Clairvoyant Arachnids. Shane Cochrane spins the extraordinary tale of the spiders who could tell the future!
By Shane Cochrane
In the run up to the 1916 presidential election in the United States, a Mr Brewbaker, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, found a spider’s web with the letters “W-L-N” woven into it. And a few days later, the initials “WW” were found woven into another web.
While this could have meant anything – or nothing – it was interpreted by many US newspapers as a prediction: Woodrow Wilson would win a second term as president of the United States.
This seemed to be confirmed when another web was found, this time in Philadelphia, with the message “W WILSON” woven into it. And in October 1916, a gold bug spider on a farm in Huntington, West Virginia, appeared to dispel all doubt by weaving the words “WOODROW WILSON” into its web.
“This spider weaving is just too much for me,” said one political pundit. “I do not see but one meaning – and that is the re-election of Wilson.” And he was right. Though the 1916 presidential election was a close one, one of the closest in US history, Wilson won his second term as president by defeating Republican candidate Charles Hughes.
All spiders produce silk. And while many spiders spin that silk into webs to catch prey and escape from predators, some use their silk in really novel ways.
The diving bell spider, for example, uses its silk to build a dome to store air in so that it can live underwater. While some orb-web spiders create elaborate and beautiful decorations inside their webs called stabilimenta.
And a few male spiders use their silk to gift wrap dead flies to give to the females as presents.
But can some spiders use their webs to tell us about the future?
It seems so unlikely. Yet, the spiders had certainly got the 1916 election result right.
But their predictions didn’t stop there.