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.

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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.


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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.

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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…

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