'Serpent-Handling' West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite

  • 'Serpent-Handling' West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite (ABC News)

    'Serpent-Handling' West Virginia …

A "serpent-handling" West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.

Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, 44, hosted an outdoor service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia Sunday, which he touted on his Facebook page prior to the event.

"I am looking for a great time this Sunday," Wolford wrote May 22, according to the Washington Post. "It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good 'ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers."

Robin Vanover, Wolford's sister, told the Washington Post that 30 minutes into the outdoor service, Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake, which eventually bit him.

"He laid it on the ground," Vanover said in the interview, "and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh."

Vanover said Wolford was then transported to a family member's home in Bluefield about 80 miles away to recover. But as the situation worsened, he was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Jim Shires, owner of the Cravens-Shires Funeral Home in Bluefield, told ABC News that Wolford died Monday. Wolford's church, the Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka, will host a viewing Friday and a funeral service Saturday morning. Wolford will be buried at the Hicks Family Plot in Phelps, Ky.

Officials at the Panther Wildlife Management Area had been unaware of Sunday's event until they were notified by callers after the service.

"We did not know that this event was happening, and if we had known about it or if we had been asked for permission, permission would not have been granted," Hoy Murphy, public information officer for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, told ABC News.

Hoy said West Virginia state park rules prohibit animals other than dogs and cats on the property.

While snake-handling is legal in West Virginia, other Appalachian states, including Kentucky and Tennessee, have banned the practice in public spaces.

Snake-handlers point to scripture as evidence that God calls them to engage in such a practice to show their faith in him. Mark 16: 17-18 reads, "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Wolford told the Washington Post magazine in 2011 that he is carrying on the tradition of his ancestors by engaging in snake handling.

"Anybody can do it that believes it," Wolford said. "Jesus said, 'These signs shall follow them which believe.' This is a sign to show people that God has the power."

Wolford said watched his own father die at the age of 39 after a rattlesnake bit him during a similar service.

"He lived 101/2 hours," Wolford told the Washington Post Magazine. "When he got bit, he said he wanted to die in the church. Three hours after he was bitten, his kidneys shut down. After a while, your heart stops. I hated to see him go, but he died for what he believed in.

"I know it's real; it is the power of God," Wolford told the Washington Post Magazine last year. "If I didn't do it, if I'd never gotten back involved, it'd be the same as denying the power and saying it was not real."


What do you all think of this?

Views: 762

Replies to This Discussion

Too bad he's not alive to accept his well-deserved recognition.....the Darwin Award. 

His own father died from snake bite. I just don't get these people.

Well, now he's in a "much better place."  That's all that matters.  It's G-D's will and HE acts in mysterious ways.  We shouldn't question HIS plan for us.  It's too much for our puny little minds to comprehend.  It only strengthens our desire to want to join our LORD in Heavenly bliss, away from this horrible, sinful existence here on earth.  (Did I say that like a True Christian?)        

And as I mentioned to a friend, how can Christians be sure that all extant bibles, teachings passed down, etc. aren't works of a devil intent on leading people astray?

(Not that we really need to be reinforcing supernatural memes at all, even by disapproving mention....)

Quite a few Christians feel very free to question "God's plan" to make us atheists!

The Darwin Award is only for people who die doing stupid things, so he IS eligible.  Especially if he has not passed his nutsy DNA on to any offspring.

I LOL'd when I read the headline.  Delightful!  (This is what I meant when I told booklover that I am not a particularly nice person.)

I'm sure that the pentecostals are saying it's "god's will," which in my dictionary = god swill.

"The things that you're liable
 To read in the buybull,
 They ain't necessarily so!"

I guess his faith bit him in the ass...or thigh rather......

Just another incident to prove that blind faith in ANYTHING can END you!!  This would be funny if it weren't sooooo sad......and stupid.....very very stupid.

I'm a very compassionate and caring person.  I hate seeing bad things happen and to have people suffer and die needlessly, but I truthfully have to admit outright:  Yes, I chuckled reading this story and found it to be quite funny.  I think he got just what he deserved.  This is no great loss to the gene pool.    

I put this up on my facebook yesterday and pretty much immediately had a god-bot swooping down on me:

"The serpent was never a friend of the God fearing population."


It* says,"if they pick up serpents, they shall not fear ingesting poison." Unfortunately he did not believe enough to keep a poisonous viper from biting him.

*Mark 16:17-18

I pointed out in the news article it says he sat on the snake which rather understandably bit him on the thigh.

She replied:  "It says pick up snakes, not sit on them."

Clearly this poor fellow was just doomed from outset! 

Is the snake ok? 

@ Chris G - I literally laughed out loud!

Haha that is really funny Chris G!




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