Spiders are one of my biggest fears. We all have that one thing that makes our skin crawl with a single thought. For me, that one thing is spiders. Anything with more than four legs freaks me out substantially and arachnids have always been at the top of the list. At the same time, I also particularly enjoy cryptids that genuinely terrify me and make it hard to sleep at night. So when it came to deciding exactly what kind of cryptid I wanted to make my first cryptozoology post, I decided to bite the bullet. If I’m going to talk about spiders, I’m going to talk about the biggest spider of them all- the J’Ba Fofi. I don’t think most people have heard of the J’Ba Fofi and for that reason I feel it all the more necessary to push past my utter terror.
Here we go.
J’Ba Fofi: The Not So Itsy Bitsy Spider
Finding this beautiful artistic interpretation of the J’Ba Fofi was incredibly difficult. Difficult, that is, because it’s really hard to image search with your eyes closed. I have no idea why I’m doing this but let’s continue.
The J’Ba Fofi (translating in the language of the Baka people of Congo as, “giant spider”) is commonly attributed to the dense forests of Congo. As of most creatures of folklore, the J’Ba Fofi hides well, feeding upon unassuming prey. The tales of the infamous J’Ba Fofi’s hunting habits liken them to that of trap-door spiders. It is said that they dig shallow tunnels in inconspicuous locations, such as underneath the roots of trees, before going about weaving massive webs. Based on legend, these freaks of nature are apparently super smart. While digging their terrifying tunnels of death (sorry) it is said that they then conceal them even further via a well-placed coverage of leaves or something similar.
Back to the massive webs. Comparable to the trap-door spider, the J’Ba Fofi uses stealth tactics to lure it’s next meal into it’s clutches. The J’Ba Fofi will form these webs between their hiding place and perhaps another nearby tree, careful to booby trap their entire hunting ground. Once something trips the J’Ba Fofi’s intricate security system, the giant spider then emerges- chasing it’s victim further into the gigantic wall of webs and entrapping it. Gross.
What’s even more disgusting, though? The J’Ba Fofi is said to feed on mostly birds, antelope, and other small to medium-sized animals. However, as is often the case with cryptids, they are also known to have a taste for humans. According to the Baka people, there are multiple instances of their fellow tribesmen happening upon the traps of the J’Ba Fofi only to be devoured.
A More Detailed Description That Nobody Asked For
The J’Ba Fofi is commonly described as a tarantula only much, much bigger. After all, that’s what the world really needs- a species of giant tarantula. And just like your typical tarantula, they have giant fangs which possess venom. Great.
With a leg-span widely reported to be between 6 and 8 feet in full-grown adults, the J’Ba Fofi would reasonably reach a height of around 5 feet tall if standing with it’s legs together.
I am 5’3. This is terrifying.
Let’s talk about the reported size of J’Ba Fofi eggs! Why not? We’ve made it this far. Let’s just go all the way! J’Ba Fofi eggs are apparently the size of walnuts and upon hatching, J’Ba Fofi babies are described as a “bright yellow color” with purple abdomens that turn brown upon aging. With the aging comes the accompanying brown hair that covers their entire bodies and skyrockets the level of the already high creep factor.
I’d like to stop to make a personal note here. I have a strong interest in and appreciation for the field of psychology. There are countless research studies that support the efficiency of exposure therapy in the case of phobias. Afraid of dogs? Try, incrementally, to expose yourself to your fear by passing a leashed dog on the street. Face your biggest fears and overcome them. Afraid of spiders? Write an entire article about giant, man-eating spiders lying in wait in the jungles of Congo!
Nope. No. I can’t say this is helping at all.
The First Documented Sighting of the J’Ba Fofi
While I did read reports of sightings of the J’Ba Fofi as far back as 1890, the first well-documented account I could find was that of Reginald and Margurite Lloyd in 1938. They were navigating through Congo when an unknown animal sporting a leg-span of 4-5 feet emerged from the forest. The creature ran directly into the path of their truck and they slammed on the brakes to avoid it. Upon further inspection, they realized that what they assumed was one of the larger animals known to inhabit the surrounding jungles was not that at all. According to Reginald and Margurite, the animal closely resembled a tarantula- but one of incredibly abnormal size. Upon realization of this, they hastily drove away in terror. When Reginald later questioned the Baka natives about the enormous spider, he was shocked to learn that they were quite aware of such a creature which they called the J’Ba Fofi.
The J’Ba Fofi Migration I Didn’t Need to Know About
Guess what, guys? You don’t have to travel all the way to Congo if you want your own chance to see the J’Ba Fofi! Just go to Missouri!
On a Saturday in 2013, a man fishing on the Missouri river reported to have seen a five foot wide creature that he describes as having “long, hairy legs that looked like a spider.” Let’s read a quote from the 45 year old man identified only as L. Smith:
I’m lucky to go fishing almost every weekend, wife allowing, so I know what kind of animals live around here. I have plenty of experience around the the woods and the river… It was around noon, I sit down a few minutes for a smoke, when I start hearing dry leaves moving on the left. I turn my head to where I heard the noise and I see a huge, long pair of hairy legs grabbing my canteen that I had just placed there a few seconds ago. Sheesh, it scared the bejesus out of me, I almost swallowed the smoke.
Now, I’m just as freaked out by this as anyone- probably even more so. When I read “L. Smith’s” account, however, it seemed a little too 80’s horror movie for me. I’m not really one to discount anyone’s claim of seeing something bizarre (obviously) but the whole account struck me as a little out there so I decided to look a little further into it. I’m including some of the things I found in a last ditch effort to calm myself down a bit so that I can actually sleep tonight.
In 2014, the year after L. Smith’s reported sighting, social media went nuts. Claims that the government was conducting DNA experiments out of a laboratory in Missouri ran rampant. In addition to these claims, there were even accompanying pictures as proof! I’ll include some of the presented images here.
I’ll be the first to state the obvious here. These are definitely coconut crabs. Coconut crabs, if you didn’t know, are a large type of hermit crab found in a variety of islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They’re remarkably rare due to an extremely threatened population and grow at an incredibly slow pace. The last time I checked, though, the islands coconut crabs are indigenous to are nowhere near Missouri. Don’t get me wrong, coconut crabs are terrifying in their own right. To hasten the speed of their growth, these guys feed on anything and everything around them. Their diet consists of everything from vegetables to fruit to… live chickens. Yep. At least we know these guys aren’t making a new home along the Missouri River.
I’m willing to bet the J’Ba Fofi isn’t either. At least, I certainly hope not.
For more on a variety of other cryptids, you can check out this book. As someone who can’t get enough of stories of the unexplained, I can recommend this one highly. It’s got everything from the Loch Ness Monster to the Chupacabra as well as tellings of the lesser-known cryptids out there. Just a suggestion!