As a SOTT editor, I like to keep an eye on what's going on in the animal kingdom. The big news in recent years on that score has, of course, been the high number of mass animal deaths. But has anyone else noticed the extraordinary number of stories about snakes in the news lately? I first noticed a spate of snake stories at the beginning of the summer, and over the last couple of months snakes have been turning up in close proximity to people, and in some highly unusual settings, at an alarming rate. There have also been some particularly horrifying reports of attacks and resulting fatalities by escaped pet pythons - on both children and domesticated animals alike.

It seems appropriate that 2013, according to the Chinese zodiac tradition, is the Year of the Snake!

The following is a quick run-down of some incidents worth highlighting, starting in May, which initially show a slow build-up of such stories, leading fairly rapidly to 'spikes' in reports, some of which we've carried on SOTT.


On May 17th, a 15-foot long python snake was found in Selsdon Wood, near Croydon in the UK, "just metres from a primary school". Three days later on the 20th, this headline popped up - 'Miami man catches Florida's longest ever Burmese python'. The snake was 19 feet long!
© Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Jason Leon, left, of Miami, holds up the Burmese python that Florida officials say he captured and killed May 11. Research staffers at the University of Florida, right, lay end-to-end to show size of the 18-foot 8-inch reptile.

Snakes appeared to stay in the shadows in June when little of note surfaced, except for this somewhat disturbing video entitled 'Are snakes smart enough to open doors?', published on the 20th. An indication of what was to follow, perhaps?


On July 9th and 10th, two incidents of snakes popping up in odd locations were reported, one at a power station resulting in an outage to a Greenville, South Carolina community. The following day, another 19-foot python appeared, this time falling from the ceiling of an Australian charity shop in the town of Ingham, Queensland.

© PA
The huge python was spotted the day after the break-in by terrified shop workers
The next day, July 11th, saw a truly strange story of a snake that emerged out of a French postal packet:
A French post office employee had the fright of her life when a metre-long python slithered quietly out of a parcel and rubbed against her.

The woman was alone in the post office in the village of Blenod-les-Pont-a-Mousson in eastern France, when she felt the chilling caress and screamed for help.

Firemen caught the fugitive reptile and discovered a second one in the parcel. The pair was identified by a vet as ball pythons - non-aggressive snakes that coil up into a tight ball when threatened - and was donated to a nearby zoo.
Another power outage caused by a snake was reported on the 14th in Arlington, Virginia, leaving 10,000 customers without electricity.

On July 16th, this somewhat arresting and alarming headline appeared: 'Snake bites man's penis as he sits on toilet in Israel'.

Back in the U.S., six days later yet another power outage involving a snake occurred, this time in McIntosh County, Georgia:
A snake is being blamed for knocking out power Monday morning to more than 3,000 customers in McIntosh County.

Officials with Coastal Electric Cooperative say a snake crawled onto a 25,000 volt circuit breaker inside the Sapelo substation at Eulonia, Ga.

Crews scrambled to restore power to the 3,297 customers affected. The entire circuit breaker had to be replaced. Power has since been restored to the affected customers.

The first day of August brought a report of a Frenchman who found a 2 meter-long snake in his car, another highly unlikely place to find a reptile lurking. The next day an escaped or released python held up traffic on an expressway in Birmingham, UK. Needless to say, pythons are not native to the UK (unless they're of the 'monty' variety).


Police photo of the snake discovered on the Aston Expressway
The 5th of the month brought this nightmarish tale of an escaped python killing 2 young children in New Brunswick, Canada:
Two young boys who were at a sleepover in an apartment above an exotic pet store in Campbellton, N.B., were killed by a large African python that got loose early Monday.

The python escaped from the Reptile Ocean exotic pet store and killed the children, reportedly five and seven years old, who were found at 6:30 a.m.

According to deputy mayor Ian Comeau, the snake escaped and slithered through the ventilation system to the residence above where the children had spent the night.
Back in the UK, another large snake was discovered in a Leicester garden pond on the same day. The following day, a 14-foot-long python found in a Florida shed was discovered to have been eating local cats:

A couple of weeks later, I came across this 22nd August headline: 'Fairfax, Virginia boy steps on copperhead snake in doorway', and another bizarre story about a python on the loose in Westland, Michigan, this one apparently caught in an overhead shower exhaust fan. The next day in Canada, a couple were found to have been keeping 40 pythons in a motel room.
On August 26th a Swedish man, who reportedly had 40 venomous snakes in his apartment, suffered a bite from one of his pet cobras.

© Kamalnv,Wikimedia Commons
The Indian cobra, Naga naja, shown here with its hood expanded, is often regarded as the archetypal cobra.
Two unusual garden sightings happened on the 27th and 28th: firstly, a Dorset, UK, woman caught an albino king snake, followed by a python turning up on a Halifax lawn in Canada.

Another story from the 28th was an account of a python near a fast food outlet in New Jersey:
A 10-foot python was captured Tuesday in the parking lot of a New Jersey Burger King after a construction crew fixing a sewer line spotted the reptile.

It had apparently been seen in recent days, moving through the grass near the Passaic River in Paterson.

On Tuesday morning, the construction crew saw the snake and called animal control officers, who then contacted local snake expert Jerry Zelenka.

Zelenka, who conducts animal education programs through his organization Touch of Nature, estimated the Burmese python was about 10 feet long and 40 to 45 pounds.

He said the snake wasn't venomous or dangerous, but "they'll give you a bite you won't enjoy, if you are bitten."
There were three reports on the 29th, one of a snake outside a Watford house, another in a Cleethorpes drain - both incidents taking place in the UK - while the third dealt with a rattlesnake found on a kitchen table in Livingston, Montana.

Another snake story was reported in the UK on the last day of August, that of a snake discovered at the side of a Doncaster canal.


As busy as August was, there was no let up of reports in September, with some snakes again appearing at very unexpected locations.

On the second day of the month a UK pensioner was shocked to find a 4ft king snake under a table in her garden in Derby:


Scary moment: Mrs Challis's husband Pete and their neighbour managed to capture the snake by using a garden rake to coerce it into the bin on its side, before tipping it up and putting a heavy weight on top
The following day another weird occurrence was documented: 'Houston man opens case of beer, finds snake'.

On the same date as the above report, there was another sighting of a snake close to a school, this time in Toronto, Canada:

A Toronto police officer with the metre-long snakediscovered slithering Tuesday near Port Royal Public School in the Midland Ave. and Steeles Ave. E. area.
The 5th brought in this episode from Scotland: 'Disco the snake handed into nightclub after being found in street in Dumfries':

© Scottish SPCA
Disco: The corn snake was found in Dumfries on Tuesday night.
Again on the 5th, this time south of the border in England, a three-foot python was spotted near some playing fields.

Meanwhile in Texas, echoing the earlier bathroom incident that happened in Israel in July, a man had a slithery encounter in the bathroom of a San Antonio Starbucks when a snake apparently crawled up the drain pipe:
Snake in Toilet
Snakes in unexpected places can startle anyone. For Bruce Ahlswede the unexpected place was a San Antonio Starbucks bathroom, where he had stopped on Tuesday, September 3, 2013, after a business presentation.
Two days later, another Texas bathroom encounter happened, involving a perhaps more hygienically-inclined serpent that became lodged in a sink drain:

© McLennan County Sheriff’s Office photo
Three snake stories were reported on the 9th of September: A warden found a 6-foot snake by a roadside in Colchester, UK, while across the English border into Wales a python bit a Swansea woman as she headed home from a night out, and on the other side of the Atlantic a 14-year-old found a snake in a shoebox at a store in Gadsden, Alabama.

On September 10th, a snake caused another power disruption, this time in Malaysia.


The snake was believed to have crawled between the wires and had apparently caused an electrical trip in the 33KV power supply line from Papar to Kinarut.
Four articles appeared on September 11th, the first an odd story of a snake, 'preserved' in wine, emerging like a genie from a bottle to bite a Chinese woman:
A woman in northern China has had to receive hospital treatment after a snake preserved in rice wine jumped out of the bottle and bit her hand.

According to the Global Times, the surprise attack happened when the woman, surnamed Liu, from Shuangcheng went to top up the bottle with more wine.

Remarkably, the snake, which had been pickling for three months, was still alive.

Liu, who received treatment at a local hospital for inflammation, had bought the snake wine to try and cure her rheumatism.
A report from India gave details of a dead snake found in food served by a hospital canteen.

Back on the road(s) in the U.S., police captured a snake at a Connecticut intersection, while a python was found on Brookfield Street in Maine.

On September 12th, a giant python killed a pet dog in Miami-Dade, Florida:
Florida wildlife officials are expanding efforts to find and kill African rock pythons in Miami-Dade County after a 10-foot-snake strangled a 60-pound Siberian Husky.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received a 911 call at 10:05 p.m. on August 30. The caller said a python was wrapped around the neck of their Husky named Duke. Six minutes later, Duke was dead.

Fire Rescue arrived on scene and killed the snake, a 10-foot-long male African Rock Python. It had bite marks on its back which are believed to be from the dog. The snake was sent to the University of Florida for a necropsy.
On the same day in Canada, an albino California King snake was found in the backyard of a St. John's home.

The 16th saw the following item published: 'Pet snakes becoming a danger to humans and wildlife in USA', including some very interesting stats on snakes:
Born Free USA has tracked 471 dangerous incidents involving snakes based on public and media reports of incidents since 1995. There have been at least 19 human deaths including a two year old girl strangled by the family's 12 foot python in 2009 and a man bitten by his own poisonous snakes in Virginia last year.

In 2012 Born Free USA tracked 106 incidents involving snakes, a record year in the database. Previous years were 82 (2011); 9 (2010) and 20 (2009) (more at Incidents this year are already at 58 and predictions from Born Free USA are that this will get worse.
The following day an unclaimed 10-foot snake was found in York County, Pennsylvania.

Another weird incident happened in Birmingham, UK, on September 18th, where a woman was shocked to discover a snake slithering out of her armchair.

Some readers may have caught this story from September 21st: '850 snakes confiscated from New York man's home':

On the 23rd we had this - considering the story - predictable headline: 'Snake on a plane', whereby a Mandarin rat snake was found in the cockpit of a Quantas plane bound for Japan. A similar incident occurred in Australia earlier this year on January 11th. On that occasion the snake was spotted outside the aircraft:


The snake was captured on video by passengers
There was no let up in reports towards the end of September, with yet another snake turning up one at an unexpected location on the 24th, this time at a child day care centre in Charleston, South Carolina, where a member of staff found a small copperhead snake in a drawer beneath a crib.

'Snakes invade a Norcross Georgia apartment complex', was the startling headline from the 25th:

Additionally, on the 25th and then on the 26th, came these accounts of snakes, one conspicuously sunning itself on an Australia beach, the other a python making itself at home in a Kent house in the UK.


HEAT SEEKERS: Bruce McNaughton sent in this photo of a python sunning itself on Shelly Beach in Ballina last week.
On the 27th, a van driver in the UK was stunned to see a three-foot snake appear on his dashboard as he travelled at 60mph. On September 28th, in an incident echoing August's "expressway python", a 'large exotic snake' - presumed to be a boa constrictor or python - was found in the middle of a road in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Finally, on September 30th, this small piece surfaced, one that definitely deserves to be placed in the 'weird' category: 'Rare two headed adder caught on camera in UK':
A two-headed adder has been caught on camera by Gordon Crook in North Yorkshire, UK. Mr Crook was alerted to the snake while walking with a local ramblers group. "At first I thought it might be a reflection or a double exposure.Downloaded it onto the computer and it was very evident that it had two heads!" he said. John Wilkinson, Science Programme Manager at the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, was surprised to see the photo of the animal which he described as a juvenile conjoined twin. He explained that during development the fertilised egg began to split but stopped and it is rare for the animal to have survived beyond hatching.

Fellow expert and member of The British Herpetological Society Dr John Baker agreed: "This is very unusual and is a very rare find. I don't know of any two headed adder records in the UK."
© Gordon Crook
Snake symbols

In the meantime, consider that one ancient symbolic view of the snake or serpent is the 'Ouroboros':
The Ouroboros or Uroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.

The Ouroboros often symbolize self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things such as the phoenix which operate in cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished.
The last Chinese 'Year of the Snake' was 2001, which brought us the world-changing event of 9/11, the War on (of) Terror and all that subsequently followed. Before the year is over, will we see some other world-changing event of similar or even greater magnitude? We don't have long to find out. Comet ISON may or may not affect us directly, but in the meantime, a huge number of other new comets have been discovered in the inner solar system.

Seen from a symbolic perspective, what could all these reports mean or portend for humanity on this planet? Is humanity's mass unconscious signalling to itself that there's great danger on the road ahead?

And whatever about what may come, maybe the universe is trying to grab our attention here and now?
© DAVID LILLO/AFP/Getty Images
Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1), observed in the southern hemisphere in early 2007.
Ancient (and not-so-ancient) history and mythology from the Americas to China is replete with stories and imagery of snakes, serpents and dragons. Astronomer Victor Clube makes the case in his book, The Cosmic Serpent, that references to many animals and fantastic creatures - particularly of the serpentine variety - in founding mythologies of civilizations, religions and nations are in fact historical descriptions of comets and their awe-inspiring - and often destructive - cosmic displays. Entering the atmosphere and leaving a snaking smoke trail, cometary debris in times past was described as 'serpents in the sky'...

Illustrations of two important historical comets taken from Lubienietski’s Universal History of All Comets, 1681. The 1000 A.D. illustration shows a blazing thunderbolt with a ‘long drawn out tail landing in open space’, having ‘fallen from a dragon-like comet with a horrendous tail’. The 1180 A.D. comet was viewed with horror since it had the appearance of a winding serpent with gaping jaws.
Now consider all these recent reports of 'fire in the sky'. According to the American Meteor Society's 'Fireball Logs', reports of meteors exploding in the atmosphere have been increasing each year since they began collecting data in 2005. Since the enormous explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February this year, there have been even more reports of fireballs turning night into day - often accompanied by loud explosions. All year long, industrial plants, power stations and people's homes have been exploding 'under mysterious circumstances'...

If, as has speculated, these space rocks are being drawn here thanks largely to the 'antics' of psychopaths in positions of power because of all the pain, turmoil and suffering they inflict on this planet and its inhabitants, I'm left wondering how much longer the cosmos will tolerate the 'snakes in suits' this time around.