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Shelob and I

September 29th, 2008 by Mike Nelson · 77 Comments

orb weaver spider 123101It’s orb weaver season here in San Diego, the time when spiders the size of Brazil nuts construct giant webs on everything that isn’t nailed down. Seeing one outside my bedroom window this morning, brought back shudder-inducing memories of last year’s horrifying encounter: while fixated on a dead spot in our lawn I plowed full into the freshly made web of the largest arachnid I have ever seen, dead center, my face pulling it cleanly from its moorings on all sides. My entire head was encased in the web and the spider was trapped against my nose. My shrieking was as girlish and undignified as you might imagine (my family assumed I was being repeatedly stabbed with a hat pin).

I can only guess that the spider was no more comfortable with the arrangement than I was, so as quickly as I could (that being 15 seconds or so, a lifetime where giant spiders on the nose are concerned) I peeled it off and began an arduous four hours or so of shaking my arms, jumping up and down and saying, “Agghhhhh. Ew. Bbrrr. Aggghhh.”

Later that evening (I swear this is true, I would not lie to you), I was snacking on some canned shiitake mushrooms when I was taken aback by an odd texture and pulled from my mouth a huge dead preserved spider that had hitched a ride in the can.

It was fully three days before I was able to sleep.

Tags: RiffTrax

77 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Slade Rockfist on Sep 29, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    My reaction to all this is horror…..but nice LOTR reference anyway….

  • 2 ZachDaniel on Sep 29, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    And … have you eaten a mushroom since?

    I wouldn’t.

  • 3 MonkeyCheezPants on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    That is the most revolting thing I have ever heard.

    Canned mushrooms? Ewwww.

  • 4 Tim on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I’m just surprised you didn’t spray a stream of partially-masticated shiitake mushrooms in an impressively-wide radius around the room.

  • 5 Erik at RiffTrax on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Spiders on your nose? Chewing on preserved arachnids?

    Comedy gold, I tells ya!

  • 6 Charlie W on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    oh mike you poor bastard. I hope your next year is relatively spider free and any spiders you DO face are no bigger than your big toe.

  • 7 Anthony on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    I’m arachnaphobic, and this has has left me with an unrelenting terror.

  • 8 MST3Kelly on Sep 29, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Mike, you got the lucky can! the equivalent of finding the plastic baby in a Mardi Gras cake.

    we have those spiders in our yard as well. I’ve learned to whap a broom through open spaces between trees, the gap in the hedge, etc. before passing through them to clear their webs. these stretch invisibly through surprisingly vast spans of open space. I too experienced the joy of finding a grape-sized spider on the back of my neck; its legs had long, sharp spikes on them as well. I am still amazed at the spasmodic flailings my body spontaneously engaged in to dislodge the arachnid. it was pure instinct. I thought my arms were going to leave their sockets!

    ‘I’m gonna squish your shoe under ME!’

  • 9 Gamera on Sep 29, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    What an awful story! You’re among friends now Mike.
    Breathe. Calm.

  • 10 Robyn on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Oh my God, Mike, shortly after reading this, I noticed a giant spider outside MY bedroom window. I think it might actually BE an orb weaver. I am currently resisting the urge to check Google to make sure. My only comfort is that with it’s size, the only possible way it might get into the house is if someone leaves the door wide open for it. Because it’s so dang BIG. Guh.

  • 11 Eeliza on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Ah, surprising spiders in unfortunate and unexpected places…good old fashioned nightmare fuel.

  • 12 Stacia on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I am horrified. Thank you.

    Around here in the late summer we get frog-eating spiders. Yes, these are spiders big enough to eat those cute little 1- to 2-inch long frogs. It’s disgusting.

  • 13 Rob T Firefly on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Look on the bright side. Had the spider bitten you, Bonesaw would surely have been ready.

  • 14 Robster on Sep 30, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Here in the UK, we get these cute little fellers running around our houses in September. The rest of time they just hide in basements. Waiting.

  • 15 justhesh on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:25 am



    I hate you so much right now!

  • 16 Natureboy (Ken) on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Bah! Mike, you big puss. At least you didn’t have the incredible joy of having a 9 foot Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake trucking across your front yard like I enjoyed this morning.

  • 17 Anthony's Wife on Sep 30, 2008 at 3:05 am

    This made me cry at the thought. Couldn’t get it out of my head. WHY MIKE!? WHYYYYY!? KEEP YOUR HELL-WRENCHED HORRORS TO YOURSELF!

  • 18 NavarezElectro on Sep 30, 2008 at 3:40 am

    While I have always wanted to visit Australia, I would never want to encounter one of these things, which can measure two inches long in the body. Like many other Aussie creatures, they are armed with a quite nasty venom. They seek out water, and will lurk at the bottom of swimming pools for hours [!] and are prone to aggression.

  • 19 ZB on Sep 30, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Bleh! Spiders! BLEH! We hates them!

    Here in northern Minnesota, we get armyworms. We haven’t seen them for a few years, so we’re due for a doozy showing soon. Nothing like a nice, soft, black, squirming blanket of love covering your entire house, driveway, dog, children etc.

    Some guy makes wine out of them. WINE! If only we could make wine from all our enemies…

  • 20 Auntie Maim on Sep 30, 2008 at 4:07 am

    Two words for you, Mike: Arachnoleptic fit.

    (and for those non-arachnophobes, try out!)

  • 21 Fifty "Percent" Kreiger on Sep 30, 2008 at 4:13 am

    I thought i’d seen some giant spiders earlier, but I had just been “hittin’ the booze” again.

  • 22 Ben on Sep 30, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Shiver me timbers, Mike. I think that is one scary future campfire story. My wife, who laughs at the goriest scary movies, would be crying in a fetal position if I shared those stories with her. She is terrified of even the smallest spiders. I hate them too, but I am not too squeamish to squish them for her.

  • 23 Auntie Maim on Sep 30, 2008 at 4:56 am

    I lived down on the Gulf Coast for several years, where I became acquainted with what they call banana spiders. Huge…no, HEEYOOJE. Legs that go forever. Bright yellow with black highlights, just daring anything to go near them.

    One spun a web between ours & the neighbor’s houses….that were a good THIRTY FEET APART!! I walked under it once before I saw it. Thank the FSM I’m only 5′2″. *shiverrrrrr*

  • 24 Mystok on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:09 am

    No references to giant spiders putting people up its butt in the comments?! Come on people, you are slacking.

    Yeah, those spiders increase in size by ten fold when you run into their webs and they light on your face.

    Egggg, I need a shower.

  • 25 Montagthemagician on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:19 am

    Great. I barely got any sleep last night after waking up from a nightmare about spiders covering the floor around my bed and now you go and tell me this true life nightmare. I will never sleep again and it is all your fault.

  • 26 kerry on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:26 am

    thank you for the most horrible mental image. an image that will probably return to me tonight at around 2am.

  • 27 blablover5 on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:32 am

    I suspect that spiders are building up their ranks in anticipation of some sort of takeover (maybe they’re seen Starship Troopers one too many times).

    Our apartment has become infested with them. Generally I just let them go as they’ll eat all the other annoying bugs but my fiance recently found one two inches long hiding in his shoe.

    The spider movement probably needed to hitch a ride to the grocery store to build up supplies for their underground bunkers but that was one little militia arachnid that didn’t make it.

  • 28 LDT on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:32 am

    a giant spider invasion?

  • 29 Invisible Cracker Mom on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Thirty feet? Yikes!
    I just looked up ‘Banana Spider’ and- [shudder]- they resemble some kind of ancient super-arthropod lurking in the dark depths of the Amazon Basin.
    That’s it: I’m taking a 45 minute shower.

    This would have been a good thread for Halloween.

  • 30 Harry Mygalomorph on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:59 am

    Hey, you big pink pansy I was minding my own damned business. I know you only have 1/4 of the eyes we do but c’mon, look where you’re goin’ Sasquatch.

  • 31 MSTJedi on Sep 30, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Hmm . . . no spider invasion in my yard. Yet. Crickets, however . . . Good lord, what is the deal with those things?

  • 32 AAlgar on Sep 30, 2008 at 6:41 am

    And yet, if a Spider-Man 4 gets made, chances are you guys will mock it, despite this crystal clear warning from the arachnoids 18-49 demographic.

    Also: am I the only one disappointed that this didn’t involve Tony Shaloub in some capacity?

  • 33 Karen Han on Sep 30, 2008 at 6:43 am

    some things are better left unsaid. like palm licking. gross!

  • 34 Conor Lastowka on Sep 30, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Evidently there are two separate sniglets to describe this action

    Arachnidiot (ar ak ni’ di ot) – n. A person, who, having wandered into an “invisible” spider web, begins gyrating and flailing about wildly.

    Arachnoleptic fit n. The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

    This is the guy that built webs directly on the entrance to our porch three days in a row. It was pretty neat, but the web looked like it was designed only to catch someone who had wandered outside half asleep in their bathrobe. Is that an orb weaver?

  • 35 Conor Lastowka on Sep 30, 2008 at 7:53 am


  • 36 Onil on Sep 30, 2008 at 8:17 am

    There, there, Mike. It’s all better now. Have some bacon to wash out the taste of preserved mushroom spider out of your mouth.

  • 37 Clint on Sep 30, 2008 at 8:46 am

    The only thing that grossed me out in this story were the canned mushrooms.

  • 38 Kat on Sep 30, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Yeah. Living in SD as well and I’m having the same problem. Used to go for night walks, but no longer durring spider season. *shivvvvvver*


  • 39 Botch on Sep 30, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Thats pretty much how i would have reacted. I did the same thing running face first into a web. I ended up throwing my keys into the yard. didn’t find them for a couple days.

  • 40 Krud on Sep 30, 2008 at 9:17 am

    To borrow a quote from Strong Bad: “Argh, jibbly, jibbly, jibbly…”


    Wait, you mean your bedroom windows aren’t nailed down?

  • 41 Krud on Sep 30, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Oops, forgot one thing in my comment above:

    What’s embarrassing is when you encounter one of these webs, but people nearby don’t see the web; they just see you suddenly spazzing out.

    At least you had the spider there as proof. (Not that a visible excuse is worth a face full of arachnifanny.)

  • 42 Enron Hubbard on Sep 30, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Comedian Brian Regan had a hilarious bit about this phenomena back in the mid ’90’s. It’s funnier when you see him acting it out, but the only version on youtube that cuts right to the chase is a version performed by cartoons accompanying Mr. Regan’s audio:

  • 43 Blue Raja on Sep 30, 2008 at 10:46 am


  • 44 Danni on Sep 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Zucchini or throw pillows?

  • 45 Edgewriter on Sep 30, 2008 at 11:05 am

    This reminds me of the time in Junior high I walked around at school all day with a rock in my shoe. When I got home I took my foot out , reached in, and pulled out a large squirming beetle about and inch and a half wide.

    I shrieked like a two year old girl and threw it across the room

    I had been walking around stepping on that thing all day long and it was still unharmed.

    To this day I have to check my shoes every morning before putting them on.

  • 46 Auntie Maim on Sep 30, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Well, I guess I should clarify…the web itself wasn’t 30 ft across, but its attachments were. (At least, I think so…I didn’t spend that much time analyzing it up close.) The web was the usual 2 or 3 feet, that’s all!

    But I think these orb weavers are worse…at least a bright yellow 3″-long spider is visible. Usually.

  • 47 Hugh on Sep 30, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Mike, you’ve just inspired me to kill myself.

    *shudder x10*

  • 48 MST3Kelly on Sep 30, 2008 at 11:47 am

    when I had my walking into the web and finding the giant spider on me episode, I knew I had walked through a web loaded with a spider, but as it was dark, couldn’t find it on me. in the lighted bathroom, I checked myself all over in the mirror, but didn’t find the dark brown hazelnut shaped – passenger- anywhere, and thought I was in the clear.
    until… half an hour later. it was the the thing’s prickly legs, tapping on my neck skin.
    man, I need a drink!

  • 49 OmegaRowsdower on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Spiders aren’t a problem if you keep “Your Sam” nearby…

    Of course you have go into some sort of poison induced coma for “Your Sam” to take any sort
    of action, so its a double edged sword…

  • 50 Tim on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    A beetle in the shoe, eh?

    Compare and contrast this experience with the fear we all share: finding a Beatle in our shoe.

    I’d let out quite a horrified bellow if I were to find Sir Paul McCartney in my shoe. Even more so if it were Ringo, for that matter…

  • 51 Nanobots on Sep 30, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Think of how much sleep is lost due to spiders. Or even just stories about spiders. Like, invasions of spiders. Or especially stories of people on Spider Island.

  • 52 RemmieBarrow on Sep 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I agree with the cricket invasion theory. See, I live in North Texas, and every summer we seem to have an overflow of those smelly little buggers EVERYWHERE!

  • 53 Nanobots on Sep 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Tony Shalhoub plays a very observant detective who has obsessive compulsive disorder. He’s probably good at avoiding spider webs.

    On the other hand, he might react to a mere clump of dust just as violently as most people react to a spider web!

  • 54 Nanobots on Sep 30, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    (so much for Mike posting articles about non-horrible things. Apparently Mike has an awful lot of tramas to work through)

  • 55 Ariel "Digits" on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Poor spider was just looking for some bacon…

  • 56 bullwinkle on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    yeachk. Once in college, I was drinking a glass of root beer when I noticed a tickling on my upper lip. I looked down to see a large wood roach taking a nice swim in the glass.

  • 57 Kyle from Maine on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I had a friend who was so afraid of spiders that he couldn’t even play the LOTR video game because of the Shelob level.

  • 58 Kyle from Maine on Sep 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Auntie Maim, please tell me your name is a reference to the Tom Waits song “Cemetery Polka”.

  • 59 Rex Dart on Sep 30, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Did anyone else think of this?

    I would also like to argue that soup is much more pleasant than spiders. If you found some soup in your can of mushrooms, I suggest that you’d be in much better spirits.

  • 60 Auntie Maim on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Um…if it is, it’s entirely subconscious. Sorry. I’m not sure where I got it from–I use it on the Satellite News site, and was feeling rather Pearl-y that day…

  • 61 Auntie Maim on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Wow, Mike’s really up the Effluvia River with that one…I’m sure that pic will bring back even MORE traumatic memories for him.

  • 62 Mike Nelson on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Was it this doing the tickling?

  • 63 Queen Shadowrama on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Wow, so many people with arachnophobia ’round here!

    I’ve never had a huge issue with spiders. Granted, I’ve never walked straight into a web when its the spider is home, so maybe I’m missing out. I’m the person who always gets a cup and some paper and scoops up a spider if I find one in my house, and then I gently let it outside. Don’t just toss it – spiders are very sensitive, and a fall from a high distance will kill the poor guys. So yeah, I like spiders.

    When I lived in Buffalo, we had a particular spider (obviously not the same individual, as it was present for many years) that lived right next to our front door. It was pretty big, and every night we could expect to see it chilling on its web, minding its own business. I would often observe it, and kinda got attached to the little guy. Like I said, this spider/spiders were present there since I was a kid. But one night, when I was like 16, my girlfriends came over and when I answered the door they were all like, “Did you know you had a huge spider on your door? Don’t worry though, we squished it for you.”

    I was gutted that my friends killed that spider. I actually cried. I never saw that type of spider on my door ever again, so they likely killed a female, and thus the chain was broken. :-(

    Though biting into a preserved mushroom spider? Reading that made me wanna puke. I really feel for you Mike, that sucks beyond words… *shivers*

    I think from now on anytime I eat any canned food I’m going to do a thorough spider search…

  • 64 Spookette on Sep 30, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    I feel the same way about canned food now. Mike, you’ve permanently ruined our appetites!

  • 65 NavarezElectro on Sep 30, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Was you ever bit by a dead bee?

  • 66 Danni on Sep 30, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    So…I guess I won’t elaborate on the time I found a dead caterpillar in my salad…

  • 67 AAlgar on Oct 1, 2008 at 6:52 am

    Conor, only you, me and Rich Hall even remember what a sniglet is.

  • 68 Auntie Maim on Oct 1, 2008 at 11:43 am

    So, if that one thing’s the subgenital plate, then that thing over the top of it must…..EWWWW!!

  • 69 Ra-chan on Oct 1, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I would like to second your comment of “Agghhhhh. Ew. Bbrrr. Aggghhh.”

    Agggghhh indeed!

    I’m not even that afraid of spiders (no more than usual) but that would freak me the hell out.

  • 70 R.A. Roth on Oct 1, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Shiitake mushrooms ARE spiders, Mike, or didn’t you know that? Some people. Sheesh.


  • 71 Edgewriter on Oct 1, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    In my best Ringo impression:

    “You think you’re frightened? I’m the one’s been smelling your bloody feet all day.”

  • 72 Guin on Oct 1, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Was never bit by any kind of a bee!

    Does the Fuller Brush Co. produce scrub brushes that can stop the phantom spider tickling? Honestly, my skin keeps getting redder but it WON’T STOP…

  • 73 Narcogen on Oct 1, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Isn’t it easier to make webs on things that ARE nailed down? Do these spiders have a strange fetish for weaving webs on moving objects?

  • 74 Teaser on Oct 3, 2008 at 4:32 am

    I remember sniglets….here’s a good one……..Dunkinhackin:the coughing fit that takes place after you accidentally inhale the powered suger on the outside of a donut…….

  • 75 Teaser on Oct 3, 2008 at 4:46 am

    I once found some kind of insect larvae on a piece of uncooked french bread pizza that I had purchased at a grocery store,at first I thought it was a piece of cheese,but on closer inspection…… it was a larvae of some sort…needless to say,I certainly didn’t order any toppings on my pizza and I hope I didn’t pay for any……

  • 76 bullwinkle on Oct 5, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Ugh. Thanks for that image, Mr. Nelson.

  • 77 Ugly Animals on Jan 16, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Spiders and Mushroom! Those two are something that scare me to death so if you are surviving with them then I take you as my HERO lol