Zoo program turns spider haters into spider lovers
January 31, 1997
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EST (0445 GMT)
In this story:
From Correspondent Siobhan Darrow
LONDON (CNN) -- At Robert Farago's Friendly Spider Program at
the London Zoo, people are encouraged to talk about what they
do when the see a spider.
"I'm terrified of spiders," says a girl named Kate who can't
enter a room if she suspects a spider might be there. "They
just make me, you know, frightened. I can't breathe."
(1.2M/28 sec. QuickTime movie)
"I think it's very important I get over my fear of spiders,"
says a boy. "They're all around all the time."
For many people the mere mention of the word "spider" sends
them into a panic. But in Farago's program, people are first
encouraged to talk about what they do when the see a spider.
Their responses range from stomping on them, to getting help,
to vacuuming them up.
"I think the most extreme example would be the
'Schwarzenegger,' where they get a can of hairspray and light
it and do a little flame-thrower routine," says Farago.
But through group therapy and talking over their fears with
each other, and with education and, most importantly, with
hypnosis, they learn to put those hostile feelings behind
The group is then marched off to the invertebrate house to
meet their new, eight-legged, eight-eyed friends.
The encounters are tentative at first, and some even retire
to the hall in tears. But by the end, everyone appears to be
"I feel fabulous," says Kate. "Now, I know if I see a spider
I'll remain calm. I won't cry."
Kate even had her photo taken with her new pal, Tracy, a
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula.
"I think she's lovely," she says. "Lovely, yeah. I even
talked to her whilst she was on my hand."
The cost of the program is $135, and Farago says his success
rate is 84 percent. He even claims that one graduate from
every group will become an arachnophile -- a spider lover --
and will come to love the furry creatures so much they will
keep them as pets.
Farago's program has been so successful that this spring he's
planning to take it to Los Angeles.
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