Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Friday 13 October 2023


A giant spider model owned by longstanding friend and fellow cryptozoology enthusiast Mike Playfair (© Michael Playfair)

In a trio of detailed ShukerNature blog articles posted by me during summer 2020 and spring 2021 (click here, here, and here to read them), I documented the fascinating if exceedingly startling series of claims that had been emailed to me by a United States soldier concerning the supposed presence of enormous spiders seen by him and others on several occasions during 2005 and 2007 at US army training areas at Fort Polk, Louisiana's Joint Readiness Training Center, where for several weeks back then he'd been stationed for complex field training.

As I discussed in my accounts, however, the fundamental physiological problems of such sizeable spiders even being capable of existing, let alone actually doing so, would seem sufficient reasons in themselves for discounting these claims out of hand. Yet the extent of detail provided by this self-alleged eyewitness (I do have a name for him on file but in deference to his request to remain publicly anonymous I have never revealed it) is such that I felt it warranted published coverage, if only to see if it elicited any independent, corroborating reports from anyone else.

Now, finally, after more than two years, it has done so, and not from some stranger either, but instead from a longstanding friend on Facebook – namely, veteran monster/mystery beast fan Rich Janusz from Connecticut.

My own giant spider model (© Dr Karl Shuker)

On 10 July this year, Rich sent me three private messages in swift succession on Facebook, and gave me his full permission to document them in a future ShukerNature article – thanks Rich! Due to pressing work commitments, however, I wasn't able to do so straight away, but I am doing so now, having combined his three messages together into a single continuous communication – so here it is:

I have read over the years your reports of giant spiders in the Fort Polk area. I will give you my wife's brother's account.

My wife's brother is an MP in the CT NG. Some years ago, he went to Fort Polk for training. He was training on the use of night vision goggles. They heard a rustling noise, and he swears that himself and his friend saw a spider at least as big as a trash can cover crawl across the trail that they were watching. He is not a bs artist by any means. He has told me this story several times and I believe him.

Sorry that I can't be more specific about dates, call it 2011 or 2012.

At first her brother laughed and said that they were campfire stories. Later he said we'll talk later, [and] a few weeks later he told me the story. Since then he has told it among family and friends. Plus, what was his reaction to the incident? Him and his friend debated going back the way they came, and decided to continue, but very cautiously at first, and then they practically ran through the exercise.

As indeed I would have done had I encountered at close range at night a spider the size of a dustbin lid (my UK-English translation of trash can cover!).

Giant spider sculpture in Ottawa, Canada (© Markus Bühler)

Needless to say, all of the issues of physiological improbability that I discussed previously in relation to my soldier correspondent's sightings claims apply equally here. Yet as I also noted previously, it is not inconceivable, surely, that some novel evolutionary advancement of the typical size-limiting spider respiratory system could yield spiders bigger than those presently known to science (though as there is currently no physical evidence of any kind to substantiate this, such a notion is presently wholly speculative).

Meanwhile, I'll be very interested to see whether this long-awaited, long-hoped-for first independent testimony to the putative reality of Fort Polk's reputed mega-spiders induces other reports of such creatures from this Louisiana location to emerge.

My thanks once again to Rich Janusz for so kindly permitting me to document his extremely interesting, thought-provoking information here.

Another view of my giant spider model (© Dr Karl Shuker)




  1. Dr. Shuker, could what the witnesses are seeing a variation of the coconut crap? If seen in the dark it could be mistaken for a giant crab

    1. However, the coconut crab doesn't live anywhere remotely near Louisiana, or anywhere else in or around North America.

    2. I also instantly thought of not just the coconut crab, but other crustaceans known to get as big as the Louisiana giant spiders are reported. Remember reading about a giant crab in the Sea of Japan which regularly grew to a similar size as well.

    3. Odd, I thought I commented on this. Maybe the spam filter ate it because it was anonymous (name/url) and contained links. Anyway, the short version is that, as exciting as the thought of a new species is, I think it could be an escaped pet coconut crab. The area's climate may be suitable, being humid subtropical. The creatures take an exceptionally long time to grow to full size, so it could have escaped when it was much smaller, decades ago. (I think I'm doing a better job of writing this up than my original comment.)

      Also, Fort Polk is now named Fort Jackson, though the attached village is still named Fort Polk on maps. Just something that came up as I searched.

      I don't remember if I included my concern that it might not truly be an independent eyewitness account. The reason I was thinking that was that I had recently watched a video explaining that the naming of England's Pennine mountain range was a hoax. The story bore some resemblance to this one: reliance on communication from reputable people living far away. In that case, it was just one reputable person who we now know to have had ideas about fooling people. William Stukely, who was fooled into publishing and promoted the ideas of this liar, asked around and found him to be a man of sound mind but didn't check beyond that. Anyway, the purpose of cryptozoology is to sift these things, so my concern could be put down to my anxiety issues and lack of of metaphorical balance. The video is on the Youtube channel of Paul and Rebecca Whitewick, and is named The Greatest Roman Hoax - That Fooled EVERYONE. Perhaps I should add that the Whitewicks don't claim to be experts. They do research but acknowlege that they're not scientists.

  2. The point that I was attempting to speculate upon was that since the coconut crab, as an invertebrate, has been able to adapt to a terrestrial lifestyle it should be considered that another invertebrate could undergo a parallel evolution to allow a more active/efficient respiration system.

  3. In my magazine Flying Snake volume 2 issue 6 November 2013 I report on two newspaper reports on giant spiders in a cave a shirt distance from Buena Vista in Colorado. The spiders were described as being the size of small birds with the fibre of their website being ten times as ones woven by ordinary spiders. The newspapers were the Ohio Daily Star May 8th 1880 and the Indiana Daily Democrat June 1st 1901. I also came across a Google Earth image of a giant spiders Web in Colorado.

  4. While I believe in the possibility of a giant spider; I don't buy this story. As I said in the previous updates, the experiencer knows the military, but there are little details in their account that lead me to believe that they are not actual military. I also brought up that if there were such a thing that it would also be sighted in the near by civilian community. Either by hunters, or farmers, or commuters in the area.
    As for the coconut crab theory, I find it preposterous. For one, it looks nothing like a spider other than having multiple legs. Secondly, as far as I know, coconut crabs don't live under ground or have fangs.
    As for the possibility of a real giant spider, I don't see why not. Through evolution they could have developed stronger book lungs or developed another method for taking in oxygen. After all, ancient species of insect life were able to grow to giant proportions.

  5. I have a friend from Louisiana who was in the forces for a while and had a lot of friends stationed at fort Polk. He said he had never heard of any stories like that and thought it seemed fake, one quote from him "fort Polk is bad enough doesn't need giant spiders"