To quote Indiana Jones, “I hate snakes.” The fear of these slithering creatures is so common that it is considered to be part of human instinct. Every once in a while, people are bitten by venomous snakes while camping and hiking. But considering that there’s an antidote for nearly every type of venom on the planet, it actually takes a very strange set of circumstances for someone to die from a snake bite.
The following stories demonstrate the weird ways that people have been killed by snakes. Some of them shockingly chose their own death-by-snake, which begs the question: “Why’d it have to be snakes?”
10 John David Brock
In the Bible, snakes represent the Devil. At a Pentecostal church in Jensen, Kentucky, pastors use deadly rattlesnakes as part of a performance to try to prove that God will protect them from harm. During a sermon, they keeping the snakes moving while preaching loudly into a microphone and playing loud music.
Their family tradition is so odd that National Geographic filmed them in action. As shown in the video above, one pastor’s finger was bitten. Instead of seeking medical attention, he allowed his finger to turn black and rot to the bone before it snapped off.
In 2015, their luck ran out when one pastor, John David Brock, was holding one of these venomous snakes. During Brock’s sermon, the snake bit him multiple times in the arm. Instead of going to the hospital or at least reaching for antivenom, he continued to pray. Jesus didn’t save him that day. He died at 60 years old.
9 Arslan Valeev
A young Russian man named Arslan Valeev worked as a zookeeper. In 2017, he accused his wife, Katya, of cheating on him and beat her so badly that she had a concussion. She left him immediately, filed for a divorce, and refused to answer his phone calls.
In a desperate last-ditch attempt to get her attention, Valeev started filming live streams on his YouTube channel, saying how sorry he was for beating Katya. In his very last live stream, he said that he would rather die than live without her.
He held up a black mamba snake, allowed it to bite his finger, and showed the bloody bite with tears in his eyes. He gave out Katya’s phone number, encouraging viewers to reach out to her so that she could come to his house to see him one last time.
He tried to stand up to reach for something in the room, but the venom took hold of his body faster than he had anticipated. His eyes rolled back, and his death was broadcast live.
No one called his ex. Only one viewer called an ambulance for Valeev. By the time the medics arrived, it was too late. According to one of his friends, Valeev didn’t plan to commit suicide. He had the antivenom on hand and was just trying to pull a dramatic stunt to trick Katya into showing up. Clearly, it backfired.
8 Karl P. Schmidt
Karl P. Schmidt was working as a herpetologist (snake expert) at the Chicago Natural History Museum in 1957. An employee from the Lincoln Park Zoo brought Schmidt a green snake that no one could identify with any of their books, so they needed an expert opinion.
Schmidt had discovered new species of snakes before, so he was excited about the possibility that they had found another new creature. While he was examining the snake, it bit him. He quickly realized that it was a venomous boomslang snake.
At the time, boomslang antivenom was only available in Africa, so he knew that he was destined to die. Instead of going to the hospital, Schmidt took the academic approach. He wrote down all his symptoms until the moment he died. Due to his documentation, future herpetologists knew every excruciating detail about how the venom made him bleed from nearly every part of his body.
7 Daniel Brandon
Thirty-one-year-old Daniel Brandon loved to pose for Instagram with his pet African rock python, Tiny, around his shoulders and neck. Considering that pythons are known for constricting their prey before eating it, a person may not love the idea of having a python around his windpipe. Yet Brandon did this on a regular basis.
Brandon still lived with his parents, so when his mom heard a loud banging noise coming from his bedroom, she assumed that he must have dropped a dumbbell while lifting weights. When she went to check on him, he was lying on the floor. He had died from asphyxiation. The snake was out of its cage, hiding underneath a table.
This is the first time that a python has killed a person in the past 100 years. Some snake experts don’t believe that Tiny killed its owner because the snake didn’t have any scratch marks from attempts to pull it away. Other experts refuse to defend the snake, saying that people shouldn’t keep African rock pythons as pets in the first place.
6 Grant Thompson
Texas is one of the few states in America that allows people to own dangerous exotic pets as long as these individuals have permits. Grant Thompson’s parents owned a pet shop in Austin, and they lived in an apartment next to the store. One of 18-year-old Grant’s many duties was transporting snakes and tarantulas in his car.
The last time, he pulled into a Lowe’s parking lot and a cobra got out of its container. The snake bit Grant in the arms multiple times and then slithered out of the car.
When the police examined the scene, they believed that Grant had committed suicide because he had a history of depression and it didn’t look like he had tried to pull away from the biting snake. Cobra venom is known to alter one’s mental state and paralyze the body. It takes 30 minutes for someone to die.
If he truly did commit suicide, he chose a very slow death. It took several days for the police to find the snake, although it was still hanging out in the Lowe’s parking lot. Thankfully, the snake did not claim any more victims.
5 Jack Redmond
Jack Redmond, a 70-year-old man from Virginia, devoted his free time in retirement to care for his collection of 40 snakes, 24 of which were venomous. The snakes all lived in his home in his spare room. When his wife knocked on the door to check on Redmond in October 2012, she discovered his lifeless body on the floor with a snake bite from a Chinese palm viper.
Since keeping venomous snakes as pets is illegal, the Chesterfield County police removed them from the Redmond home. The snakes were transported to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries so that authorities could find the reptiles a new home at the local zoo.
The snakes were healthy, and it was clear that Mr. Redmond had known how to care for the animals. He had been studying snakes since he was a kid. So it was strange that he would let his guard down around a viper.
Redmond was suffering from cancer. The police considered his death “suspicious,” so they opened an investigation. The results of that investigation, if any, were not made public.
4 Wade Westbrook
A 26-year-old Tennessee man named Wade Westbrook had an odd fascination with snakes. His mother had said that he was once bitten after picking up a copperhead and had survived after getting the antivenom.
In January 2011, a friend brought a venomous copperhead snake to Wade’s home. The police don’t believe that this man was keeping the snake as an illegal pet, although snakes normally hibernate in the winter.
The friend wanted to know the snake’s gender, and Wade was the local “snake expert.” In Tennessee, even transporting a snake requires a permit, so everything about this exchange was ill-advised.
Not surprisingly, the snake bit Wade. Instead of calling 911, he attempted to extract the venom from the bite. But Wade passed out. Scared and unsure of what to do next, the friend didn’t call an ambulance until Wade had been unconscious for 10 minutes and it was clear that his DIY antivenom had failed.
Wade died before he could reach the hospital.
3 Timothy Levins
In 2014, a 52-year-old father named Timothy Levins took his family camping at Sam A. Baker State Park in Missouri. He spotted a snake and wanted to show his teenage kids. Timothy bent over to pick up the snake even though he had no idea what species it was. The snake bit him.
Timothy walked back to the family’s cabin so that he could wash the snake bite. Then he took a seat on the couch because he felt ill. At that point, he still wasn’t aware that the snake was a venomous copperhead.
His children witnessed their father convulsing on the couch, so they called 911. He died in the hospital that night. Timothy Levins was only the third person in the entire history of Missouri to die from a copperhead snake bite.
The Missouri Department of Conservation made a public statement that it’s more likely for someone to be killed by falling space debris than from a copperhead snake. Just don’t pick one up.
2 Norman Murburg
Any soldier who joins the US Army knows that he is signing up for the possibility of death. Most soldiers imagine a heroic death protecting their country and would never think of being taken down by a snake.
Twenty-year-old Norman Murburg was training to join the Special Forces at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Recruits are put through various tests, including wilderness survival.
Norman completed his first phase of training, but he never showed up at the second check-in point. Army officials didn’t find his body until the next day. They claim that he was bitten by a water moccasin or “cottonmouth” snake multiple times.
After examining the photos of his son’s body, Norman’s father, Mike, didn’t believe the army’s story about the snake bite. He thinks that it’s a cover-up for the fact that they were pushing recruits too hard and that his son collapsed from dehydration.
In 2010, Norman Marburg’s cause of death was changed to “undetermined” by the US Army. Even though Norman wasn’t actually killed by a snake (or at least it seems unlikely), we felt that this snake story was too good not to include.
1 George Yancy
No one wants to use the disgustingly dirty gas station bathrooms, but one can’t exactly be picky when nature calls. This is what happened to 35-year-old George Yancy while he was traveling through Smithville, Texas, on his way home from work.
Yancy used the bathroom key, dropped his pants, and sat down to do his business. In this vulnerable moment, he had no idea that a deadly rattlesnake was curled up underneath his feet.
When Yancy reached down to pull up his pants, the snake bit him in the hand. Rattlesnake venom begins to spread excruciating pain throughout the body within mere seconds. It causes swelling, makes breathing difficult, blurs vision, and causes overwhelming nausea. Without medical treatment, it only takes 30 minutes before the venom causes permanent damage.
Unfortunately for George Yancy, help did not arrive fast enough and he died. The only lesson anyone can learn from Mr. Yancy’s death is to look before you sit.
Shannon Quinn is an entrepreneur and writer. You can find her on Twitter.