Snake-Handling Pastor Dies from Snake Bite

Jamie Coots and family
Photo: National Geographic
There is some sad news coming from Middleboro, Kentucky. Pastor Jamie Coots and reality star of National Geographic's, Snake Salvation, died Saturday, February 15 when bitten by a rattlesnake he was handling during his church’s service. The 42 year-old was bitten during the day’s service but refused treatment from paramedics. It has been rumored that the pastor had been bitten eight times before.

In May of 2012, another pastor, Mack Woldford also died of a rattlesnake bite. While considered a bold pastor, Wolford has also been characterized as a “daring man of conviction” who truly believed that the Bible actually mandates Christians to handle serpents to test their faith in God, and if they should get bitten, God will heal them. Ironically, Wolford’s father was also a snake-carrying preacher, who also died the same way years ago.

Snake handling (or serpent handling as some would rather call it) has been a ritual a number of smaller churches in Appalachia since the early 20th century. Unlike what some would think, that actual handling of snakes is only a small part of each service. Parishioners often quote Mark 16:17-18:

“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.”

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