. He did, as did all of the other victims, have what was determined to be a puncture wound, on his right buttock.
Investigators discovered that the flight he was on had originated in India. The Civilian Aeronautics Board (CAB) ordered an immediate inspection of the toilets of all flights from India, and discovered the Two-Striped Telamonia (Telamonia dimidiata) spider's nests on 4 different planes! It is now believed that these spiders can be anywhere in the country. So please, before you use a public toilet, lift the seat to check for spiders.
It can save your life! And please pass this on to everyone you care about
Analysis: Good grief! When we first encountered this hoax back in 1999, the forwarded message warned of a dubious pest called Arachnius gluteus -- literally, "butt spider." Written with satirical intent, the text contained so many clues to its own falsehood that most readers were able to instantly recognize it as a joke.
Now some anonymous person has rewritten the thing, adding some authentic-sounding details — for example, the name of an actual spider species, the Two-Striped Telamonia — while removing some of the tongue-in-cheek elements that originally tipped off readers that it was satire, effectively reviving an ancient (by Internet standards) hoax.