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Six Flags roller coaster spider offers deflationary Fright Fest tale

(MCT) — For the first time in more than two decades, drivers passing by Six Flags Great America on I-94 won't see the 45-foot-long inflated spider that clung to the American Eagle roller coaster during the Halloween season.

The black spider, named "Tiny" by Gurnee amusement park staff, simply refused to inflate for Fright Fest this year.

"Old age," concluded Ron Russell, a ride mechanic who has helped hoist the 200-pound spider up the wooden coaster for 21 years.

"She didn't get lighter with age," he quipped.

Park officials wrote an obituary for Tiny, stating that she "was found deflated and unresponsive at Six Flags Great America on Monday. … Considered the icon of Fright Fest, Tiny will be missed by the staff and guests alike."

The American Eagle will sport an RIP headstone banner at Tiny's usual spot, and her three 20-foot-long "babies" will be displayed nearby, park spokeswoman Katy Enrique said. A faux funeral will take place Sept. 29, when Fright Fest begins.

"We also have a bit of a crime scene that is laid out next to the Eagle," Enrique said, leaving open the possibility of foul play.

American Eagle riders will be able to look down to the left and see the chalk outline of the spider surrounded by crime scene tape, she said.

It wouldn't be the first time Tiny met with mischief. She was kidnapped as a prank in 1994.

Three young men scaled barbed-wire fences and scuttled 100 feet up the side of the roller coaster before dawn, Gurnee police said at the time.

Acting on a tip, police later recovered the squashed spider, deflated and a bit muddy, in the Gurnee garage of one of the suspects.

Officials marveled at how the men managed to make off with the gigantic vinyl and nylon spider, which required eight people to haul up the coaster year after year.

Overall, Tiny led a full life, Russell said. "She had a pretty good view of the expressway."

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