Death from a snake bite during a mysterious religious ritual

June 1, 2012 7:59

Preacher snake tamers, long time to avoid danger, died after being bitten during a religious service in a remote national park in West Virginia last weekend.


44-year-old ex Reverend Mark Walford lived with poisonous snakes right in his home in Bluefield, West Virginia, according to a recent article by Washington Post.

Snake tamers fascinated us (and possibly save souls) for many years, but whether they can tame the snake, or are they just so lucky?

Experts say that there is no unambiguous way to predict when a poisonous snake, for example, rough wood viper — the kind that killed and Walford — hit. And while it is virtually impossible to tell whether you will get dangerous "dry bite" or lethal injection toxins that can kill an adult within a few hours.

"It is not always easy to predict the behavior of the snake," said Matthew Evans, a biologist at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, who runs the Center for the Study of Reptiles. "But you train to catch certain signs in time to determine when the snake tired or aggressive mood."

According to the newspaper Washington Post, Walford perform religious service for about 25 people at Panther State Forest in McDowell County on Sunday morning. During his homily, he put snake on the ground next to him, and, suddenly, it hit him in the thigh. Family members took him home, where he was able to recover, but his condition worsened. His death was pronounced on arrival at a nearby hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Walford was part of the traditional ritual of taming snakes in the so-called "churches mark" small sects that follow the biblical passage from the Book of Mark, in which he wrote: "… they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover … ". Some supporters of these sects during the service also drink poisons such as strychnine or gasoline in accordance with the five characters. Taming snakes began in the churches of the region around 1910 and was carried out around 2000 people throughout West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. This is illegal in all states except West Virginia. But experts say that such practices inevitably reduced.

Walford, of course, aware of all the risks of such a religious ritual. His father — also daunting snake preacher — died from the bite of a rattlesnake when Walford was 15.

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