Speed Reads

Only in America

Only in America: Poisoned prayers

A serpent-handling preacher is killed by his own snake — and more in our collection of strange revelations about the nation

"Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother," wrote Pentecostal minister Mark Wolford, publicizing an upcoming snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues outdoor revival. The West Virginia preacher had long honored the Gospel of Mark's line that true believers "will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them." But at the service, Wolford was bitten by a yellow timber rattlesnake he'd owned for years — and died later that day at 44. At age 15, he'd watched his 39-year-old father die the same way.