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10 Deaths And Serious Injuries Caused By Spiders

by Shannon Quinn
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders, is incredibly common. Usually, people have no idea which ones are the deadliest spiders and which ones are not, but they won’t take any chances. They promptly kill the frightening creatures or run in the opposite direction.

Although the number of spider-related fatalities is very low compared to many other causes of death, this list will give plenty of examples to show that the fear of spiders is completely justified.

10 Ronald Reese

Photo credit: Live Science

In 2013, a 62-year-old man named Ronald Reese was bitten by a spider while living in Florida. He was doing renovations on his house when he felt a sharp pain in his neck.

He never saw the spider that bit him, but doctors believe that it was probably a brown recluse. They normally hide in garden sheds, garages, and other man-made buildings to keep dry and build their nests. Most people are never aware that these creatures have made a home on their property until it’s too late.

For six months, Reese suffered in pain and underwent multiple medical procedures as the spider venom ravaged his body with poison. In severe cases like Reese’s, recluse bites are accompanied by lesions that leave gaping holes in the body that ooze with pus. The doctors did the best they could to save Ronald Reese, but he eventually died in early 2014.[1]

9 Jayden Burleigh

In 2016, a 22-year-old man named Jayden Burleigh, who loved the outdoors, was walking along the northern coast of New South Wales, Australia. During his bushwalk, he was bitten by a redback spider.

This caused a giant pulsing abscess to form under his arm, which affected his glands. Burleigh stayed in the hospital for four days. The doctors drained the abscess and gave him antibiotics for the bite. It is unclear whether he got the redback antivenom. The doctors believed that he would recover, so they sent him home.

Redback spider bites are quite common in Australia, and most people survive once they are treated. However, the healing process can be different for everyone. In Burleigh’s case, he had been in a car accident a week before the spider bite so his body was already in a weakened state. He continued to feel sick and died about a week later.[2]

8 Scott Clement

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The McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside restaurant in Portland, Oregon, was infested with spiders in 2018. The owners called an extermination company called Ecolab to spray and get rid of the infestation.

Many businesses have yearly contracts with exterminators under which they pay a fee in advance for unlimited on-demand services. Obviously, a restaurant has to comply with health codes whenever there is any trace of vermin.

However, Ecolab never showed up. The restaurant called them multiple times, and yet they never came to spray for the spiders. Restaurant manager Scott Clement was bitten by a brown recluse spider and ended up in the hospital for three days.

Brown recluse bites can lead to red, open sores and ulcers as well as physical aches, pains, and nausea. Clement is now suing the extermination company for nearly $1 million.[3]

7 Jedediah Mullins

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The Mullins family was on a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, when Jedediah Mullins was bitten by a spider. Its bite contained a flesh-eating bacteria. He was in his early thirties when he was bitten in 2010.

Over the course of eight years, the bacteria ate away at Jedediah’s body. Doctors amputated infected limbs to try to prolong his life. He lost both legs, most of one arm, one eye, one ear, and parts of his scalp. It reached a point where he could no longer take care of himself, so he had to live in a nursing home. He died in 2018.

Although the media did not name the type of spider, it was probably a brown recluse, which is common in the United States and can sometimes carry flesh-eating bacteria. According to one account of Mullins’s story, he got sick just one week after the bite, which would have weakened his immune system even further and made him more susceptible to the bacteria.[4]

6 Kailyn Donovan

Photo credit: CBS News

Five-year-old Kailyn Donovan loved to play outside in the backyard. So, when her mother, Kristine, noticed a dark mark on Kailyn’s leg, Kristine assumed that it must have been a small bruise from the girl playing outside. The next morning, the bruise had become a large black mark of dying flesh. Kailyn was taken to the emergency room.

It turns out that Kailyn had been bitten by a black widow spider, but she never felt it. Considering that she had been wearing jeans, the spider must have crawled inside her pants before chomping down on her leg.

According to experts, black widow spiders do not chase people or try to attack them unless they are provoked. Kailyn’s mother theorizes that the landscaping they were doing in the backyard that day must have been enough to disturb the spider. The family paid an exterminator to spray the property.[5]

5 Victoria Ross

Honeymooners Victoria and Brian Ross from England were on vacation in Jamaica just two weeks after their wedding in 2017. Somewhere on the tropical island, Victoria was bitten by a venomous violin spider only an hour into their holiday. At first, it was painful and she felt ill. But she decided to go to the doctor after she got home.

The flesh and muscle on her leg began to rot, and gigantic pus-filled boils erupted on her skin. When doctors in the United Kingdom saw her leg, they were so horrified that they thought they would have to amputate. Thankfully, they were able to treat the infected area and save her leg. Most would be traumatized by this, but Ross says she is just happy to be alive.[6]

Shockingly, back in 2004, Victoria had been bitten on the same leg by a venomous snake in the Liverpool Docks. “You couldn’t make it up if you tried,” she said.

4 Vacation From Hell

Photo credit: Live Science

A 22-year-old woman from the Netherlands who wished to remain anonymous in the media was bitten on the ear by a Mediterranean recluse spider while she was on vacation in Italy. She went to an Italian hospital right away, but they only gave her an antihistamine to treat what they thought was just an allergic reaction.

By the time she returned home, the skin around the bite was swelling and it began to liquefy. A large portion of her ear began turning black as the flesh was dying. Doctors removed the majority of her ear to stop the venom from spreading to other parts of her body.[7]

According to doctors, the Mediterranean recluse has a particular mix of chemicals in its venom that makes it incredibly difficult to stop. After removing the dead flesh, doctors performed cosmetic surgery using bones from her rib to reconstruct her ear. Thankfully, her ear looks totally normal now and she can continue living her life.

3 Noor Azmeera Sahudin

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A Malaysian woman named Noor Azmeera Sahudin was on a family vacation in Turkey in September 2017. Her family had paid a tour company to take them on a lot of fun adventures, including a hot-air balloon ride. As she gazed at the beautiful scenery, Sahudin never imagined that a spider would crawl up her leg and sink its fangs into her skin, spreading its venom throughout her bloodstream.

In fact, she didn’t even know that she had been bitten by a spider. She just knew that her leg was in pain, so she asked the tour guide to take her to a hospital and help her translate her symptoms to the doctors.[8]

They gave her antibiotics. But she had not seen the spider that bit her, so they did not give her antivenom. The medication didn’t do anything to help her. The excruciating pain seared up her leg and into her waist, making her last moments unbearable. She died in the hospital, and her family had to arrange for her body to be flown back to Malaysia.

2 Burn It All Down

Under US law, an “injury” can also be defined as a financial injury rather than physical one. In this story, a spider is to blame for $11,000 worth of damages.

In early 2018, a man in Northern California spotted a huge wolf spider in his apartment. The venom of a wolf spider usually causes pain and irritation, but it cannot kill a person. However, they are huge and will jump and attack when provoked. This makes them incredibly terrifying to deal with, especially for someone who has arachnophobia.

This man didn’t have anything with which to kill or capture the spider, except for a lighter in his pocket. Maybe the fear was too much for him to think rationally about what could happen because he lit the spider on fire. But it didn’t die. In fact, it hopped onto the bed, setting the mattress and nearby curtains on fire.

The fire department had to show up to put out the flames.[9]

1 John Francis Kennedy

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A 48-year-old man named John Francis Kennedy from Cork, Ireland, felt a bite on his neck one day in 2014. He swatted something away, and he and his wife looked down to see what they described as a black spider with a red back.

This sounds like a deadly black widow, but that is unlikely considering that they are not native to Ireland. The bite left two deep fang marks in his neck. Later, they opened their daughter’s schoolbag to see that it was filled with cobwebs. The spider had made its home there. They promptly killed the spider and disposed of it.

After the bite, Mr. Kennedy’s throat didn’t feel right. But there were no outward symptoms of lesions or rashes to make him seek medical attention. A few months later, he began feeling extreme pain in his throat and vomited blood.

His esophagus had ruptured. His wife tried to tell the doctors about the mysterious black-and-red spider, asking if the two were related. However, the doctors said that it was just a coincidence. Mrs. Kennedy still believes that the spider killed her husband.[10]

Shannon Quinn is a writer and entrepreneur from the Philadelphia area. You can find her on Twitter.


For more fascinating facts about spiders, check out 10 Ways Spiders Are Just Misunderstood and 10 Fascinating Mysteries Involving Spiders.

fact checked by Jamie Frater