Marshall Trimble Sarah Bowman Great Western True West

Sarah “Great Western” Bowman reportedly died of a tarantula bite. Is tarantula venom that poisonous?

David Duggan
Shelton, Connecticut

“Contemporary sources say she died from the bite of a tarantula. Now while tarantula bites are not normally deadly, they are indeed venomous creatures, and sometimes an allergic reaction (just like with a bee sting) can lead to death,” says Dr. Paul Andrew Hutton, who wrote the Great Western feature in the September 2017 issue.

“Of course, Sarah could well have been bitten by a black widow, or a brown recluse, or a scorpion, or a centipede or any of the other delightfully deadly creatures that infest Arizona,” he adds. “I can testify to the nature of Arizona bugdom from sad personal experience, for while visiting Tombstone a dozen years ago, I was bitten by some unknown critter that resulted in [my] temporary paralysis and left me with permanent nerve damage that still plagues me.

“I sympathize with poor Sarah.”

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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