THE TREACHEROUS TALE OF TERRY THE TARANTULA
Or How George Stover Spun His Own Web Of Wonders
Baltimore or Less recently caught up with Baltimore-based actor George Stover to get to the bottom of a recent inquiry regarding his past pet arachnids. We gave George the five question treatment and learned a lot about his eight-legged friends, including their link between George and the late Baltimore Sci-Fi filmmaker, Don Dohler.
BL: Could you tell me a little about when Terry the Tarantula first came into your life?
GS: I've always liked things that are unusual. And I try to buy things that most people don't have. I wanted some type of an exotic pet, but one that would not be too difficult to take care of. So one day, I learned about a mail order company that sold tarantulas, scorpions, and other such things. It was named “Quivira Scientific Company” and was located in Topeka, Kansas. This was many years before the Internet, of course, so I must have stumbled upon an ad from that company in a magazine. I bought one scorpion and three tarantulas from that outfit in May of 1963. I still have the receipt from that purchase! Over the years, I had several tarantulas, but Terry was the only one still alive when John Schulian from The Evening Sun came to my home to interview me.
BL: Please tell us some interesting stories from over the years about Terry?
GS: He led a quiet life and was only seen by a few friends and relatives. The most exciting thing that ever happened to him was being photographed and published in the The Evening Sun. That would be kind of special for a human, let alone a spider!
BL: Please talk a little about Terry's lifestyle and what were his “likes” and “dislikes”?
GS: Terry spent virtually all of his time in his cage, which was an empty aquarium in which I placed some sand on the bottom, a few rocks, and a hiding place on top of the sand, with a screen on top. I rarely took him out of his cage, except to clean it. I wasn't really afraid of him, but I didn't want to risk a bite so I left him alone. Also, I think I heard somewhere that the hair of a tarantula had the effect of itching powder when it was touched!
Terry liked to eat mealworms — which I would breed in a container filled with oatmeal — and as I recall, I would occasionally feed him other insects such as crickets. As far as dislikes, he was very shy and didn't really seem to care for people. He seemed to enjoy a solitary existence.
BL: Can you tell us a little about the Baltimore Sun Article and your Black Oracle Zine?
GS: I can't remember how, but somehow reporter John Schulian got wind of the fanzine I published at the time. It was called Black Oracle and dealt primarily with horror movies. While Mr. Schulian was at my home, I showed him my tarantula for some reason and he thought it was interesting. So he expanded his article to include Terry. I'm quite positive he had no knowledge of Terry when he first contacted me.
Since those days when John Schulian was a reporter in Baltimore, he's gone on to bigger and better things. He became a sports writer, and also broke into Hollywood after writing a script for L.A. Law. He joined the writing staff of shows like Miami Vice and Wiseguy. He also was the co-creator of Xena: The Warrior Princess, and later wrote and produced such series as JAG, Outer Limits, and Tremors. In addition, he has continued his sports writing career.
That article in The Evening Sun led to my long friendship with filmmaker Don Dohler. Don read the article, tracked me down, and called me on the phone. He told me about his plans to publish a fanzine called Cinemagic. In subsequent conversations, we shared our dreams about making a feature-length movie and about four years later, Don started filming The Alien Factor.
BL: Can you tell us a little about the rest of Terry's existence?
GS: It's been a long time ago, but I think Terry lived about a year or two. I'm not sure how old he was when I bought him. He would shed his exoskeleton as he grew and I would save them over the course of time. However, they have disappeared over the years. I'm not sure what I did with Terry's body, but I'm sure I must have buried him. I'm sure that I wouldn't have had the heart just to throw him in the trash!
After Terry's death, I still maintained my interest in tarantulas into the 1980s. I joined the American Tarantula Society in 1981 and enjoyed reading the organization's publication The Tarantula Times. I still saved my membership card and several copies of the journals. I doubt if I will ever get another tarantula, however. I have two cats and three tortoises to take care of right now, so that's enough!
George Stover Bio:
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, George Stover became a movie buff at an early age. However, the acting bug didn't bite until George took some drama courses in college. After graduation, he acted in community theatre and eventually made his motion-picture debut in John Waters' FEMALE TROUBLE as the prison chaplain who escorts Divine to the electric chair. Soon after that, Stover made his science-fiction movie debut in Don Dohler's THE ALIEN FACTOR, which was the first science-fiction movie ever shot in Maryland. Since then, George has had speaking roles in such films as John Waters' DESPERATE LIVING, Don Dohler's FIEND, NIGHTBEAST, THE GALAXY INVADER, BLOOD MASSACRE, and ALIEN FACTOR 2: THE ALIEN RAMPAGE. In addition, Stover also had speaking roles in such movies as DRACULA'S WIDOW, INVADER, THE REGENERATED MAN, ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD, SLEEPY HOLLOW HIGH, OPERATION DALMATIAN: PAWS AND CLAWS RESCUERS, HARVESTERS, STAKES, MAX MAGICIAN AND THE LEGEND OF THE RINGS, VAMPIRE SISTERS, TERROR IN THE TROPICS, CHAINSAW SALLY, DEAD HUNT, TERROR IN THE PHAROAH'S TOMB, THE DEATH OF POE, ONE-EYED HORSE, GRAVE MISTAKES, ROULETTE, PRESIDENT'S DAY, DANGEROUS DECEPTION: TALES OF THE FIXER, INVASION OF THE REPTOIDS, and WITCH'S BREW. George also played murder victim Kevin Lugo in a fourth season episode of HOMICIDE entitled “The Wedding.”