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Cobweb of Disuse

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"This only proves what I've long suspected: grapes are eternal."

A cobweb or two is often used as a sign that something hasn't been used or hasn't moved in a while. This is a standard part of the decor in Haunted Castles and Haunted Houses, so much so that white fibrous decorations simulating cobwebs appear in stores every October.

A particularly comical use of this trope can include cobwebs being built on a character themselves to indicate they have been waiting stationary for an absurdly long time.

In Real Life, this is only partially true. A spider only needs a few hours to build a web on something. On the other hand, not regularly removing cobwebs from something will allow dust to build up on them, making them a lot easier to see.

Taken to extremes, this can become a Cobweb Jungle. Compare Bat Scare and Wallet Moths. See also Trash of the Titans and Extremely Dusty Home.


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  • A Duracell commercial from 1988 features a man putting a flashlight powered by Duracell batteries in a shed. Inside the shed, a spider spends the next three years making cobwebs, which the announcer uses to describe the shelf life of the then-new-and-improved Duracell battery. The spider flees when the man who put the flashlight in the shed takes it out from beneath the cobwebs to test it.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Ranma ½: Happens within minutes to the Tendou household when they temporarily lose all their money due to shenanigans involving Nabiki.

    Asian Animation 
  • In certain episodes of Happy Heroes, characters accumulate several cobwebs after standing or sitting in the same place for a long time.
  • In the second episode of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, the hallway of Mr. Slowy's laboratory has a few cobwebs visible in it due to not having been used for a long time.

  • MAD Magazine did this a LOT, particularly Sergio Aragones' "A MAD look at _____". If a person bought something that sits in disuse, you'll see it sitting on a shelf or in a closet with spider webs.
  • Persons sleeping at work or waiting for a long time in any situation are sometimes depicted like this as well.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Keating Mansion has many large cobwebs in the shared living areas due to Abigail refusing to move the things that were prepared for her long cancelled wedding. It also has no electricity and it's two inhabitants wear clothing that was in style before Abigail's fiancee ghosted her.

  • A Diplomatic Visit: As in the episode Amending Fences, Twilight’s old tower is a dusty, cobwebbed mess when she and the others visit in chapter 13, since nopony’s set hoof in it since she left for Ponyville in the first episode. The seven promptly set to cleaning it up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with in the 1931 Dracula, where much of the Count's castle is swathed in cobwebs that make it appear totally deserted. At least, they seem to imply nobody's been using it ... until a sneaky camera cut makes it appear that the vampire has walked straight through a large orb web without disturbing it.

  • The Belgariad: In The Mallorean, Salmissra aims a Take That! at Polgara when the snake queen says that the long centuries have filled the sorceresses wits with cobwebs.
  • The Famous Five: In Five on a Hike Together, the Five sleep in the cellar of a burned-out house. George slashes fiercely at cobwebs which startle her by touching her face.
  • Hothouse: Metaphorically. The narration notes that, fittingly, the Earth's old age is marked by its upper reaches becoming draped in the immense webs of spider-like plants.
  • Septimus Heap: Jenna's Palace is filled with cobwebs, mostly due to the staff being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Palace and only a few parts being truly used.
  • Thursday Next: Thursday mentions the cobwebs at Satis House when she goes there to meet her Jurisfiction mentor Miss Havisham.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the beginning of the BBC series Sleepers, about a couple of KGB agents sent to be sleeper agents in the UK in 1966, the present day (1990) KGB discover the bricked up, unused facility where the agents were trained, full of mid-sixties British pop culture and cobwebs.
  • The Crystal Maze: The Medieval Zone is full of cobwebs, as part of the scenery. In the first series, Richard calls out "Ralph, I won't tell you again, you dust these cobwebs!". Later, if the contestant accidentally carry them on their clothes, Richard says that they are special to him, and he doesn't allow them to take them away.
  • Doctor Who
    • The banquet hall and the suits of armour (which are actually the Gundan robots) are covered in cobwebs when the Doctor finds them in "Warriors' Gate". It's particularly noticeable when they see the hall in its glory days, then suddenly flash-forward in time to its present decrepit state.
    • Subverted in "Arachnids in the UK" when this trope starts appearing in rooms virtually overnight. Turns out spiders are acting strangely and getting a lot bigger.
  • CSI: NY: While the team investigate a suspected murder in a penthouse that's been closed up for 80+ years, Det. Flack sticks his head up through the attic door. The area is full of cobwebs and they're hanging from the door as he opens it.

  • Not surprisingly, Gottlieb's Haunted House is full of these. There's even a cobweb covering the window overlooking the lower Cellar playfield.

  • Invoked by Allah himself in one of the very few miracles stated to have happened around Muhammad is, when he was escaping the city of Mecca and the Qraysh who were out to kill him, that he and his friend Abu Bakr hid in a tiny cave. Their pursuers followed their track to the entrance of the cave, but in the meantime a spider had woven her web all over the entrance and a dove had set her nest there. They decided that clearly no-one had gotten in there, and resumed their search elsewhere.
  • A similar tale is also told about King David (hiding from Saul) in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The second edition of Dungeons & Dragons had an illusion like this, to confuse burglars and thereby protect valuables.

    Theme Parks 
  • Fairly ubiquitous in Disney Theme Parks:
    • While the foyer of The Haunted Mansion is fairly clean and orderly, the further into the mansion, the dirtier the mansion gets. But never too dirty, as it is inhabited by 999 happy haunts.
    • The lobby of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is absolutely covered in dusty cobwebs to show how supernaturally quickly the hotel was abandoned.

    Video Games 
  • The school in Aka Manto has a few huge cobwebs in it.
  • As one of its first puzzles, Anchorhead has a cobweb standing between you and an intriguing-looking iron key in the corner of the Verlac mansion basement.
  • In both expansions for the first F.E.A.R., cobwebs mark abandoned areas. Those are usually more haunted than normal.
  • Free Icecream: The door to the room under the stairs has ginormous cobwebs in it. You need the duster to get rid of them.
  • In a video game of Monopoly, when a property is mortgaged, it is shown as being padlocked up, and strewn with cobwebs, to indicate disuse.
  • In Minecraft, poisonous spiders have webs in abandoned mine shafts. Cobwebs also show up in libraries within strongholds, though this scenario doesn't guarantee spiders.
  • In Psychonauts, parts of people's minds which haven't been accessed in a long time are blocked by "mental cobwebs" which you need to buy a specific piece of equipment to clear.
  • Scrap Garden: Seen in at least one level.
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens: The Sunken Shipyard has a few cobwebs about to show how it's been abandoned and left to the ghosts, undead, and spiders of the place. Seen in the Save Point room for instance in the corners.
  • Soul At Stake: A screenshot of the game shows off an area with quite a lot of cobwebs.
  • Tick Tock Isle: All over the building in the Bad Future prologue, absent in 2009, start appearing in 2010, together with torn curtains. Completely disappear, when you fix the past and avert the Bad Future.
  • The abandoned inn in the mountains in Yuki Onna (2020) has some pretty big cobwebs in it.


    Western Animation 
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "Uh-oh... Dynamo", Professor Utonium invents the Dynamo (Dynamic Nanotechtronic Monobot) for the girls to use to protect them against villains and giant monsters, but the girls find themselves perfectly capable of saving Townsville without it. When a week passes without the girls using the Dynamo, the Professor is seen dusting it, since it is covered in cobwebs.
  • In the Scooby-Doo episode "What the Hex is Going On?", the old Kingston Mansion has these in the background (corners, connecting furniture to walls). Also present in the Vasquez Castle (notably on the portrait) in "Hassle in the Castle".
  • The Simpsons: When the family goes to the library to do research for school they find no books and cobwebs on the shelves. So Marge tells them stories of Henry VIII, Sacagawea and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants:
    • In "Pretty Patties", the Krusty Krab is covered in cobwebs and a layer of dust so thick it obscures floor and furniture when business gets slow. SpongeBob tries to clean one, only for a spider to instantly make another each time. Later, Mr. Krabs himself is seen covered in cobwebs.
    • In "New Leaf", Plankton shows the filthy, disused interior of the Chum Bucket as part of his reasoning for quitting the restaurant business. There are cobwebs so big that Mr. Krabs himself gets caught in one that detaches and drapes over him.
      "Criminy, Plankton! You ever hear of spring cleaning?"
  • In Donald in Mathmagic Land, the Spirit of Adventure finds Donald's mind full of cobwebs (along with filing cabinets full of stuff like "Antiquated Ideas" and "Superstition"), and literally cleans it out to prepare Donald for some mental exercises.
  • Hilda: in Episode 10, the room inside the weather station where Hilda and David end up after entering through a window is filled with these, proving none of the equipment has been used in a long time. David naturally runs into some of the cobwebs.
  • Thomas & Friends:
    • In "Edward, Gordon, and Henry/Henry to the Rescue", Henry spends several weeks in his tunnel after Sir Topham Hatt bricks it up when Henry refuses to leave during a rainstorm that occured in the previous episode, "The Sad Story of Henry/Come Out Henry". When Gordon breaks down near Henry's tunnel and Edward is unable to move the heavy express coaches by himself, Gordon suggests that Henry pull the train. When Henry gets out of the tunnel, the narrator tells the viewers that Henry was dirty and covered in cobwebs.
    • In "Granpuff", the Mid-Sodor Railway closes down, and when Stuart and Falcon are sold but not Duke, Duke is left alone in a shed. He takes a nap that lasts several decades as his shed is buried by an overgrowth of vegetation. In the following episode, "Sleeping Beauty", a rescuer searching for Duke so he can restore him to his former glory unknowingly stands on the roof of Duke's shed, causing it to collapse from under his weight and him to fall inside. When the rescuer finds Duke, Duke is shown to be covered in cobwebs.

    Real Life 
  • When the Nazis invaded France, many French people would hide their valuables in their wine cellars by bricking off part of the cellar. They would then find spiders and place them in front of the newly built walls so they would build webs and make the walls look older. (In a similar vein, wine merchants would often run a scam against Nazi officials by sprinkling dust on top of bottles of cheap crap to pass it off as old and valuable.)
    • Speaking of wine and cobwebs, wine bottles are possibly the only food-item that you'd want to be delivered to you with dust and cobwebs all over it, unless the wine wasn't bottled and kept properly and turned into vinegar.
  • Invoked by Halloween cobweb decor, and often Giant Spider models.
  • Boats, in particular pontoon and houseboats, that don't hardly leave their slips have a bunch of cobwebs around the outboards.
  • Houses and other properties that are abandoned with no one cleaning or tending them are bound to get these on their walls.

Alternative Title(s): Cobwebs Of Disuse