Does the J’ba Fofi Exist?

Post 797

1938. Belgian Congo, Africa. Reginald and Margurite Lloyd were exploring the dark depths of the most remote rainforest imaginable. The noise of the jungle creatures did not dampen their fears or anxieties, if anything, it highlighted that they were surrounded by beasts, many undiscovered at the time. Whilst the two were hacking their way through thick jungle, they spotted a dark shape scuttering around the underbrush in front of them. Perhaps it was a cat or even a monkey, of some sort. They stopped to observe its movements, fascinated by a creature that looked familiar but evoked feelings much stranger than anything else they had encountered before. Suddenly, the creature moved into the light and the couple were horrified by what they saw. There, in front of them, the unsettling sight of a giant spider, spanning at least five feet in size. Terrified, the couple ran, with Margurite insisting they return home to Rhodesia at once…

Lurking within the thick and nearly impenetrable jungles of remotest Africa, these enormous spiders are said to dwell. Similar in appearance to a tarantula, with the adults exhibiting a dark brown coloration and a purple mark on the abdomen, said to grow to six feet in size and perhaps more. Preying on animals such as monkeys and reptiles, trapping the helpless creatures in an intricate tapestry of webs strung between the trees. Some of the natives even claim that the J’ba Fofi has killed humans, succumbing to the venomous poison oozing from the spiders.

Reports of the J’ba Fofi are littered throughout history. In the 1890s, English missionary Arthur Simes was out and about exploring the shores of Lake Malawi with a small party of fellow explorers. Around halfway through the journey, panic gripped the group as screams from further back rippled throughout the dense jungle. Fearing his friends were in trouble, Simes ran back to discover that many had become tangled in giant webs, like nothing he had ever seen before. Despite his best efforts, he could not break through the webs. Soon, two giant spiders creeped up on the group and bit several members. Simes, desperately, shot at the creatures, driving them away. But it was far too late. Soon, the bitten became feverish and delirious, their bodies swelling considerably. Death was inevitable.

Naturalist and cryptozoologist William J. Gibbons was on one of his many expeditions to the Congo in search of unusual beasts when he stumbled across the tales of the J’ba Fofi. Speaking to the natives, he soon learnt that they were all too familiar with the giant spider. They claimed to have seen it regularly, and told much to Gibbons about the behaviour, life cycle and mating habits of the spider. What they most feared was that infamous venom, ‘powerful enough to drop a full grown man in seconds.’ Most interestingly, the natives told Gibbons how the J’ba Fofi was once a common sighting, but now, sightings were becoming rarer and rarer. Gibbons concluded that this was down to encroachment by human civilisation, driving the spiders out of their natural habitats.

Gibbons was convinced the J’ba Fofi was real. The tribes knew so much about it and saw it as a very real and present danger. They spoke of it as a matter-of-fact, avoiding hyping the creature up as some mythical beast, instead viewing it as another creature amongst the thousands inhabiting the jungle. It is not impossible that the natives are right. At many times throughout human history, many descriptions of many animals by tribes all over the world were seen as fantastical and beyond the realms of possibilities. Gorillas and pandas just two such creatures.

Yet it’s not the fact that sightings are few and far between that causes many to question the existence of such a spider, nor the lack of hard evidence. The reason why many doubt is down to physiology. For a spider to grow to the size of the J’ba Fofi, an entire five feet larger than the current largest known spider, the wonderfully named Giant Huntsman, the usual spider respiratory systems would be insufficient to keep the creature alive. Whilst giant insects and arachnids did exist millions of years ago, there was far more oxygen in the atmosphere in those days. And even then, there were no spiders of the size of the J’ba Fofi. The 12-inch Giant Huntsman and the 6 ounce 11 inch Goliath Birdeater are about as large as science believes spiders can grow. Even if the J’ba Fofi used a radically new type of respiratory system, there is still the issue of the exoskeleton. Exoskeletons are heavy things. A six-foot spider’s exoskeleton would be too heavy for it to support or even move. Scientists, once more, believe the largest a creature with an exoskeleton could grow on land is around three feet, as seen in the coconut crab. A spider of exceptional size darting throughout the jungle at immense speed is sounding ever more improbable.

Others, however, say that the jungles are immense places full of plants producing immense amounts of oxygen. Perhaps that higher oxygen content could support a large spider. But still, there’s the issue of the exoskeleton. A mouse might have small and brittle bones, but the elephant has thick and sturdy bones to support its enormous frame. The only way such a creature could survive is if its skeleton was made of lighter and stronger stuff than we are aware of in the natural world. Pure speculation of course, but not impossible.

It is a fact that the jungles of Africa are little explored and are largely inhospitable. Therefore, could it be true that they could harbour a creature most foul? A giant arachnid, terrorising for as long as time. Whilst the restrictions on spiders seem to be a nail in the coffin for the J’ba Fofi, one cannot discount the sightings from not only the natives, but also the intrepid explorers who ventured into the thick jungle in the search of such monsters. Plus, the alternative explanations some have offered. The answer to this mystery will, most likely, elude us forever more. Maybe one day we’ll discover it is misidentified. Or perhaps an exaggeration. Or maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll discover it is real after all. Just be sure that you aren’t the one who discovers it…

So I’ll give this cryptid a 102 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 35th in the list of 46, with Gef the Talking Mongoose still bottom and Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.

The J’ba Fofi. A fascinating cryptid indeed.

Ciao :)(:


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