The story sounds like something right out of the Hollywood film Arachnophobia. The story is that, during a Hindu festival, swarms of tarantula-like spiders began leaping at villagers in Assam, in India, and latching on to fleeing and panicked festival-goers. Reports of dozens and dozens of people being bitten were reported and there have also been reports that at least two villagers died, possibly from the venom of the spider. What makes the story stranger is that, reportedly, these are a type of spider not seen before and different from the normally harmless tarantulas that are common in the area.
However, there are now reports that scientists in India who have been investigating the story are dubious about some of the details and think that the victims who died likely did not die from the spider bite. Exactly what is happening in the small village is now a mystery with many people saying that the likely story is much less dramatic that initially reported and probably mostly rumor.
The initial report came out Sunday in the Times of India. The story quickly spread around the world as people began sharing the story via social media. The report is that the incident happened way back on May 8 as a Hindu festival in the village of Assam came to an end. Reportedly, as the villagers celebrated, suddenly huge swarms of spiders began arriving and "leaping" at the villagers. Some reported that the spiders bit the villagers and then latched on to them, unwilling to let go.
The initial report said that dozens of villagers visited a local hospital for treatment of the bites. Then came the story that a young boy and another, unidentified, victim had died from the bites. This caused local authorities to send out a warning to villagers to stay inside their homes and for them to send exterminators, armed with foggers and insecticides to spray the area.
Meanwhile, experts say that they are puzzled over the details of the story. For example, both of the victims who died were taken, by their families, to local witch doctors for treatment. More than likely those doctors opened their wounds with razors to drain their blood and the venom. It is quite possible that those wounds could have become infected and that was the reason that they died.
Another doctor in the area said that it was only about 12 people who visited a local hospital complaining of spider bites and that, according to the hospital records, only two cases were confirmed to have been because of spider bites. In both cases, they were bites from ordinary spiders and not some unknown breed.
Several villagers have handed over bodies of killed spiders to experts and those experts say that they are running tests to try and determine if this is a known species or not. The area has many common tarantula-type spiders, but tarantulas tend to be very non-aggressive and their bite is very rarely lethal to humans.
Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com