EXCERPT: When Mack Wolford, one of the most famous Pentecostal serpent handlers in Appalachia, is laid to rest Saturday at his West Virginia church, a week after succumbing to a snake bite, his friends may very well show up with boxes of copperheads, rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. That’s the Holiness Pentecostal way in tiny mountain towns like Matoaka, home to Wolford’s House of the Lord Jesus church. When one believer dies from a venomous bite, others often insist that it’s still God’s will that Christians obey a phrase in Scripture they say mandates the handling of serpents.
Wolford’s own dad was a serpent handler who died from a snake bite in 1983. Mack Wolford, who was 44, made headlines this week after he was bitten by his yellow timber rattlesnake at an evangelistic event in a state park about 80 miles west of Bluefield, in West Virginia’s isolated southern tip.