A woman with crippling arachnophobia cured it by hitting the web and watching tarantula videos on YouTube – and now she sleeps in the same room as 35 tarantulas.
Vanessa Woods was “petrified” of spiders for more than three decades before she subjected herself to the unusual type of exposure therapy on the internet.
The videos sparked unexpected fascination with invertebrates and within the space of just nine months Vanessa has accumulated 35 furry friends.
Her pets, some of which measure up to nine inches long and are venomous, are kept in enclosures in her bedroom – just feet from where she sleeps every night.
Care assistant Vanessa said: “I was always one of those people who would run out of the room when they saw a spider, I was terrified of them.
“If one was in my house I’d have to call for someone to come and get rid of it because I was too scared to go anywhere near them.”
She added: “Now I’m absolutely in love with them, I can’t imagine my life without spiders in it, I think they’re the most amazing animals.”
Vanessa, who’s from Wymondham in Norfolk, began overcoming her fear of spiders 12 months ago by watching hour after hour of educational video on YouTube.
She said: “At first the videos gave me the heebie-jeebies but as I learned more about spiders I realised they weren’t this scary creature that I had imagined, I actually became fascinated by them.
“All the species are so different, they are different sizes with different characters and I just wanted to learn as much as I could.”
Nine months ago Vanessa took her interest to the next level by purchasing a lasiodora parahybana, which is also known as the Brazilian salmon pink bird-eating tarantula.
The salmon-pink is a spider from north-eastern Brazil and considered to be the third largest tarantula in the world.
In the months since then Vanessa has accumulated tarantulas at an exceptionally rapid rate, with another 34 now stacked in enclosures against her bedroom wall.
Among her collection is a burgundy Goliath bird eater called Tank, which measures nine inches long, and a Costa Rican zebra tarantula called Ziggy.
One of Vanessa’s most dangerous pets is a curlyhair tarantula called Skitters, which is covered in characteristically unique long curly bristles.
Curlyhair tarantulas, an opportunistic ambushing spider, holds its prey with its front limbs and injects it with venom delivered through two hollow fangs.
Once the venom has acted to paralyse the prey the curlyhair is able to suck up the proteins and fats of its prey, leaving just a small ball of undigested body parts.
Vanessa said: “When I think back to how I was with spiders just over a year ago I could never have possibly imagined I’d have 35 of them as pets.
“I’m so happy that I was able to change my attitude and grow to love them, owning spiders is such a fulfilling hobby and they bring me so much joy.
“Each of them has their own little character and different way of going about things, they’re fascinating little animals.”
Vanessa described her pet spiders as “low maintenance”, adding that while some need feeding once a week, others only need to be fed once every 12 months.
She said: “I’d like to have 100 of them and maybe then I’ll stop.”
Vanessa, who is married, revealed tarantulas aren’t her husband’s “thing” but that he “tolerates” her love of the creatures.