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J'ba Fofi - Giant Spiders in the Congo

Spiders are fascinating creatures. They act like nature's pest control, but can inflict grievous harm to much larger creatures. Luckily for us, spiders rarely grow to sizes larger than the average palm – and that's on the extreme side.

But what if there were much bigger spiders out there. Arachnids the size of big dogs with a leg span of 6 feet (1.83 m). That's exactly what the Baka people of the Northern Republic of the Congo claim lives in the jungle.

Hello Nightmare Reality

Imagine this. You are a small mammal wandering through the jungle. Life in the jungle is dangerous, and you are always on the lookout for snakes and predatory mammals. So far so good.

Suddenly your leg hits what feels like a sticky vine. The vine trembles, and you have just enough time to regard the strange white vine before the ground next to you explodes. What you assumed was a pile of dead leaves at the foot of a big tree was actually the trapdoor to a true demon.

The darkness rushes at you in a flurry of legs and massive fangs. Before the idea of a spider can form in your mind, you are engulfed in webbing. Those fangs pierce your body over and over again. Venom fills your body.

That's how the J'ba Fofi, or Congolese Giant Spider, is said to hunt.

History of Documented Sightings

The first Westerner to witness the J'ba Fofi was an English missionary, Arthur John Simes. Regardless of your feelings concerning missionary work, A.J. Simes met an end more horrific than any other in the 1890s.

Arthur Simes was trekking through the jungle near Lake Nyasa. He and his men had been warned about the spiders, but they paid the warnings no mind. Pish posh, is what I imagine he said.

Suddenly his men got tangled in a thick web. While Arthur and the others tried extricating their comrades, a pair of ludicrously large spiders rushed out of the foliage. Some missionaries were killed, and Arthur himself was badly bitten. He produced his pistol, and gave the spider a meal of lead.

Arthur John Simes managed to escape the encounter with what was left of his men. The spiders, who were clearly against converting to Christianity, retreated for a while before returning to consume the fallen missionaries.

Simes made it to a nearby village. He was badly swollen around the wound and a fever set in. Arthur recorded the incident before he grew delirious with fever and slipped into a coma. He had preached his last gospel.

George M. Eberhart wrote in one of his Cryptozoological books about an encounter in 1938. He relates the tale of an English couple driving through the Congo at night. Their way is suddenly blocked by a large animal, which they at first assume to be a monkey. Soon enough the shape is illuminated by the car's headlights. To their horror they stood facing a child-sized spider.

The naturalist, William J. Gibbons, wrote this about the J'ba Fofi:

“On this third expedition to Equatorial Africa, I took the opportunity to inquire if the pygmies knew of such a giant spider, and indeed they did! They speak of the Jba Fofi, which is a “giant” or “great spider.” They described a spider that is generally brown in color with a purple mark on the abdomen. They grow to quite an enormous size with a leg span of at least five feet. The giant arachnids weave together a lair made of leaves similar in shape to a traditional pygmy hut, and spin a circular web (said to be very strong) between two trees with a strand stretched across a game trail.”
“These giant ground-dwelling spiders prey on the diminutive forest antelope, birds, and other small game, and are said to be extremely dangerous, not to mention highly venomous,” Gibbons states. “The spiders are said to lay white, peanut-sized eggs in a cluster, and the pygmies give them a wide berth when encountered, but have killed them in the past. The giant spiders were once very common but are now a rare sight.”

The rarity of these creatures is a blessing. Officially the largest species of spider is the Goliath Birdeater with a leg span of up to 12 inches (30.48 cm). That's still too big for me, but nowhere near the reported size of the J'ba Fofi.



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