For years, I’ve tried to figure out why I have such a crippling fear of snakes.
Now I think I know, and I blame it on George Pal, Tony Randall, and Arthur O’Connell.
Pal directed the 1964 movie “7 Faces of Dr. Lao,” Randall starred in the title role (and as several other characters, as well) and O’Connell – well, that bastard was the face of “The Serpent,” a stop-motion creation which scared the hell out of me then and scares the hell out of me now.
The snake was huge, it talked in Randall’s voice, and it gave me nightmares for years.
Check it out on YouTube. In the search box type in, “Dr. Lao snake,” and feel the terror.
Before I delve deeper into my phobia and why it has been triggered again, though, it should be noted that Randall showed a lot of range in this very clever motion picture.
And Pal, of course, gave us such cool films as “When Worlds Collide,” “The War of the Worlds” and “The Time Machine.”
(And when I reference “War of the Worlds” I’m talking about the original starring the guy who played Bat Masterson, and not the remake with Mr. Scientology and that pale kid.)
And I feel bad calling O’ Connell a bastard. He was a two-time Oscar nominee, played in some good Westerns and seemed like a likeable fellow … right up to the point where his face appeared on a snake.
But considering the movie came out in 1964 and I saw it on TV as a kid – most likely in the late 60s – that’s probably why snakes scare me so much.
I bring this up now because last week I was cutting grass (which is something I usually enjoy) and as I was making the turn and heading back toward the house, I saw Mr. No Shoulders slithering across the yard and exiting through a gap in the wooden gate. He was anywhere from 12 inches to 32-feet long and black or brown or magenta. I didn’t get too close because, you know, it was a snake.
I basically just froze for a few seconds before I resumed mowing, and then the rest of the day I was jittery and fearful that some reptile of the suborder Serpentes with the face of a character actor would attack me.
I told Mary about it and she said it was probably just a rat snake. That didn’t make me feel any better because I’m not overly fond of rats and I don’t even want to think about a rodent/serpent hybrid. That would be absolutely horrible.
That doesn’t make the fear any less real.
And don’t tell me the snake being more scared of me than I am of it.
I’m quite sure that if looked down and saw a snake touching me, I’d simultaneously pee, crap and puke – which would serve as the undercard to my massive heart attack.
And if a snake saw me touching it … ah, that’s ridiculous. You can’t touch something when you’re running away from it – and why on earth would I want to touch a snake?
I truly hate that I feel this way.
No snake has ever harmed me in any way and I’ve really, really tried to accept the fact that they do more good than harm. They help keep our ecosystems working through their own version of pest control, which means you might occasionally find them spraying your basement with chemicals and/or checking wood for termite damage.
Still, I’m horribly creeped out by them and yesterday when I cut grass my head was on a swivel because I expected to see another snake.
I didn’t, but I will … maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow.
However, it’s bound to happen.
And I swear, if it has the face of Arthur O’Connell, you can bury me right there.
Just bring some clean shorts so I can go out with a little dignity.