Arachnophobia — that is, the unreasonable fear of spiders — isn’t illegal, but it could still bring the police to your door if you scream loud enough.
An Australian man learned that the hard way this morning when, according to reports by the BBC, a passerby heard him shouting, “Why don’t you die?” inside his suburban Perth home. The passerby also heard a toddler wailing. Justifiably, the passerby called the police.
Multiple officers presently arrived at the scene and learned that the man — and the toddler — were screaming at a spider. The screaming man was deathly afraid of spiders, he told the police, and he had gotten a bit carried away while trying to kill an unidentified arachnid in his home. The man apologized for the inconvenience, according to police logs tweeted (and subsequently deleted) by the local Wanneroo Police Department. Whether or not the spider was escorted from the domicile in four pairs of tiny handcuffs remains open to speculation.
Spiders, it must be said, are unquestionably creepy-looking, though most household species are harmless to humans. Studies estimate that somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of the world’s population are unable to overlook this creepiness and identify as arachnophobes. A fear of spiders, which likely stems from millions of years of human and spider cohabitation, can manifest in children as young as 6 months old and cause grown adults to perceive spiders as being significantly larger than they really are.
And, as with most fears, the most severe cases of arachnophobia can lead people to do some pretty dumb things. Take, for instance, the California man who set his house on fire last year while trying to kill a spider with a blowtorch, or the Oregon woman who drove her car off the road when a spider dropped onto her from the rearview mirror (luckily, she walked away with only a few scratches). Our imperfect human brains are to blame — and it turns out, even just thinking about spiders can diminish our ability to think well; one 2011 study showed that spider-fearing motorists playing a basic driving simulator were more likely to make errors and crash into things when being forced to have conversations about spiders.