The snakebite death of Kentucky Pastor and third-generation serpent handler Jamie Coots, 42, could be a sign from God that a forthcoming snakebite movie could be destined to be a major box office blockbuster. According to a Washington Post story, Coots was bitten last weekend during a church service and died Saturday evening after refusing treatment for it.
The incident could not have happened at a better time for the February 21 wide elease of Holy Ghost People, a fictional re-make of the “serpent handler” religion of the Appalachians that was filmed in Crossville, Tennessee and was originally released on March 10, 2013 at the South by Southwest (SxSW) Film Festival in Texas.
In the horror film to be released by Xlrator Media this next weekend, the story appears to be a fictional account of a wayward young woman looking for her long-lost sister. She seems to stumble upon the Church of One Accord on Sugar Mountain somewhere in the Appalachians and by way of clips from the 1967 documentary and modern reenactments is exposed to the serpent handler’s lifestyle—as well as far more dangerous human behavior.
It is presently unknown if there are any snakebite deaths that occurred during the filming of the 2014 movie.
In both films, the remarkable segments are those that document the snake-handling.
The original film was a grainy, black and white documentary released by Thistle Films in 1967 and which covered a Pentacostal Christian service based in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia, a small town in the Appalachia Mountains. The basis of the film was the tradition of “serpent handling,” as the practice of snake-handling is known by those who practice it.
For Coots, his death was literally a televised moment. National Geographic was filming for its popular TV series, Snake Salvation. He had been featured throughout the series doing what he died doing last Saturday. Such incidents appear to be common, however.
In the 1967 documentary, the narrator flatly states, “Snake handlers are frequently bitten and rarely accept medical aid. Although snakebites are rarely fatal, many snake handlers have died.”
A 2012 snakebite death reported by CNN regarding Mack Wolford, which the media outlet said was one of Appalachia’s best-known Pentecostal snake handlers, died for refusing treatment after he was bitten by a poisonous yellow timber rattlesnake. Wolford’s father, who had passed down to his son the tradition in the tiny town of Matoaka, West Virginia, had died from a snake bite in 1983.
Coots had hoped to pass the tradition as well as the church to his son, Little Cody, who was one of the last people to talk to his father. It is unknown if Cody will carry on his father’s tradition at the Full Gospel Tabernacle where the family preaches.
The practice, which is said to be over 100 years old in the area, has long been under fire by authorities in the area.
According to National Geographic and CNN, Coots had been arrested no fewer than two times for violations regarding poisonous snakes, once in 2008 and again in 2013.
Authorities actions were noted in both versions of Holy Ghost People as well as in many episodes of the National Geographic TV series.
It is unknown if the snakebite death will prevent the studio from continuing its series, but one can be sure that the upcoming movie regarding the practice will have some serious box office numbers.
By Randall Fleming
Follow Randall Fleming on Twitter: #BreweryObserver