Cobra Cocktails, a Mad Scientist and his Roadside Serpentarium

The old postcard shows a roadside attraction with a giant cobra looming overhead, enough to pique anyone's curiosity. This is the Miami Serpentarium, founded by Bill Haast, who not only handled snakes, but deliberately dosed himself with snake venom in order to build up an immunity.  

Certainly the most uh, unique roadside attraction ever to have existed on the South Dixie Highway in Florida, the Serpentarium was half tourist attraction and half mad scientist’s lair; Bill Haast being the mad scientist. Attracting up to 50,000 visitors a year, Haast’s serpent spectacle extracted venom in front of paying customers 70 to 100 times a day, grabbing the snakes barehanded once released on a table in front of him and forcing them to eject venom into glass vials.

For years, Haast tried to prove that venom could treat multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. He injected himself weekly with a cocktail from five snakes — cobras, cottonmouths, kraits, mambas and rattlers —homeopathy the Food and Drug Administration would never endorse.

Haast eventually suffered for his science. The roadside attraction was open from 1946 to 1984, but Haast continued his snake research for decades afterward. Read about Haast's life with snakes and his Serpentarium (and what happened to that giant cobra statue) at Messy Messy Chic.

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