eRumors circulate on Web


    By Michael Hollingshead

    False messages warning people of anything between dangerous spiders to failing e-mail servers are floating around the Internet.

    “They are simple hoaxes calculated to scare the public,” said urban legend specialist David Emery.

    With the ease of e-mail forwarding, these deceptive mass messages that boast outrageous stories are competing with the truth.

    One recent hoax warned of a lethal two-striped telamonia spider that lurks in dark places, such as public toilets.

    “The story has been used before,” Emery said. “And there is no truth in it.”

    The fictional e-mail tells of three women who died in Northern Florida after eating at the Olive Garden restaurant. Investigators traced the deaths to a public restroom at the restaurant where they found a suspicious spider under the toilet seat.

    The updated hoax appeared last October and continues to show up in e-mail accounts around the nation.

    “The first time we encountered this story was in 1999 when the offending creature was titled ”the butt spider”,” Emery said in an article about the hoax. “Now someone has just rewritten the thing.”

    The two-striped telamonia spider used in the story does exist, but it isn”t lethal. The colorful jumping spider lives in India, Indonesia and Singapore.

    Scientists have yet to record any sightings of the harmless spider in the United States.

    The telamonia spider hoax has caught the attention of numerous gossip lovers around the nation.

    Brad Messer, a radio talk show host for KTSA in San Antonio, addressed the subject in December.

    “Restrain yourself from toilet-seat panic,” Messer said. “The spiders are real, but they”re not here, and the Internet report is totally phoney-baloney.”

    Another e-mail hoax claimed that hotmail accounts were downsizing the space users could use. The e-mail spread across the nation, but hotmail developers followed up promptly with a disclaimer.

    The influx of e-mail hoaxes, or eRumors as one Web site calls them, has spawned the creation of numerous sites that warn about hoaxes.

    Symantec, an Internet-security technology company based in Cupertino, Calif., has a page devoted to exposing e-mail hoaxes. The site lists more than 150 Internet hoaxes, including anything from Internet virus warnings to free money offers.

    Experts say the e-mail hoaxes often include fictitious names and titles that closely resemble factual material.

    The two-striped telamonia spider hoax cited a Dr. Beverly Clark in the Journal of the United Medical Association.

    The journal does not exist, nor does Dr. Beverly Clark.

    Sylvia Steele from the University of North Florida purportedly wrote the original message concerning the spiders. Yet there is no Steele listed in UNF”s campus directory.

    Trends show that e-mail hoaxes are here to stay, but people can deal with them. Experts say to disregard any bogus or amazing e-mail messages, even if your friend has forwarded it to you.

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