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A Real Success Story
by Caroline Compton
(Take A Break, 4 June 1998, Issue 22)
Kathy was usually fearless but spiders
terrified her. Then she went to the zoo...
Kathy Warlow pushed open the barn door and stepped
inside. It was cool and dark. She could hear the dog
barking in the distance, the sheep bleating in the end
'Jennifer,' she called, are you in here?'
Silence. Then the straw rustled. Kathy wheeled round.
But it was just a rat, scuttling away.
Rats didn't bother Kathy. Seeing the occasional rodent
was all part of growing up on a farm. Seven-year-old
Kathy and her older sister weren't afraid of any of the
animals, not the bullocks nor the pigs. Not even the
snakes which sometimes slithered across the grass.
There was just one thing that frightened
them...Aaaggh!' Jennifer leapt out from behind the feed
sacks. 'It's a spider. It's in my hair. Do something.'
But Kathy had already turned and fled.
In the farmhouse kitchen their mother was nursing
their baby sister. 'Don't be so daft, it's only a
spider,' she said. 'Honestly, I don't know where you get
this from. If you go on like this you'll make Caroline
frightened of them too.'
She was right. In time Caroline, like her sisters,
grew up terrified of spiders. Years later Kathy met Roy
Watts. They married. He accepted her the way she was,
spider phobia and all. 'I don't know why I'm so scared of
them,' she told him', 'but I've been like this for as
long as I can remember.'
If Roy heard Kathy give an ear-splitting shriek he
knew there was a spider in the room If she saw one on
television she rushed out in blind panic.
Their son Tom didn't mind spiders. 'Don't worry, Mum,
they can't hurt you,' he'd say.
But it seemed nothing could rid Kathy of her
It was bad enough at home - but spiders get everywhere.
If she saw one in a shop she'd rush out into the street,
screaming. Her heart pounded, her body shook and she was
soaked in sweat.
'It's so embarrassing,' she told Roy.'Everyone must think
Deep down she began to worry that one day she'd see
spider and collapse heart attack.
Then, Kathy, of Goodwick Square, Fishguard, Clwyd, read
about a special programme being run at London Zoo. It
promised to cure arachnophobia in just a few hours. 'If
only...' she thought.
Roy was sceptical when he saw Kathy off on the London
train. After all, she'd tried hypnosis twice and that
Tom was more positive.'You'll beat it if you really want
to, Mum,' he said.
'There were 20 people in all on the Friendly Spider
programme. After a talk about spiders they met a
'Just imagine your biggest fear is floating away on a
balloon,' he said. 'Far away, never to return...'
He brought them out of the trance.
Kathy still felt apprehensive when it was time to walk
to the spider house. She didn't think she could come
eyeball to eyeball with a spider.
'I don't think it's worked,' she whispered to the lady
walking next to her.
'Neither do I,' came the nervous reply.
In the spider house they were shown a little glass box.
Inside was a small brown house spider. People were
invited to reach inside, catch the spider with a glass
and then let it go. And one by one everyone did. Even
Kathy. She felt elated.
Then the keeper brought out a tarantula.
Back home that evening Kathy showed Roy the photograph.
There she was,
with something the size of a furry orange with legs
sitting in her hands.
'If anyone had told me I'd one day be able to hold a
tarantula, I'd have said they were crackers,' she said.
Since then Kathy, 46, has astonished herself by
catching several spiders in the house and putting them
outside. She still jumps when she sees one - but they no
longer terrify her.
The other day she rang Jennifer. 'It worked for me,'
she said. 'Now I want you and Caroline to make the trip
to London Zoo. Then we'll all be cured.'
To find out more about the
Friendly Spider programme call 0171 449 6470. The contact
there is Paul Pearce Kelley. For information about
anxiety and phobias you can write to the Psychiatry
Research Trust, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London