Not every spider hibernates. But the giant creature that dwells at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, appearing once a year to climb the clock tower during the Village Halloween Parade, went into hiding after 2009, when scaffolding covered the library as part of a renovation project.
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On Wednesday, now that the renovation is all but complete, she is to reappear as the parade passes by — weather permitting. (And, yes, said Basil Twist, the puppeteer who has been giving life to the spider since 1995, “We just know she is a she.”)
Mr. Twist and his colleagues have used the hiatus as an opportunity to create an entirely new spider. Built of carved Styrofoam on an aluminum frame, then wrapped in reflective tape, the spider puppet is 14 feet across. Each of its hinged, movable legs is six feet long. The cephalothorax and abdomen together are five feet long. But it weighs only 30 pounds. Light weight is an absolute necessity since Mr. Twist and his associates will be manipulating it for three hours while the parade passes below.
“The spider comes out the minute that the parade reaches that spot — and not before,” said Jeanne Fleming, the artistic director and producing director of the event. “It is a great moment in the parade. Everyone looks up, and suddenly there it is. A blessing on the entire event.”
The spider appears to climb and descend the tower. This year, there will be the additional spectacle of tentacles pouring forth from the upper windows of the clock tower and flailing wildly above the spider.
Let it be noted that the much beloved library branch on the Avenue of the Americas at West 10th Street — built in the 1870s as a municipal courthouse — is wild enough without spiders and tentacles. It is an eyepopping example of spiky, eccentric, colorful Victorian Gothic architecture.
The library also happens to be where the spider dwells quietly 364 days of the year, high up in the clock tower, far from public view; presumably catching and eating the occasional two- or three-foot carved Styrofoam insect. “I love the idea that it lives up here all year round,” said Frank Collerius, the manager of the Jefferson Market Library, a branch in the New York Public Library system.
Jefferson Market has played host to one big spider or another since the mid-1970s, when Ralph Lee, a mask designer, began an informal and spontaneous Halloween celebration centered around a procession of giant puppets. As the parade grew larger, rowdier, less neighborly and more commercial, Mr. Lee stepped away and Ms. Fleming stepped in. She has run the event since 1985. After a number of spider-free years, Mr. Twist revived the custom in 1995.
Though the spider is probably the least ambitious of the theatrical productions in which he is involved, it clearly has a claim on him. “I will still operate the spider for the most part myself,” Mr. Twist said, “but I always have helpers who want the fun of working her — for a little while, of course.”
He nicknamed the creature “Whitey.” Ms. Fleming calls it “Ananse,” after a trickster in West African storytelling who assumes a spider’s form.
The 1995 spider is no longer in New York. It was taken to St. Louis, said Barbara Busackino, the producing director at Mr. Twist’s Tandem Otter Productions. Why there? “It appears on my mother’s rooftop every year,” Ms. Busackino explained.