Every once in a while, you'll hear a statistic so striking you can hardly believe it's true. Our first impulse is to repeat it, because knowing interesting things tends to make people like us better.
Unfortunately, some people are so desperate for interesting facts to quote, that they'll just pull them right out of their ass. Then those facts get repeated, by--you guessed it--people like us.
The six most quoted "too awesome to be true" stats that, in fact, are ...
6You Accidentally Swallow About 8 Spiders a Year
This extremely commonly believed statistic has been fed to us by countless internet chain mails, and probably by some know-it-all kid who sat next to you in some class or other. When you sleep, you open your mouth to breath (and drool on your pillow), and supposedly this is the ideal window of oppurtunity for all the spiders who hang out near your bed hoping to be eaten alive.
Why Is It a Load of Crap?
Well, first of all, this a real kick in the crotch of the intellect of spiders everywhere. Although spiders are occasionally seen doing stupid things, it's safe to assume they have enough wit to realize when they're about to crawl through the mouth of a damned giant. If the giant white teeth aren't enough to deter them from going spelunking down your dark, wet throat (apparently no other animals have these) you'd think the heavy draft and deafening snoring sounds would be some sort of indication of how terrible a home your mouth would be.
Who Started It?
Back in 1993, people were already getting fooled by online urban legends at an amusing rate. So, a columnist for PC Professional named Lisa Holst decided to prove that you could make up anything on the internet and people would believe it.
She did this by making up a set of facts that were utterly ridiculous, the spider myth among them (which itself was taken from a collection of insect folklore that dates back to the 1950s), and unleashing it on the world in the form of emails.
In a twist of oh-so-predictable irony, people who forwarded chain mail about this just "happened" to forget to include the fact that these were completely fake.
Who Was Fooled?
Ask a group of internet strangers and you'll find at least a handful of people who wholeheartedly believe this myth. Presumably because they read it somewhere. You've even got this supposed entomologist from Experts.com quoting it.
In 2006 The UK's Daily Mirror warned that "the average person will swallow anything from eight to 20 spiders before they die."
Not satisfied to go along with the normal fudged data, The Mirror upped the ante of retardation by adding "A spider is also likely to drink from your eye at least THREE times in your life. Some experts have suggested they are attracted by the vibrations of snoring and the smell of undigested food - a good reason to floss your teeth before bedtime."
Really, is that what it takes to get the UK to worry about dental hygiene?