That Brazilian wandering spider I posted about the other day may actually have been a huntsman spider.
Some huntsman spiders are big enough to make you bleed with their bites, but their venom isn’t dangerous. They also have spines on their legs which can irritate human skin. Recent discoveries in Southeast Asia turned up huntsmen with 12-inch legspans, which puts them among the biggest spiders—or most long-legged, anyway; tarantulas with similar legspans are much thicker and more imposing animals.
The problem here is that spiders are hard to identify. You can be a perfectly competent biologist without knowing how to distinguish your spiders. Worse, a lot of people don’t know how much they don’t know.
It’s odd how eager people are to get scared by creepy critters in imported goods. Urban legends involving venomous snakes in imported blankets go back at least as far as the late 1960s, according to Jan Brunvand’s book The Vanishing Hitchhiker. Some folklorists think this sort of story reflects a hidden xenophobia.