William E. Haast dead at 100

Many of you probably haven’t heard of Bill Haast. He founded and ran the Miami Serpemntarium for many years. He kept a variety of extremely poisonous snakes, and “milked” them regularly to extract the venom. the venom was used for making antivenin, remedies against the venom. He also injected the venom into his own blood to create a resistance against the venom. His blood has been transfused to snakebite victims to save their lives. I don’t know anyone else who has done this.
We visited the Serpentarium back in the 1960s. Haast had the snakes in tanks, on display, and you could watch him “charm” a snake, grasp it behind the neck, and “milk” it into a latex-topped flask to extract the venom.
Even more amazing, he would bring out a King Cobra onto the lawn and go through the entire performance right out there in the open. There was absolutely no barrier between him with his cobra and the watching spectators. There is absolutely no way they’d let anyone get away with that sort of thing today – the insurance premiums would be through the roof.
After watching a show, I statrted writing to Haast. I was a kid from new Jersey who caught very non-poisonous garter snakes in the nearby fields, but he took the time out to reply, which impressed me deeply.
The Serpentatrium continued in business for many years, but I understand they stopped having visitors and the shows (maybe those inurance premiums started inching up. Or maybe the money it brought in wasn’t worth the time and effort expended). I believe it continued as a research institution and venom source for many years before Haast closed it in 1984. He went to Utah for a few years, but re-established the Serpentarium in Florida again later.


Thanks for posting this. I live in South Florida, and saw the headline on my local newspaper. But said paper really frustrates me with their headlines and writing style, so I didn’t bother reading it. I couldn’t imagine that it was interesting.

I read your version though, and liked it.

I saw him on TV a few times. Saved a lot of lives that man did.

Though in a different league,Ram Chandra devoted a lot of his life to snakes and particularly the taipan.

I don’t know how they could do it.

Maybe getting all those snakebites kept him healthy!
I saw a TV show about him once-his arms seemed covered in bite scars.

From the Wikipedia page:

On the other hand:

What an interesting man.
Thanks for posting this.

Sounds like an interesting guy. And if you spend your entire life handling poisonous snakes, live to be 100 and die peacefully, you’re obviously good at your job.

Like those chainmail antishark bite suits.
Seems to me that such gloves/gauntlets would eliminate the danger of a fatal bite.
As for people who keep poisonous snakes as pets-what the heck is that about?

A couple of years ago, I saw one of the Jack Hannah “Animal Adventure” programs where he visited Bill Haast in Florida. At that time I think Hasst was in his late eighties and in good health. Jack Hanna asked Haast if he though the snake venom was good for his health, but at the time Hasst said he wasn’t going to make any claims unless he lived to be 100. After the show I checked to see how long Haast had actually lived after the program was recoded, and was impressed to find out at the time he was still alive. I just wish there had been some kind of announcement when he finally did reach 100.

So is it possible that small doses of snake venom kept his immune system in good shape? There is a widespread belief in eastern europe, that bee stings keep arthritis symptoms at bay…something similar?

What a snake in the grass! The good kind! Thanks for posting this.