Date of Discovery
First discovered in the 1890s, the Great Spider has been sighted as recently as 2014. The first sighting of the J’ba Fofi by a western observer was in the 1980s near Lake Nyasa when British missionary Arthur John Simes and his men stumbled upon one of the creatures. Having gotten themselves tangled in the enormous web, a male and female spider came out of their tunnel and attacked them. Despite being bitten, Simes managed to escape after shooting one of them with a pistol, but afterward exhibited symptoms that suggested he was poisoned—paleness, chills, and swelling around the bite. These symptoms worsened, Simes became delirious, before falling unconscious and ultimately succumbing to his wounds and dying.
The Great Spider is also known as J’ba Fofi, or the Congolese Giant Spider.
The Great Spider is known to be a spider-like cryptid, but much larger than the average house spider.
This giant arachnid can be found in the Congo, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, the state of Louisiana, as well as Zimbabwe.
Mythology and Lore
Said to inhabit the forests of the Congo, it is suspected to represent a new species of arachnid—behaviorally speaking it is classified as a burrowing spider, digging shallow tunnels under tree roots and camouflaging it with large screens of leaves. Their webs are said to be nearly invisible when stretched between their burrow and a neighboring tree, which act as a network of trip lines and alert the spider when new prey is in the immediate area. This type of behavior is said to be reminiscent of a trapdoor spider, which leads investigators to believe that it really is just a new, unclassified species of trapdoor spider.
Natives to the area say that the J’ba Fofi lays pale yellow eggs, then the hatchlings are bright yellow with a purple abdomen, but as they mature, their coloration deepens, darkens, and browns. Many natives actually suggest that these giant spiders have always been in existence, that their prevalence used to be in much greater number, but they have since become more of a rarity. That encroachment of civilization has driven the spiders from their natural habitats.
A far more believed account, again by western sources, was in a book dedicated to cryptozoology by George Eberhart, where he relates the experiences of an English couple traveling through a region of the jungle in the Congo. He says that “R. K. Lloyd and his wife were motoring in the Belgium Congo in 1938 when they saw a large object crossing the trail in front of them. At first, they thought it was a cat or a monkey, but they soon realized it was a spider with legs nearly 3 feet (in length).”
William J. Gibbons, a cryptozoologist and naturalist believed he was hunting what was called the Congolese dinosaur, or Mokele-mbembe, when he came across natives who told him of their experience with the J’ba Fofi, in his narrative he said that “on this third expedition to Equatorial Africa, I took the opportunity to inquire if the pygmies new of such a giant spider, and indeed they did! They speak of the J’ba Fofi, which is a “giant” or “great spider.” They describe 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.”
Is there anything we missed about the Great Spider? Let us know in the comments section below!
Author. Artist. A little bit Alaskan. Mary lives with her dog in a rural cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. They explore the bounty of the Alaskan wilderness during the summer and cozy up in their log cabin during the winter.