Bite of an Alien Space Spider?
November 24, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

My dad tells this story about a very, very weird "spider bite" he got as a kid, but it doesn't sound like any spider bite -- ever. What could this have been? Alien implant? Ringworm? Disgusting details inside.

So, when he was about 12 years old, he got what seemed like a bite on the side of his knee -- meaning it had two small holes that looked like fang marks. This was in Toronto in the 1950s. The bite swelled up to about the size of the knee, itself, and was oozing pus. Eventually, by (ew) squeezing the thing, this bloody point appeared, which he pulled -- and which turned out to be a very long sort of string, slightly thinner than a soba noodle and maybe 8 inches long, that he literally pulled out of his knee. After that, the bite healed and went away. This was so weird that he's remembered it his entire life and it's become family lore.

I have never, ever heard of anything like this, in any other context. What kind of spider would deliver such a horrible bite? I suggested that it might have actually been a worm -- maybe he'd played in the dirt with an open cut that got some eggs in it -- but he insists on these two fang marks.

So, what could this have been? Bite experts?
posted by Miss T.Horn to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Botfly. Don't know where he'd find on Toronto, though.

There's this weird and pretty pervasive tendency for any mystery swelling or bite to be called a spider bite, when there are really very, very few spider species dangerous to humans.
posted by cmoj at 12:04 PM on November 24, 2012

Just watched a video of a botfly extraction (do not google this) with my dad, and he insists it wasn't that...that it didn't move, and it was much longer.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 12:11 PM on November 24, 2012

Guinea worm? (I will let you do the google image search on your own.) Like botfly (which this does not sound like), guinea worm would be vanishingly unusual in Toronto (unless you are leaving out the part of the story where they just got back from a tropical vacation), but another kind of parasitic worm wouldn't be unlikely.
posted by Forktine at 12:12 PM on November 24, 2012

There are a lot of different kinds of botflies, with different sized larvae. In Canada I think that deer and caribou are probably the most prevalent. And if the larvae has suffocated and is dead when you pull it out it won't move. It would suffocate if you covered the hole with something.
posted by fshgrl at 12:24 PM on November 24, 2012

Memory is very subjective and changeable, so you might never find something that is an exact match. I'm not saying he's lying; memory is just funny in this particular way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:34 PM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Memory is very subjective and changeable, so you might never find something that is an exact match. I'm not saying he's lying; memory is just funny in this particular way.

Freaky things (and disgusting things) that happen to you as a kid have the tendency to get exaggerated in the mind by the time you're an adult. I have a hazily vivid/vividly hazy memory of getting stung by a wasp as a kid and when my mother pulled out the stinger with a pair of tweezers (which I remember as actually being a pair of pliers), the thing was like two inches long and covered in a scary alien goo. There is no way it happened this way, unless my mom is covering up for some kind of mutant species of wasp developed by the government during radiation experiments. Please don't convince me my mom is part of some sort of massive government coverup, as I have enough to worry about as is.
posted by item at 12:51 PM on November 24, 2012 [12 favorites]

I used to have a small, hard, rectangular bump on the back of my neck that I used to joke with my sweetie was an alien implant.

At a certain point, it developed a "head", like a pimple. She, awesome sweetie that she is, offered to try and deal with it. When she applied pressure, a small red pointy dot emerged. When she tugged it with tweezers, a long corkscrew curly hair emerged. When extended the hair was easily 5-6 inches.

So, I have ever assumed that it was either a) the wire for the transmitter of said alien implant or b) an ingrown hair.
posted by jammy at 2:10 PM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

The "string" bit is the only unlikely part. Spider bites can indeed be that bad. I am just not sure about the "string" and wonder if he interpreted something that was just tissue or pus as something else at that age.
posted by Miko at 4:04 PM on November 24, 2012

I'm not a doctor, just a middle-aged dude who's heard a lot of gross stories, but I think boils can occur in association with ingrown hairs. That would explain the size, the pus, and the pus-covered string. I've heard people who've made the mistake of squeezing a boil (risking very dangerous spread of the infection) describe the pus as resembling lots of things: cottage cheese, boogers, spaghetti, etc. A soba noodle sounds like a plausible match, except for being able to pull it, which is why the ingrown hair theory sounds good.

Warning: I don't advise googling these possibilities.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:21 PM on November 24, 2012

All I can offer is a story told to me by a friend in grade school in my childhood. He claimed that a centipede bit his arm and it swelled or blistered or something and sometime later, he squeezed this bitten area and a long, long stringy thing was pulled out. This 8 year-old said it was pus.
posted by Hobgoblin at 6:24 PM on November 24, 2012

I lived in a basement "bedroom" (really an old furrier's vault) in a house in college. One night as I slept I got what I assumed was a cluster of spider bites on my shoulder. The became very sore and red over the next couple of days. I poked at one with a needle and was surprised to pull out several inches of what appeared to be spider web.

They could have been some other kind of bite. They were definitely not ingrown hairs.

They healed up on their own. I'm pleased to say I did not end up with hundreds of baby spiders tearing their way out of my body, which was a fear I entertained for a while before doing the manly thing and deciding not to go to the health center to get them looked at.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:10 PM on November 24, 2012

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