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Reuters/Toby Melville
All right, who’s next in line to hold the tarantula?

To get over your arachnophobia, this zoo suggests cuddling a spider

By Svati Kirsten Narula

If eight-legged crawlers creep you out, you’re not alone. But if the mere mention of spiders provokes heart palpitations, you might have a genuine phobia—and the London Zoo is here to help.

The zoo’s “Friendly Spider” program is a four-hour course featuring hypnotherapy and exposure to combat your deepest fears. Interest in the program has surged after a rainy summer in the UK led to an increased number of home invasions by spiders, with some residents claiming to have found seven-inch-long arachnids in bedrooms and fireplaces this autumn. Two schools in east London had to close temporarily due to spider infestations.

The London Zoo course costs £135 ($205) and is offered once a month from April to October. Each session combines the knowledge of Dave Clarke, the zoo’s spider expert, with that of hypnotherapist John Clifford, walking participants through the facts about these creatures and the science of phobias. Following a tea break and a group hypnosis, there’s an optional spider-petting hour:

Here participants can, at their leisure, practice calmly catching British house spiders and even meet one of their cousins, our friendly Mexican red-knees. Great care is taken to ensure that the programme is as stress-free as possible.

Clarke told Atlas Obscura that 97% of participants opt to hold a spider at the end of the day.