Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomology
I've been seeing lots of spiders in Halloween yard decorations this year. More than ever it seems like! If you live in Kentucky, you can see a bunch of them all at once along Louisville's famed Hillcrest Avenue, whose residents go all out for the holiday (you can see a YouTube video of Haunted Hillcrest Highlights from 2009 here).
The problem with some of the Halloween spiders that I see, though, is that they don't always look very scary, even when they are supposed to. I think the key to making your Halloween spider scarier is to make it a little more realistic. A simple way to do this is to apply one of the most basic facts about spider anatomy to your decoration project: a spider's legs are on its head (cephalothorax) and not its abdomen.
To illustrate this, let's compare two cartoon spiders:
As you can see, both spiders are nearly identical, except that Spider 1 has its legs incorrectly attached to it abdomen, rather than its head, as in Spider 2, which shows a more anatomically correct configuration.
Obviously, both of these spiders are very simple, but to me Spider 2 looks not only more realistic, but also creepier, all because of the position of its legs. I think that this is related to the reason why we find spiders scary in the first place: the fact that their legs are attached to their heads instead of their "bodies" makes them appear very alien and bizarre to us.
So the next time that you are buying a spider decoration, or making your own, pay attention to the position of its legs. By attaching the legs to the head instead of the abdomen, you'll be taking 8 simple steps toward a more realistic, and scarier, Halloween decoration!