Snake charmers have fascinated and beguiled people through the ages as entertainers and sometimes faith healers. A number of books, including the award-winning Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in South Appalachia by Dennis Covington, explore the phenomena of religious communities in Appalachia whose members handle snakes as part of their worship, along with other unusual practices. Covington’s book also documents the trial of Alabama preacher Glen Summerford who was accused of attempting to murder his wife with poisonous snakes.
There was also a critically acclaimed documentary about these snake handling religions in 1967 called Holy Ghost People. The film, which was directed and narrated by Peter Adair, centers on Pentecostal churches in West Virginia, and served as partial inspiration for the 2013 motion picture by the same name, which premiered February 21, 2014.
In the psychological thriller Holy Ghost People, nineteen-year old Charlotte, played by Emma Greenwell (True Blood), is desperate to find her missing sister, Liz, who has disappeared in the Appalachian Mountains. After meeting Wayne (Brendan McCarthy), an alcoholic ex-Marine at the bar where she works, she convinces him to join her in the search. The two manage to infiltrate a sinister community of snake-handlers Liz belonged to, known as the Church of One Accord. Led by charismatic preacher Brother Billy, the cult prides itself on the number of criminals and other outcasts they have accepted into their fold. Through the terrifying experience of investigating this mysterious group of individuals, Charlotte will eventually find out what happened to Liz.
Other books about snake handling churches include The Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith by Fred W. Brown and Jeanne McDonald.
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