just a tiny slither please

Ever since I read Stolen World by Jennie Erin Smith I’ve become fascinated by the people who are fascinated with snakes. There is even a religion devoted to the slithery creatures.

Snake (or serpent) handling in Alabama is practiced primarily by the members of the Church of God with Signs Following. The eccentricities and inherent danger of the church’s practices have made it an attractive subject for social scientists.

image found here

In addition to handling serpents, members of the sect also engage in glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and “laying on of hands” (a belief that illnesses and wounds can be healed with the mind) and drink the deadly poison strychnine. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of serpent handlers who live in Alabama—or nationwide for that matter—because the sect is not public or open in its practices.

image found here

One of the most recognized names in Alabama’s Church of God with Signs Following is Glenn Summerford of Scottsboro. Summerford had risen to a high level of church hierarchy as a preacher when his wife, Darlene, accused him of attempted murder in 1991. She was hospitalized with a series of snake bites and accused Summerford of forcing her hand into a box full of snakes. He was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in jail.

The highlight of the trial was when wife Darlene was on the stand. When asked if the congregation kept snakes, she replied “Yes, sir.” Then asked if they fed the snakes Darlene replied “Yes, sir.” Then when asked if they bred the snakes Darlene—without a pause—replied, “Oh no, sir…they do that all by themselves.” The court broke into hysterics. Darlene was a hit.

image found here

By the way, if you’re planning a visit to Israel, please stop off at Barak’s Snake Spa. Apparently snake massage has therapeutic value…

image found here

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 9:26 am  Comments (38)  
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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Snake handling? I think it is a big missnake.

  2. Wakey wakey etc

    The King

  3. I wonder if they let churchgoers on planes?

  4. Snakes alive!!! I quite like snakes, from a distance, although I couldn’t eat a whole one ……

  5. Yikes. That’s pretty creepy stuff.

  6. Also difficult to estimate numbers of snake handlers in Alabama because of ongoing mortality…?

  7. I’m willing to try that foot massage from fish nibbling on them but no way am I doing a snake massage.

    • really, you’d do the fish thing?

      • There’s spa in Turkey where people pay to have fish nibble the dead skin from their bodies.

      • I did the fish thing in London – it was cool. Just my feet though, not my whole body.

  8. The church is in Alabama, that’s all you have to say.

  9. I lived in Alabama for 13 years and while I never had the opportunity to meet these types, we all knew they were there. It’s a very weird kind of faith that has one using snakes. I just can’t imagine.

  10. Ah heck, my stepmother (only six months younger than myself) has kept snakes for decades, and cleans house with them coiled around her neck for company. She is a good hearted pixie with absolutely no religious convictions, by the way. Hers are just corn snakes and one big black ratsnake.

    I heard about the snake spa a while back. There’s a reason why those critters are on the caduceus, I reckon.

    • I love snakes. An old boyfriend had a young boa constrictor and I used to wear her around my neck too. I love the feel of their skin and can imagine a snake massage feeling quite nice.

  11. Snakes? I’m thinking skin them, slice them and fling them in a hot pan with some garlic, ginger and a good flambe of chilli & wine.

  12. I imagine the number of snake handlers in Alabama is pretty small if they spend their time drinking strychnine.

  13. Doesn’t it seem like America has a disproportionate amount of nuts? Especially of the religious type? Worshiping snakes! What next?!

  14. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  15. OMG just reading the post and seeing the pictures made me feel sooo uncomfortable and eerie. I absolutely hate snakes!!!!

    Please put a picture of a cute bunny next. Or better yet you in a sexy bunny outfit. Woof!

  16. Thought you were going to take it easy in Hardys Bay, away from creepy and kinky research?

    You might like to read this

    • That book looks excellent Dinah. Have you read it?

      • Yes, but the writing was pretty “clunky” for a professional. Some interesting stories, though, including a chap up in NQ who survived a taipan bite. Aint many of them!
        On snakes- the late Ram Chandra’s grand-daughter is my neighbour.

  17. I’ve had fish-nibbled feet and thoroughly enjoyed it,I’ve give snakes a go too – a girl can never have too much stroking

    • I’ve done the fish nibbling too – I loved it!

  18. Let the snake poison you, that is what your snake god wants

  19. I would do a snake massage. As long as they weren’t poisonous.

    The western whip snake picture is lovely.

  20. That’s a beautiful red rat snake (or corn snake) on the toes! If you look at its belly, you will find a gorgeous black and white checkerboard pattern. I think this species is one of the most beautiful in the world. I’ve always been a big snake lover. My father developed my interest in them from an early age and I always had them growing up…which creeped out the girls who I would invite over for sleepovers as a kid.

  21. I don’t trust snakes. I see them and I know they’re super jealous of us because we have hands and they don’t.

  22. Snakes and I would be very comfortable in separate universes!

  23. Well at least we don’t have to worry about Indiana Jones ever joining up with them people. He hates snakes.

    I wonder if they have lions and lambs layin’ together too. I wonder if they catch a buzz offa that strychnine. I wonder if they think they’re goin’ to heaven after touchin all them snakes and drinkin all that poison. I hope they got a good supply of sackcloth and ashes laid in for the apocalypse.

  24. is it any worse than any other faith-based operation? some handle snakes as a show of faith. some believe in zombies… and yeah, i don’t care what you call it, but if you get out of your grave 3 days after you die, and then live forever, that’d be a freakin’ zombie.

  25. I wonder what ‘Signs Following’ these nutters are waiting for? Maybe a sign they shouldn’t be handling snakes, especially when dosed up on strychnine.

    Hope you had a nice break.


    • I did indeed! It was over all too soon…..

  26. They still all taste like chicken…

  27. I can’t imagine that the church attracts many new converts!

  28. Of course. They even speak in (forked) tongues.

  29. Snakes don’t creep me out or anything, but snake people are a bit much.

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