Hiding Spot

knowyourmeme Chintung Lee/ShutterStock (Licensed)

Why an illustration of Saddam Hussein’s spider hole is such a lasting meme

He's down there.


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Mar 19, 2024   Updated on Apr 8, 2024, 10:24 pm CDT

Saddam Hussein was the president of Iraq at the start of two different U.S.-led wars against him. 

His legacy was marked by a brutal reign over the Middle Eastern nation: Hussein was a violent dictator whose wars he waged against neighboring countries like Iran resulted in over a million casualties

Hussein first took power in 1979 and immediately retaliated against his political opponents—and those his regime was suspicious of—by jailing and torturing them.

He was long a boogeyman of the United States, as several presidents made it their mission to topple him, culminating in former President George W. Bush’s invasion in 2003.

The U.S. Army swiftly forced Hussien to flee, and he was on the run from forces who put him at the top of a literal deck of cards as the Ace of Spades. 

After scouring for Hussein in Iraq for over nine months, U.S. forces were led to a farmhouse near the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Their first search of the premises missed Hussein, who they later discovered was hiding in a “concealed spider hole” under the ground.

The spot was obscured by bricks and rubble, and Hussein was six feet underground next to a fan and an air vent. It was quite the contrast from his multiple lavish palaces, where the leader lived during most of his presidency. 

That same year, the BBC published an explanatory piece about his capture that included an illustration of Hussein’s hiding place in which he was represented by a red body laying on its back in the hole. Other illustrated features include Hussein’s air vent, fan, and the hole’s hidden entrance.

The article eventually updated the rudimentary image with a more complete illustration. But it was too late.

Hussein was executed in 2006, but almost 20 years later, he–and his hiding place—have stood the test of time as a popular meme

In Body Image
Know Your Meme

Saddam Hussein Memes

One of the most popular versions of the meme imagines what else (or who else) Hussein had down in his spider hole with him. 

A particularly imaginative meme shows Hussein in his hiding spot alongside a labyrinth of other underground compartments that include a gaming room, an ant colony section, a place for polar bears to burrow underground, a child of divorce falling down into Hussein’s hole (which is another meme), and a compartment where a man is digging for another version of Hussein (a spin-off of yet another meme, too). 

In Body Image

Another adds to the previous meme described by placing the Mariana Trench and Egyptian pyramids on the graphic, among other memes and images. 

Hussein is hiding elsewhere 

One take on the meme places Hussein’s spider hole in other places, as the non-descript red body of Hussein is easily transferable and transposable onto other images: He’s the monster hiding under your bed, or he’s hiding in your head

Memes show him hiding in Finland, or in a fallopian tube, or even in the OceanGate submersible.  

An off-shoot of this meme also places Hussein in other worlds or within historical events, like in a Magic the Gathering trading card, or part of the Viet Cong’s tunnel complex. 

Meta Saddam Hussein hiding place memes 

Other memes play with the format of the meme. One flips the meme on its head and has Hussein guarding the bricks and rubble, rather than the bricks and rubble guarding Hussein. 

Another sees the literal levels of the meme as parts of an iceberg. On top, there is the bricks and rubble; below, the tunnel downward; then Hussein; and finally his air vent. 

One posits that Saddam Hussein’s hiding place is the space and time we are living in, and another sees him as a cluster of volume changes in audio editing software. 

He’s even been re-created—hiding, of course—in Roblox

Rest assured, if there’s a place in this dimension or others, the internet will find a way to hide Saddam Hussein there.

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*First Published: Mar 19, 2024, 7:00 am CDT