We don’t have tarantulas here in Australia (enough scary spiders without them, thanks!) but I know that despite their appearance tarantulas are a relatively harmless kind of spider.
Even if they were known for causing problems to humans I didn’t have to do any research to be sure that being bitten by one doesn’t usually cause the victim to dance uncontrollably.
The tarantulas in Seville in 1902 must have been very special. According to this article the bite would cause the victim to suffer from a ‘dance mania’. Unfortunately Seville seemed to be suffering from a tarantula plague in 1902 so there were obviously lots of unexpected encounters with spider fangs and humans susceptible to superstitious beliefs.
The only cure for this dancing affliction was to call in the highly paid “Guild of Tarantula Players” who will bring around their “tarentela-guitarre” and cure you.
The victim will lie in bed and the musician will play his tarantula-poison-reversing music and save the day.
In this article the music is described as a ‘monotonous clang’ which made me wonder if the victim was rolling around in bed with the effects of the poison or if it was the terrible music that was causing the problem?
Perhaps it was the sudden realisation that they had succumbed to group hysteria, paying a heap of money to a group of opportunistic musicians (of dubious talent) to cure a non-existent ailment?
I had a look for ”tarentela-guitarre” on the interweb (you know, just in case it was real….) and found this clip of an 11 yo playing what is clearly a folk music style called tarantella. I wouldn’t describe it as a monotonous clang, it is actually quite nice. It immediately made me wonder if someone had heard ‘tarantula guitar’ and made up their own tale, with the story eventually making its way into the papers as truth. It probably wouldn’t be the first time.
As always, bless those early news reporters and their lack of fact checking…