With one of my giant spider models (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Of all of the countless cryptozoological subjects that I have researched and written about during the past three decades, few have attracted more interest and correspondence than reputed sightings of giant spiders - some of which have been claimed to be the size of puppies, or even small children! - in a variety of far-flung locations around the world. As I revealed in 2014 via a previous ShukerNature blog article of mine (click here to read it), the vast majority of these reports have originated, not surprisingly, in remote jungle locations within tropical Africa, South America, Asia, and New Guinea.
However, among them were two very intriguing (and frightening) reports of a huge spider allegedly encountered in suburbia - one in England, and one in the USA, which I have also documented in my book Mirabilis (2014). Due to these locations (let alone the various anatomical and physiological shortcomings that would seem at least theoretically to prevent any modern-day spider species anywhere from attaining the kind of size attributed to the alleged specimens documented in my article), I considered these two examples to be among the least likely of all such reports – but now I may have to think again.
My book Mirabilis, containing a very extensive chapter devoted to reports of alleged giant spiders from around the world (© Dr Karl Shuker/Anomalist Books)
This is because I have received a series of very detailed and truly extraordinary communications from a United States soldier who claims to have been one of several army personnel who encountered some enormous spiders at close range while conducting field training in Louisiana.
The soldier, whose name I have on file but who has asked me not to identify him, had been troubled by his experiences with these creatures for some years, but knowing of my interest and work relating to mystery creatures he finally decided in 2019 to reveal to me via a series of emails his full, incredible story. Moreover, he even gave me full permission to document them publicly, in the hope that others would learn about these creatures and that one may even be captured or killed for scientific study and identification. Needless to say, as I have no independent corroboration (yet?) for any of the details given to me by him, I am unable to confirm whether or not any of what follows is genuine, but I consider it more than sufficiently compelling to warrant documentation.
So here, in an online world-exclusive courtesy of this 2-part ShukerNature blog article of mine, and recalled in his very own words, is the truly fascinating, scary, but hitherto-unpublished saga of that soldier (whom I shall refer to hereafter simply as Sgt S - not his real rank or initial). It consists of three separate alleged encounters with some veritable monster spiders in Louisiana. Arachnophobes, you have been warned!
Soldiers participating in an exercise (in a simulated Iraqi village) at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana (public domain)
I received Sgt S's first email on 25 July 2019. It was quite brief, merely asking me if I would be interested in hearing his first-hand accounts of:
...three separate incidents where I witnessed giant spiders at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 2005 and 2007. These incidents took place at US Army training areas twice at night and once in the day.
Naturally, I swiftly replied, stating that I would indeed be interested in doing so, and the very next day I received an email from him containing the following extensive report:
Below is my detailed account from 2005. I will send more information on the 2007 sightings later. Recalling this matter was difficult and stressful, but I needed to get it off my chest as the events have haunted me for over a decade. I reached out to you in hopes that this helps your research and may someday lead to enlightening the world to the existence of these creatures. In the meantime, I prefer to remain anonymous but give you full rights to use my story.
In 2005, I was a US Army soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, KY with D Company, 1st Battalion - 101st Aviation. Sometime in early 2005, 101st Airborne Division traveled to Fort Polk, Louisiana’s Joint Readiness Training Center for several weeks of complex field training.
In the early evening, I was asked to escort a female soldier (for her privacy I'll call her Sergeant Becky) from our Company tents to our motor pool, walking on a dirt road between two wooded areas, both of us holding flashlights. She was roughly 5 paces (10-15 feet) in front of me when she tripped, stumbled down and started screaming in high pitched shrieks. As I ran up checking on her, I saw a large "hairy thing" about four feet away from her, on the woodline at the right side of the road. At the time I was not wearing my glasses and being near-sighted, it was mostly blurry until I closed the distance next to SGT Becky, where I froze in place about five feet from the "hairy thing". As I focused on it for a few seconds, I could see the creature had whitish-gray or beige bristles all over it, in mottled color variations. The head was rectangular shaped with curved corners and small bumps trailing down into ridges along the sides. The creature had two large black eyes about two inches around and several smaller black eyes or spots on its head. At first approach, its head was about three feet from the ground with two long, thin legs raised up in front reaching five feet up in the air, with several long, thin, stick-like legs supporting behind it, each about one inch around. As I was running up, I unknowingly kicked rocks and dirt right at the thing, and it reacted by instantaneously backing up and pulling its head and legs down and back to about two feet from the ground and balled-up roughly two feet round. I could see it perfectly still for a second while I froze in place. Then it popped its head up briskly to three feet again and splayed its legs out to about four or five feet wide and opened its mouth like it was going to pounce. The mouth hole was about two or three inches whiles the fangs were about four to five inches, ruddy reddish-brown colored, with fuzzy bristles all over the mouth. Both Sergeant Becky and I fired our M4 carbines at it (we only had blank rounds for training). With the flash and noise, it scurried back into the trees and was gone in a split second. Sergeant Becky was still screaming, trying to crawl away and was stuck on something on the ground that looked like a rope. I stepped on it too and it was stuck to my boot and I had to cut her loose with my knife. We were both uninjured, save for Sergeant Becky being severely traumatized by the incident, requiring her removal from training and commander's referral to Mental Health.
Later when our senior leadership inspected the area we found long sticky spider web-like strings leading to a half-meter hole that was thatched over with leaves. The same material was stuck to our boots and my knife which I could only clean off with a cigarette lighter. The military refused to believe us and insisted that we only saw a wild dog suffering from mange. The Sergeant was referred to mental health on a long term basis and we were both ridiculed and ordered not to talk about it anymore. I was called into the mental health facility on return to Fort Campbell to corroborate Sergeant Becky's story and subsequent stress issues. Our leadership at the time "actively discouraged" me from offering any details other than that I saw "a hairy thing about the size of a dog". I have not talked about it with anyone since.
After receiving an email of thanks from me for his account and also containing a few lines of discussion concerning size-related respiratory restrictions applicable to spiders, later that same day, 26 July, I received a short follow-up email from Sgt S:
Thank you for getting back so quickly. I appreciate your interest. It takes time to go through and detail what I saw but I'll work on the other two sightings this weekend. The locations I am reporting at Fort Polk are only 7 miles away from Highway 171 in Leesville, Louisiana where the 1948 report occurred. It is important to note that the military training personnel at Fort Polk often joke about the insects that are big enough to carry people off. Also, they mention that people tend to go missing there so they caution staying in groups, especially at night. It might be worthwhile to delve into missing person reports.
Sgt S's next email to me was sent by him on 29 July, and contained not only a detailed account of his two 2007 sightings but also some noteworthy additional details regarding his 2005 sighting, as well as his personal thoughts concerning the lifestyle of these spiders.
Louisiana giant spider, 2005 sighting and 2007 daytime sighting, as marked out by Sgt S on Google map (© Google Maps, reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
I shall conclude Part 1 of this present ShukerNature blog article by quoting from his email those extra details relating to his 2005 sighting:
I have compiled an addendum of additional observations from the 2005 sighting. After writing the incidents down I began to recall other related details surrounding these incidents. You have my full permission to publish this story so long as my name is kept anonymous until one of these things is captured or killed for positive scientific identification.
On the same night of [the] 2005 incident, while our senior leadership was reviewing the spider hole area, we found a circular thatched cover about half a meter wide, hinged to the back of the hole with some type of glue. It was woven from small sticks and leaves “glued” together with an unknown substance, with a symmetrical, radial patterning. It was sturdy and lightweight. There was also a very strong, acrid / ammonia-like scent at the site which persisted on our clothes for several days.
An Opposition Force Sniper disappeared the next night not far from the original incident. I was inside the back of a truck pulling guard duty at the flight line perimeter fence, near a heavily wooded area when I caught an opposition force soldier (for privacy I’ll call him SGT SAM) sneaking up on our position. I tackled SGT SAM and held him in place while his teammate was firing at our position from inside the wood line. We heard sounds from the wood line of someone crying out and then abruptly silenced followed by snapping branches and then something moving in the brush. After the training cadre cleared and reset our position, SGT SAM went back to check on his teammate who was not answering radio calls and he could not find [him]. SGT SAM came back insisting that something was wrong.
The next morning SGT SAM and his teammates lead a search for the missing soldier finding only a torn piece of his shemagh scarf in the woods near our position, which he said he would never tear apart, let alone leave anything behind as he was meticulous about his job and his equipment. The sniper’s disappearance during a training exercise, lack of response to radio calls and absence from rally points all being highly unusual and disturbing to his teammates. Army investigators were oddly aloof and unconcerned citing that many good soldiers go AWOL to New Orleans.
A few days afterward, and very late at night, several soldiers and I heard something walking across the tin roof of our double-barn sized sleeping quarters. It sounded like slow heavy raindrops for one minute and then stopped abruptly. There was no rain at the time and when we went outside to look there was nothing on the roof.
Another night a soldier claimed he awoke to what he thought was an old bearded man with huge black goggles lying prone on the ground at the doorstep staring at us through the open door of the tent. He said the man crawled back quickly and was gone over a ten-foot fence and back into the woods in seconds when he sat up to question him.
A rumor circulated from the local post soldiers that a Wildlife Management Ranger in a tree-mounted deer blind had observed eight of these creatures gathered in a remote clearing, facing each other in a circle, taking turns placing sticks into a pile. I find this highly dubious and probably a fable to scare visitors, but it does show that the locals already have an awareness of these things and openly joke about them.
In Part 2 of this ShukerNature article I shall provide the remainder of this fascinating email, containing Sgt S's even closer alleged encounters of the arachnid kind from 2007, together with his own thoughts regarding these mega-spiders' possible lifestyle. Don't miss it - so please click here to read it!
Spectacular artwork depicting a giant spider (© Richard Svensson)