The Mystery of the Religious Snake-Handlers

(Part One)

A few years ago, the biggest ABC affiliate television station in East Tennessee had been running stories, five minute episodes on mind-control, psychics, prophets, aliens, the occult, and anything else that had to do with the paranormal, strange, or uncanny. With my regional television show just finishing its eighth year, where it was a well known, and actually very popular, fact that I covered a wide gamut of anything and everything weird, strange, or psychic— which is not exactly what one would expect from a television show in Eastern Tennessee, or for that matter, anywhere else in the Bible Belt, as this region of the country is called — I knew it was only a matter of time before they would get to me, especially considering what all I had been specifically talking about on the air during the last few shows:  In addition to, all of the normal psychic fare that I served up every week on the show, I had been talking lately about my experiences in attending the religious services of one of the “snake-handling churches” that have flourished in the surrounding hill country of Eastern Tennessee for well over a hundred years. Given my known personal interests and pursuit of anything related to the, so-called “hidden powers” of the human mind, as well as my conclusions that people are able to do these things because of tapping into higher brain wave frequencies, then this naturally made an me open game for their hunt. .  

           These short “Special” features that were being run by this particular station were formatted to look like “Commentary” or “Editorial Special Features” and were usually tacked onto the end of the regular evening and late night closing newscasts, giving the shows ending a somewhat melodramatic and “to be continued” or “ stay tuned,…more to come” effect —  specifically a sponge to soak up all the attention they could for their sponsors from any emotional energy  that might be left-over from all the hype about 2012 and Doomsday, not to mention all the variations on Nostradamus that were being played out by some of the other cable stations.

It really just came down to that, “weird is “In”,… anything “ normal,… is totally out,”…or “out” at least as far as the public’s attention span goes, and naturally that is all advertisers are interested in, “who’s watching what,…and when are they watching it?

As anticipated, I got a call from the reporter on a Monday morning, and subsequently both she and her cameraman arrived at my office late that same afternoon. They were cordial and all smiles, with both of their mouths full of bright white, friendly teeth when they arrived. But behind the smiles and obsequious cordiality, I thought that I could indistinctly hear the shivering rattle, a low, raspy sound like a rattlesnake makes just before it strikes

When the cameraman was set up and ready, the first question the reporter asked went straight to the point; though, she was still all white teeth and smiles as she asked it,

“Why did you attend these services? You’re not a member of that church, or I would imagine, much of believer in that sort of religious practice,…judging, that is, from the other, more unusual, psychic things you usually discuss on your television program.” 

Her composure stayed with all sharp, white teeth as she waited for my answer.

I simply cleared my throat, assuming, what I call, my professorial look and voice, as I said,

I practice, as you and your viewers know, a particular mind modality called simply, “The Gamma-Mind Technique and Effect,” where at least once each day I do this short exercise with my mind that causes my brain to produce a substantial and larger infusion of the rare brain wave activity that scientists refer to as the Gamma brain wave frequency. The reason I do this — again, as you probably know from watching my show — is that scientists at such prestigious institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or M.I.T., as it more commonly is referred to, have discovered that this infusion of Gamma wave activity produces some rather remarkable effects and responses in the human brain; namely, not only a substantial and profound increase in one’s level of intelligence, but also some more interesting effects — at least from my viewpoint, anyway —  in that it seems to also produce, what others might call simply, paranormal abilities that would not be available to you to use were it not for this Gamma wave activity that can take place in your brain when you do the exercises. And as far as the snake-handlers go, I suspect that they must be doing something very similar— though unbeknownst to themselves —  that is, to suddenly be able to pick-up and handle deadly poisonous snakes without being bitten.

I looked over the top rim of my glasses to see if she was connecting with any of this. The video-camera made, when it was on, a low hissing sound in the background, but satisfied with the smile I was still getting, I continued with my professorial dissertation,

“Anyway, to make a long story short, it has always been my contention and theory that these Gamma waves, or whatever you want to call them, are what determine whether or not people can do  some of the more unusual things they do — things you read and hear about all the time, like fire-walking, levitation, human bi-location, astral projection, O.B.E.s, or Out-Of-The-Body-Experiences, if you will, or any of the weird things you hear about all the time. It  is simply my belief, based  upon, not only supposition and theory, but also  actual corroboration of enough points of similarity between much of what these people say  is happening inside their heads while all of this paranormal activity is taking place, and what I suspect is happening with their brain wave activity., Regardless of whatever particular phenomena they are exhibiting, whether that be fire-walking or snake-handling or something else, I believe they are all somehow tapping into this higher, what scientists call, Gamma brain wave activity. I mean, it’s obvious something extraordinary, even in a scientific viewpoint, is taking place when a person walks on fire or suddenly grabs up a rattlesnake or a water moccasin and not only wraps it around their neck, like it was some kind of scaly scarf, but also plants a big kiss right where lips should be, right on the snake’s ‘hisser,’ if you will.”

I looked over to see if she had caught my attempt at a humorous play on words. It seemed to elude her attention, so I simply continued,

“I mean, have you ever just reached into a box with a deadly poisonous snake in it. Can you just imagine what would happen if you did? That is without knowing the secret of ‘just how to go about doing it”

The young reporter, all straight backed and composed, holding her pen and tablet (that she never wrote anything on) in her lap, like it was a hymn book or something, never so much as for a second breaking anything like a sweat or her Colgate smile, interposed softly, trying to muster all the wrinkles of concern her totally unwrinkled face might be capable of making, and said softly,

“But, that is my point exactly, concerning all of this.  People do get burned, and certainly over the years you have read about or seen on television where someone died from snake bite. How do explain all of that?”

She didn’t know it then, since her young reporting career had not yet prepared her for old snakes like me. Anticipating many of the questions she would, in all likelihood, ask, I had set a trap to lead the questioning in the direction I wanted it to go, and now the jaws of which had just snapped shut in the expected, obvious, and sensible question that she had just asked, a question that I had been asked many times before, and had the answer honed as sharp as steel teeth in a bear trap. I didn’t need to clear my throat before I replied,

“You see, that’s where everybody gets it all wrong. People don’t get back far enough from these things to see what it’s really all about, or ‘what is really going on’ when these strange, weird, and unknown phenomena take place. They’d rather jump to stereotypical conclusions, and see somebody else as being just plain stupid, or as they imagine when someone gets bitten at one of these services, as just plain ignorant, as well, …or so they think, anyway. That way they can sit in front of their television at home and fold their uneventful,’ never-reach-beyond-the-box-hands’ and make absolute judgments about other people and events that they don’t know anything at all about — not really, anyway! And then to pile some stupidity on top of a pile of real ignorance, here comes the press, and rather than going for, and telling the really interesting story — by digging just a little deeper, they just pick-up whatever piece of the story that’s on top of the ground, and go with it !  So they print or broadcast, ‘Well, another person was bitten by a snake today at a service at the Church of Jesus Christ With Signs Following…and that’s the end of it, as far as they’re concerned”

I could see that the reporter had lost her smile, not so much at all the accusations I was making against the press and their bad reporting, as I saw it, but rather, it was obvious that she had gone from smiling to total confusion, wondering what in the world I was going to say next, and where was I going with all of this?    

I was the one smiling now as I said, taking my tone down to a calm, resolute, what I call, my omniscient sounding voice,

“You see, Christen, (that was her name) the press misses the really big story when these things happen. What I mean is, sure occasionally, about every four or five years, you’ll hear about one of these preachers getting bit by a copperhead or rattlesnake or whatever,… and they die. And that’s just what you folks print, or broadcast, or put out on the air. Of course, after beating your drum a bit to stir it all up and sensationalize it, like the press, I guess, is supposed to do, to keep all their ratings up or something, they make that the end of it. But, what you have actually done is miss one of the biggest stories, one of the biggest headliners, of that decade, if indeed, not the century itself.”

I could tell as I spoke that Colgate wouldn’t be interested in her anymore. It seemed it was all she could do but to keep her mouth from dropping open in total perplexity and confusion, looking as dumbfounded as if I were speaking Chinese. She seemed almost lost, like I had left her somewhere back down the road, especially on that part about ‘missing one of the biggest stories of the decade’ — I could see what was probably running through her young head: “To do that — miss the story of the decade —  might cost her job.”Saying that seemed to bring something out of her, perhaps a secret fear. You could tell she was considering all of her options, so as never to lose her job. I continued my harangue,

“The really big story isn’t about the poor guy that got bit by the snake, as unfortunate as that might be in and of itself. Maybe he had fallen out of grace or something. Ticked God off! Who knows? Anyway — not to sound mean or anything — but who the hell cares? The big story is about all those other folks, in all of these snake handling churches that didn’t get bit, but still went down front to the altar and picked a snake out of one of those big brown wooden boxes, took that sucker and wrapped it right around their neck and kissed it dead square in its hisser. And that ain’t all! How many of these folks do you suppose went down to that alter, either with the preacher that you read about getting bit— at the same time, or before him, or after him, and yet, they didn’t get bit, even though they did exactly the same thing he did — in fact I’ve seen some of them handle those snakes so roughly that under any other circumstances, at least, there’s absolutely no way they would have not been bitten,…unless,…unless something else is going on here that outsiders don’t know anything at all about. And that’s what I’m interested in: HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON, HERE?”

I could see that her mouth was now almost fully open, and unlike when she came in, I could now see her lower teeth easier than I could her upper. They were just as white, but somehow now didn’t look quite as sharp, least not the way her uppers had when she first arrived. The cameraman, still as silent as ever, but now far more animated, was eating it all up with big helpings of smiles from behind the camera. Since he could see that the reporter was frozen in silence and didn’t even try to talk when I paused out of politeness, he winked at me instead, as if to say, “Action” so I continued,

“Christen, just ‘do the math,’ as they say! How many of these snake-handling churches do you suppose there are in this country? Sixty? A  hundred?”

Her eyes were as wide-open as her mouth, now —, indeed, just as if she had been snake-bitten herself. 

I simply ranted on,

 “Let’s say there are fifty— just for arguments sake, and to be conservative. So, on the average they meet probably twice a week, like most churches do, once on say, Sunday night, and once on say, Wednesday night. That makes two meetings a week for each church”

Since she hadn’t moved, I could tell it was left to me to do the math: The venom was evidently taking effect. So, I continued,

“So, how many people do you think go down to the altar and pick-up a snake each week? Two? Three? Five? Ten?

 I stopped long enough to see if she was still following me on all of this.  

She looked almost comatose.  But I went on unwinding, anyway

“Let’s say — just to be conservative, again, that four people during every service suddenly get ‘under the Spirit,’ as they call it, and four of them go down to the altar to pick-up a serpent, or  have a cold drought of strychnine! I smiled wryly as I looked back at her. This time it was all my teeth that were showing.”

The potential humor that I had cast her way was totally lost, straight over her head, which was surely, by now, growing numb from all the venom I was throwing her way.

OK, say there are fifty of these churches, meeting twice a week, with an average of four people going down to the altar to ‘handle a snake’ at each service. So, that’s a total of approximately one-hundred total services a week —two for each church, one Sunday, one Wednesday night, and fifty churches altogether, times two,  equals a hundred\ total services. Then, if an average of four people go down to the altar for each service at each church, that makes, 4 people X 100 services, or a grand total of four hundred people handling deadly poisonous snakes each week— at fifty-two weeks per year, gives you a total of 20,800 people a year who handle snakes at these churches with only one, or two at most dying of snake bite every four or five years. Of course, that’s about the average between deaths, as far as I can determine: one every four years as reported in the press.”

I swung around in my chair to look the young reporter, straight in the eyes with this latest revelation.

It seemed, as I looked at her that rigor mortis had almost started to set in. She only blinked the way a fawn, separated from its mother, does when you suddenly come upon it in the forest. I lowered my rifle and continued,

“Do you see what I mean, Christen? You folks in the media have missed the real story, which is that during the course of four years, over eighty-thousand people reach down in a box full of poisonous serpents, rattle snakes, copper heads, cotton mouths, and water moccasins, and yet only one or two of them get bitten and die every four or five years Now, there’s the real story!. And I haven’t even started talking about those that drink strychnine. And,  of course, the way they explain what might have happened to those  one or two who are bitten every four or five years, is that they somehow, whether by sin or ‘not livin’ right,’ as they call it, simply were not protected under the supernatural veil of God’s power.”

Evidently feeling confident that I wasn’t going to shoot, after all, the fawn reporter started blinking surrender with big brown eyes and smiling again. Then I said,

“You see, Christen, those eighty-thousand people are doing something, something with their minds, or in their minds, or through their minds, that the rest of us don’t know yet  how to do. And I suspect – to be perfectly up-front about it all — that it has something to do with tuning into an entirely different frequency of reality that the rest of us know very little about, a reality or dimension of the soul, God, or some as yet untapped supernatural power, but a power that is available to all of us, once we know where exactly to put the key into the lock.”

TO BE CONTINUED: Bee sure and check back at in the coming weeks and read the conclusion to this story, The Snake Handlers And The Blue Light Of God.

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