A woman has found a unique way to get over her crippling fear of spiders – by sharing her house with more than 50 tarantulas.

Gemma Wright’s fear of spiders once left her afraid to leave her own home, but she now has boxes of her eight-legged furry friends piled up in her living room.

The 42-year-old housewife from Chelmsford, Essex, owns 58 tarantulas and says her anxiety stems from the times her father chased her around the house with spiders when she was a child.

Having conquered her fear, Gemma now considers keeping tarantulas as pets her hobby.

She said: "You become sucked into it, but apart from the tarantulas, I'm just a normal middle-aged housewife who likes Doctor Who.

"It is just like any other hobby but all my life I had been scared of spiders.

"My mother was always frightened of them and my father used to chase me around the house with them. I was terrified."

[Related story: Hundreds of UK’s largest spider – which can grow as big as a rat – released into wild]

Gemma first started to desensitise herself six years ago by learning about spiders and looking at pictures.

She then tried to get used to being in the same room as one but decided the best way to beat the phobia was by owning one as a pet.

She bought her first tarantula, Nightshade, in 2013 and now has 57 others.

Gemma said: "Once I knew I was OK holding a spider, I thought it made sense to buy one and keep it in the house, so I could completely desensitise myself to it and get rid of the phobia.

"They are so low maintenance, you kind of forget they are even there, and they are absolutely fascinating to watch.

"In the summer of 2014, I had a stay in hospital and when I came out I needed cheering up, so I got another spider. That was tarantula number nine.

"It is kind of like an addiction."

[Related story: Is it possible to overcome your lifelong fear of spiders in just three hours?]

Gemma receives her spiders in the post from all across Europe and each of them, which vary in shape, size, breed, age and gender, has their own personal name, which Gemma takes from her love of science-fiction.

She continued: "Spiders don't have personalities as such, they don't have emotions or feelings, but they all have their own little quirks.

"I have got a few that are very food-centric, so they pounce on anything that goes into their enclosure.

"The males are normally very laid back, but they will stalk around looking for females, and then there are a couple that don't really move and are just like pet rocks."

Gemma even has a 'beware of the tarantulas' sign stuck in the window to warn any arachnophobic visitors and she is discussing whether to build a custom house unit.

Photo credit: SWNS