On Friday morning, many local people and publications (this one included) got very freaked out by a flyer posted by someone who claimed that their pregnant pet Mexican Red Rump tarantula, Penelope, had escaped her home in Park Slope. "She's mostly active at night and likes to hide in dark corners. She shouldn't bite but sometimes jumps when frightened," wrote Penelope's supposed owner, who asked that members of the public try to capture the spider in a Tupperware bowl. But, by the afternoon, some had begun to question the "missing" sign's authenticity. And on Friday night, the New York Times reported that it was indeed a hoax.
Though a day's worth of calls to the number posted on the flyer went unanswered, a Times reporter finally got someone to pick up:
“I always see those signs for missing dogs and cats taped up on posts; I thought, ‘What’s the most absurd poster I could come up with?’” the man who answered the phone said. “I thought it was so beyond ridiculous that no one would take it seriously. I was wrong.”
“I never expected it to blow up,” he said. “Then I was in the train station, looking at my Twitter feed and saw this tweet from ABC about a tarantula. I thought, ‘Oh, man.’”
The trickster refused to provide his name, though he did say that he lived in the neighborhood where he posted the sign. (Feel free to try to identify him, South Slopers.) Meanwhile, we're not sure how to feel about this. Sure, it's a little embarrassing to have been fooled, but it's good to know that New Yorkers' healthy, altogether reasonable fear of being overrun by baby tarantulas briefly proved to be more powerful than their knee-jerk skepticism. And, of course, it's also nice that we won't actually have to battle the spider hordes to the death in Prospect Park — though we can't help but be just slightly disappointed by that comparatively dull reality.