The Snakeman Who Was Bitten Nearly 200 Times and Lived to Be 100

The Snakeman Who Was Bitten Nearly 200 Times and Lived to Be 100


Born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1910 to Gustav
and Otillia Haast, Bill Haast was interested in snakes since he was 7 years old. This interest turned into something of an
obsession during summer trips to Boy Scout camp, beginning when he was 11. The next year Bill suffered his first snake
bite from a timber rattlesnake he tried to catch. At the time, Bill was four miles from the
camp’s first aid station, so he applied the standard field dressing of the day (making
crossed cuts over the fang marks and applying potassium permanganate) and walked back to
camp. Although his arm had swollen pretty well before
getting back to camp, he ultimately recovered with no long term ill effects. When he returned to camp the following year,
he suffered another bite from yet another snake he was trying to catch, this time a
large copperhead. Having learned his lesson from the previous
year, he was equipped with a snakebite kit and was immediately injected with anti-venom. Despite the early treatment, he was hospitalized
for a week after this bite. young-billNot satisfied with snakes in the
wild, Bill began collecting them via mail order catalogs as well. When he brought his first one home, he later
stated his terrified mother refused to be near it and fled the apartment for three days,
initially refusing to come back until he got rid of the snakes. Soon, however, she agreed he could keep, and
even grow, his little collection of snakes. Restless and confident, Bill spent his final
year in high school sneaking out of the building the second his mom was out of sight after
dropping him off. He’d then simply wander around all day. By age 16 in the late 1920s, he gave up the
ruse and joined a roadside snake show, hoping to make his way to Florida after reading in
a catalog that the diamondback rattle snake he purchased was shipped out of Florida. After the traveling snake show shut down due
to the effects of the Great Depression, he eventually did indeed make his way to the
Florida Everglades, where he supported himself by rooming with and helping a bootlegger. While this gave him ample time and opportunity
to catch and study various snakes, ultimately the bootlegging entrepreneur was arrested. At this point, Bill had a dream- to start
a snake farm. Unfortunately for him, that required money. So he decided to go back to school where he
studied to become an airplane mechanic. Upon graduation, he was hired by Pan Am as
a flight engineer and traveled the world, allowing him to collect even more exotic snakes. He generally brought his snakes back via safely
storing them away in his toolbox. He stated of this, “In those days there
were no laws prohibiting it, but the crew members didn’t appreciate it.” Besides collecting often deadly snakes from
around the world and bringing them on planes back home, Bill also spent his time as a flight
engineer saving up money to build a large snake farm. By 1946, he was able to purchase a plot of
land in south Miami, sold his house, and began building his Serpentarium. Unfortunately for him, his wife, Ann, didn’t
exactly appreciate his obsession with snakes nor the new direction her husband was taking
with his life, and she soon divorced him. Undeterred, one year later Bill opened the
Serpentarium with a skeleton staff of himself, his new wife, Clarita, who was much more supportive
of his little snake enterprise, and his son, Bill Jr., who, after being bitten four times
by the snakes, left the snake farm to seek safer work. milking-snake2Over the next 20 years, Bill
amassed an impressive array of venomous snakes from around the world, at any given time having
in excess of 500 snakes on his little farm. You might think such an endeavor wouldn’t
be very profitable, but Bill found ways to make quite a bit of money off his snake farm. He generated income in two ways. First, he “milked” venom from his 60 species
of snakes in front of a paying audience every day. This not only generated revenue from ticket
sales, but also from the sale of the raw material needed to produce anti-venom- a gram of which
would net as much as $5,000 in some cases, taking 100 or so milkings to produce one gram. Being something of a dangerous profession
with accidental bites not uncommon, Bill also decided to try to use the mithridatism approach
to protecting himself against the snakes- namely, injecting himself with gradually increasing
doses of venom from different snakes he milked regularly, including the Cape, King and Indian
cobras. injecting-snake-venomThis worked. In the 1950s, although he was bitten by cobras
approximately 20 times, he had few ill-effects and didn’t need any anti-venom. Eventually, his immunity to many snake bites
had grown so strong that he often donated blood to treat snakebite victims when anti-venom
for a particular type of venom was not otherwise available. According to the New York Times, over 20 people
who likely would have died without the antibodies in his blood were saved because of his donations,
including in one instance where Bill flew all the way to Venezuela to donate a pint
of his blood to be used for a boy who’d been bitten. For this act, the Venezuelan government made
Bill an honorary citizen of the country. (Normally snake anti-venom is made via injecting
diluted venom into certain mammals and then collecting the resulting antibodies from the
animal’s blood.) charming-snakeWhile the farm was very profitable
for Bill, a non-snake-related tragedy led to the closing of the Serpentarium. You see, in addition to snakes, Bill also
kept alligators and crocodiles in a pit on the premises. In the late 1970s, a six-year-old boy fell
into the pit. Seeing a tasty snack, one of the crocodiles
lunged for the boy before a random bystander, Nicolas Caulineau and the boy’s father,
could get to him. The two men did eventually manage to get on
top of the near one ton crocodile and attempted to free the boy, but it was too late. While today Bill would have been sued into
oblivion for this, the boy’s parents did not blame Bill for the accident. Nevertheless, he never forgave himself and
not long after closed the snake farm… but not before firing nine rounds from his Luger
pistol into the crocodile in question, ultimately resulting in it dying about an hour after
being shot. Years earlier, Bill developed a keen interest
in the medicinal uses of snake venom when he and a University of Miami researcher experimented
with its utility in treating polio, with encouraging results, before Dr. Jonas Salk came up with
an effective and safe vaccine against the disease. Now without his snake farm to run, Bill decided
to devote his time to once again exploring various snake venoms’ medicinal properties
with medical professionals. This culminated in Bill and a Miami doctor
treating over 6,000 patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and arthritis with a certain
blend of snake venom. While some of their research and results were
promising, in 1980, the FDA shut the pair down, claiming that Bill’s manufacturing
process on the venom used for injections was not rigorous enough. Undeterred, in 1990 Bill persisted with his
research at the Miami Serpentarium Laboratories he established. Bill also continued to inject himself with
a variety of venoms, which ultimately came from 32 different snake species. Although he had long thought that his daily
venom regimen contributed to his good health, a sample size of one certainly isn’t good
enough to give definitive credit to anything. When he reached 100 years old, he was asked
about this, stating, “Aging is hard. Sometimes, you feel useless. But I always felt I would live this long. It was intuitive. I always told people I’d live past 100,
and I still feel I will. Is it the venom? I don’t know.” Bill Haast died of natural causes some six
months after turning 100, on June 15, 2011. In his lifetime, he stated he had been bitten
by snakes approximately 173 times, 20 of which were nearly fatal. Among the more notable of these strikes, he
had a rather nasty incident with an eastern diamondback rattlesnake that left one of his
hands looking a bit like a claw. In another significant strike, a Malayan pit
viper managed to cause significant damage to his index finger. In yet another instance, a cottonmouth snake
sank its fangs into one of his fingers, resulting in the finger turning black almost instantly. Concerned, he called his wife over and had
her lop off the blackened bit of his fingertip with garden clippers before the venom could
spread. In an incident in 1989, a particularly nasty
strike from a Pakistani pit viper nearly killed him, but according to The Associated Press,
someone in the White House managed to use one of their contacts in Iran to get rare
vials of the anti-venom from that country to Bill, who ultimately recovered. Despite his love for snakes, he did note that
they don’t make the best pets, “You could have a snake for 30 years and the second you
leave his cage door cracked, he’s gone. And they’ll never come to you unless you’re
holding a mouse in your teeth.” When asked about his thoughts on life, having
lived to over 100, he stated, “The art of living is not an instinct; it must be learned. Isn’t it a pity that it takes all of it
before we know how to use that which we no longer have?”

100 thoughts on “The Snakeman Who Was Bitten Nearly 200 Times and Lived to Be 100

  1. Once again I have learned about a person and events about which I otherwise would have never known. Great video Simon, thank you! 👍💚

  2. there was a Serpentarium near Orlando Fl. Just out side of St cloud Fl on HWY 192. I just want to know if this is the same person. I know they did collect venom from different snakes. The video was saying Miami Fl

  3. How dangerous is it to inject yourself with watered down snake venom? How might it affect your health? Because I really want to do the same one day

  4. Not to steal thunder from Simon, his team or Bill. However have any of you seen this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q_m-rDUNw0&has_verified=1 ? I wonder if that guy is still around. Thanks gang.

  5. Copperheads are all over where i live, i see at least 1 or 2 practically every time i go for run. bound to get bit one day smh

  6. I have been bitten twice by rattlesnakes. Both dry, when I put my hand on them while they were sleeping. One fang went through my thumbnail (it hurt). I was treated for infections and still have the scars.
    I was almost bitten by a Mojave Green while snatching my dog away from it… I’m not sure if it was a warning or a miss.
    Coincidentally, we raised a Redtail Boa from a baby. He lived 17 years and was very sweet. He loved people and slept in our bed with us. He reached 13 feet long and we were very sad when he passed.

  7. video idea for you guys today I found out… why does the picture of death we imagine today have a skeleton in a dark robe hooded with a sythe ?

  8. Only 500 snakes? Need more snakes.

    I don't see the point of him shooting the gator, it just was doing what gators do… Boooo. Poor longchomper 🙁

    Dang that guy was hardcore though o.o

    I do agree that snakes would ditch the moment they get a chance, I've had plenty of attempted escapes even while feeding the little buggers! It's just instinct 🙂

  9. The vaccine for polio developed by Jonas Salk first came into use in 1955. The oral vaccine developed by Albert Sabin came out in 1961 So, I think you made some very critical factual errors in this vid.

  10. I think that this kind of thumbnail is much more elegant and adequate for tifo content than Simon making goofy faces. Nothing against his face (10/10 very nice) but those weird thumbnails they started to put up lately lowkey piss me off.

  11. Growing up as a kid, Bill was legendary! I remember seeing him milk a snake in the Serpentarium and getting bit at the time, but it didn't faze him! I knew someone who worked with him and remember when he passed away a few years ago.

  12. A Man Much Smarter Than Me Once Said. “Snakes Are Just Tails With Heads”. If That Doesn’t Open Your Eyes Nothing Will.

  13. I tried to urge a rattler off the trail in a park in Colorado so it didn't get run over; it just sat up & rattled at me. I realized that venomous snakes probably weren't shy & retiring. Meanwhile my wife is safely in the car, alternately guffawing at me & yelling for me to leave the damn snake alone 😊. I managed to not get bitten 👍🏻

  14. Haha, snake shaman, probably didn't realize it, no proper tutor, and couldn't help doing what he did. At least he did what needed done anyway.

  15. That thumbnail made me cum…

    *Ops sorry it made me say “he was good looking”….
    nothing sexual or anything…

  16. If my 3 snakes had thumbs we'd give this video 4 likes.

    1 complaint, the Malaysian pit viper pic was an Echis, a sawscale viper.

  17. I had no idea that was how anti-venom was made! You guys really do teach me something new almost every day! XOXOX

  18. Dude is a hero to many people , there's a lot of zookeepers and such that'd be dead without his work.

  19. I used to live a few blocks from the Serpentarium. The only time I ever visited was right before it shut down. It had a huge cobra decoration that was a local landmark and was donated to a local high school, but they dropped it during demolition. It was not repairable so it was lost forever. The show started with a long box in a little courtyard. Mr. Haast then opened the box and, at the show I attended, a large cobra emerged. This happened only a few feet away, with a low wall with some hedges separating the audience from the snake. Mr. Haast reminded me of a bird of prey intently staring at the snake, moving into position and striking at just the right moment.

    I never made it to Coral Castle, a few miles to the south. I went, but just sat in the parking lot. Something about the place really creeped me out. Maybe that would be a good TIFO?

  20. Everyone who is born in Paterson NJ is alil crazy. I think it's something in the water over there

  21. Took my snake loving teen daughter to a serpatirium in Orlando Florida while on vacation. She got to hold some pretty big snakes and watched the milking of an albino king Cobra (albeit behind glass)

  22. Antivenin is fucking expensive. If you're bitten while purposely harrassing a snake, hospitals should tell you to go fuck yourself and try your luck with some homeopathic pills.

  23. No snakes on a plane jokes? Though in all seriousness, this guy sounds like someone you'd like to sit down and have a chat with.

  24. The FDA shut his medicine research down because it was effective and they weren't getting any profit from it.
    The FDA is a bunch of f'ing crooks.

  25. This channel should air a special about those extreme sports people/others who use venoms as nootropic or performance enhancing/its other effects.

    We live in the age of extreme sports and autoimmune disorders so this would be a great follow up episode idea… Just saiyan

  26. I live in Florida and am fortunate to have seen one of his live demonstrations. He free handed a cobra. He free handed a krait. Those are exotic species not native to Florida. Then he brought out a water moccasin aka cotton mouth. (Genus Agkistrodon) and used a snake hook to pin its head down before he picked it up. Even though these snakes are technically less lethal than the elapids from the cobra family it showed that pit vipers can be somewhat harder to handle.

  27. Simon: Love the video. What would it take for you to come to Wichita, KS, The Hardest Working City in America, the Air Capital of the World, the heartland, to do a live talk? Reply if you're interested and I will share my email address to coordinate. I know this is a long shot.

  28. Please note that the picture shown when talking of a timber rattlesnake bite is of a nonvenomous snake, not a timber rattler. In fact, most of the illustrations shown in this segment show nonvenomous snakes. It is smart to be careful around snakes, but there’s no need to stoke people’s exaggerated fears of them.

  29. It was quite a sąd story. Some stupid guy lets his son fall into a crocodile pit, kid dies and the guy kills the animal and closes his serpentarium.

  30. I have seen a few shows that had him on it. He didn't look anywhere near his age, not even his hands. Those looked MUCH older. An eighty year old man with a sixty year old face and 120 year old hands.

  31. Amazing quote. "The art of living is not an instinct, it must be learned. Isn't it a pity that it takes all of it before we know how to use that which we no longer have?"

  32. OFc they wont appreciate it. Normally people wont be too thrilled reaching for something they need in your toolbox when lo and behold there's a few feet worth of hissing reptile suddenly either coiling their hand or biting at them 8I

  33. Speaking of snakes, ever wonder why snakes don't get sunburned despite laying out in the sun frequently? Well, wonder no more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RU7J3M56Ug

  34. Amazing. The thing killed his son and he didn't blame him for it because he knew it was the crocodile and/or his child's genuine fault? That is a fucking honest world I wish still existed today. And him then shooting the fuck out of the crocodile and closing the place soon after only reinforces the truth that everyone treated each other with respect and dignity back then.

  35. I don’t think there will ever be another Bill because he dedicated his hole life too understand venomous snakes. He risk his life to be able to save others and I have a son that wants to be like him and he worries me to death.

  36. This was so stupid AND OMG this guy dragged and dragged it so long I started falling off my seat? Yevi fell asleep, who the hell finds this stuff interesting, guy keeps these reptiles in his house as pets and through out his dumb as life keeps getting bit and limbs start rawting away WOW ABYWAY THIS WAS A WASTE OF MY 10 MINS

  37. In his later years he moved his serpentarium across the state of Florida from Miami to the Punta Gorda area where I met him briefly about 20 years ago while I was delivering some pipe to the serpentarium for an irrigation project. He was friendly, extremely spry for a man nearing 90, and his hands were very gnarled from his numerous bites.

  38. This guy sounds pretty damn amazing and a great guy, he didn't deserve to be crippled by snakes after saving so many lives.

  39. There has been research done that has discovered that something in the Black Mamba venom helps with relief from severe migraines.

  40. i duno, i have known a couple large snakes that would escape, but not try and get away even if they had the chance, mostly just staying close to home looking for someplace comfortable to hold up, also, both would if loose, come to where humans where, and would just…hang out, if the group of humans moved, it moved once the group settled, IF it was on a couch, both would get close to or on humans…

    oh, also, any claims they cannot hold a grudge or remember specific people… ballox… both had people they didnt like, each had one they where openly hostile to…

    anyway… im not into things that can kill me… despite being tired of waking up

  41. An honor to have met him.
    Regarding his second bite from a copperhead, it was a snake that he had already caught and was nearly four feet long – huge for a copperhead. He tried to get it out of the cage by lifting it by the tail…and the snake flipped around and tagged him. It was in that hospital stay that his mother brought him a book by then eminent herpetologist Raymond L. Ditmars of the Bronx Zoo and he began thinking of the possibility that venom might have beneficial uses.

  42. How do not love this man? Saving so many lives through his work directly and indirectly and feeling so awful in inadvertently causing the death of a child when no one even blamed him that he sacrificed his beloved business … just a solid good human being …what brought me here was another video where someone claimed that Bill claimed to know for a fact he would live over 100 years and then he DID ….which is not at all common for a man! I mean lots of people could get lucky claiming to know for a fact they would live over 80 years…hit or miss you know ….good possibility for anyone reasonably healthy these days …but 100 years especially for a man? THAT is some heavy boasting!

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