Theraphosa blondi—better known as the Goliath Birdeater or Goliath Bird-eating Spider—is the largest spider on Earth, which legs that can reach up to a foot in length. The Huntsman Spider can be larger however and is typically considered the largest spider by leg-span.
The image of those two spiders alone is enough to invoke nightmares. However, both aren't dangerous to humans. The Huntsman Spider can cause swelling and be painful, but it won't kill you. The Goliath Birdeater on the other hand can barely break through your skin and may not even release venom when it does so. Nonetheless: the size of those two spiders alone is enough to trigger a panic attack. That is, until you wonder: could there be spiders that are even larger?
Earth's a mysterious place. Each year, we discover many new species of animals and plants, which is a good reminder that we don't know anywhere near as much as we think we do about our home. Coupled with the history of reports of giant earwigs, birds, ants, octopi, squids (which turned out to be true), sharks, and so on: the concept of a giant spider isn't too far fetched—is it?
Maybe, maybe not. There is a cryptid that's said to be a giant spider: J'ba Fofi. It's associated act is Mokele-Mbembe; the names of both cryptids hail from the same the native Baka people. Unlike the latter however, J'ba Fofi didn't appear in 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Arachnophobia: The Mystery of J'ba Fofi
There have been reports of giant spiders for hundreds of years. If you go by Wikipedia—which I am for the entirety of this entry—then it's since the 19th century. I'm sure they date back further however, but this entry is more off-the-cuff since I didn't get to put it into this year's Decemystery.
J'ba Fofi—which means “Great Spider” in the language of the Baka people—is the most well known of these giant spiders. Due to its prominence, a broad stroke of these sightings has been given. Most sightings of large arachnids are considered to be J'ba Fofi in the same way that any hairy biped sightings are Bigfoot sightings.
Appearance wise, J'ba Fofi is said to have legs that are between four and five feet long. The young were described as being yellow with purple abdomens, but as they matured, this colorfulness would vanish and they'd become brown. The young are said to hatch from eggs that are the size of peanuts. I'm unable to find any information on how quickly this would mean these spiders grow, though I suspect that it'd be far more rapid than any normal arachnid.
Due to their immense size, J'ba Fofi are said to create their webs between two trees. It's there that they'll wait for prey—which consists of birds, small game animals, and even humans. However, due to the swindling habitats, the Baka people say that J'ba Fofi have become increasingly rare.
As a brief digression: I'd like to state that I know that spiders are known for being quite colorful. This isn't something new or novel. Even the creepiest of creepy crawlies like to add some flare to their terrifying nature. However, one has to wonder exactly why they'd go from being yellow and purple to being a dull shade of brown. This shouldn't bother me as much as it does, but I can't help but want to interrogate one of these things like I'm Cole Phelps.
Press X to Spin Web of Doubt.
Anyways, let's move on to the big highlight of any cryptid. The sightings. The first one comes from Uganda and is from the late 1800s. A group of missionaries from England were on an expedition when several of them became ensnared in a large web. While trying to free themselves, enormous spiders with leg-spans of four feet descended. Those not caught in the web fled while the others were presumably eaten.
Now let's send me to the Congo. Reginald and Marguerite Lloyd were driving along a trial when they noticed a most terrifying sight. No, it was Peter Gabriel's Genesis. It was instead a massive spider—one they said was the size of a large jungle cat. Appearance wise, they said it looked like a light-brown tarantula with a leg-span of five feet.
Marguerite reacted as anyone would and screamed while Reginald went to reach for his camera, but was unable to due to his hands shaking wildly. The spider meanwhile stopped in front of the vehicle and looked at them before scurrying off into the jungle.
In Papua New Guinea, an Australian soldier that was at the Kokoda Trail claimed to have encountered a “puppy-sized spider” that had taken up residence on a thirty foot web. He also claimed that it had was black, hairy likes a tarantula, and bulky.
Naturally, he fled and didn't bother conversing with the spider.
Back in 2011, Richard Terry went to the Amazon for an episode of Man v. Monster. It's there that he interviewed residents of a remote village about claims of giant spiders. He was informed about the local four foot side spiders that resided in giant holes deep within the legendary rainforest.
The last thing I'll mention is there was a really weird hoax that circulated in 2015 of the "Giant Hawaiian Cane Spider" that had a leg-span of six feet. It was, unsurprisingly, proven to be a fake because the idea of a spider capable of being the size of the side of a small house is more than a little fishy.
Alas, people fell for it. Social media was a mistake.
There aren't many theories; it boils down to one of two opinions. Either believe that J'ba Fofi exists or you believe it to be a case of mistaken identity. If you're on the side that believes it to exist, then the evidence supporting it isn't exactly great. You have the testimonies of those who claim to have seen it and locals who have heard stories. Other than that, there's no photographic proof or even a supposed fang or web sample. For all intents and purposes: J'ba Fofi may as well be described as a flying starfish a la the Australian Bunyip.
Now on the other side: the side that believes it to be mistaken identity has the currently established science. In the case of it being mistaken identity, some believe some have seen Coconut Crabs, which are the largest known land crab that can grow to be over three feet.
One other argument is that the weight of the J'ba Fofi wouldn't be sustainable due to its exoskeleton not being capable of supporting it. However, some have argued that the J'ba Fofi may not be built the same way as other spiders. This is ultimately not possible to know unless a specimen is discovered.
I hate spiders, so my bias dictates that these things aren't real. Though from an unbiased standpoint: I'm sure there may be a larger species of spider out there. However, the J'ba Fofi is something that I'm extremely skeptical of. A spider of that size is insane to think about. We're talking about something with eight legs as large a child, if not potentially larger; perhaps the size of an adult.
That's… not something I can personally buy.
Alas, that's merely my view. What about you? Do you believe that it's possible that a massive arachnid like this could exist? Let me know and.remember to keep an industrial sized can of RAID on standby in case the J'ba Fofi knocks on your door.