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Friday the 13th Controversy: Did They Kill A Real Snake?

In Friday the 13th, the killing of a snake in an early scene seems to be nothing more than good practical effects — but was it actually the real deal?

Was a snake killed for real in Friday the 13th? The horror film doesn’t short fans on violence and bloodshed, but most of the deaths in the franchise have been human; the controversial killing of what many have believed to be a real-life snake in Friday the 13th, however, has been debated by fans for years — and may be the saddest death of all. The iconic 1980 slasher film, directed by Sean S. Cunningham, famously introduced the world to the deadly, masked antagonist of the Friday the 13th franchise. Of course, in the first film, Jason isn’t one behind the mask, but his vengeance-seeking mother, Pamela Voorhees. But as previously mentioned, it wasn’t Pamela’s killings that sparked a disapproving buzz amongst many horror buffs, but rather the death of a snake at the hands of thoughtless teens.

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The story of Friday the 13th follows Camp Crystal Lake’s counselors (a few of the adolescent characters are played by more notable actors like Adrienne King and Kevin Bacon), who are slowly picked off by an unknown assailant on a murdering spree while they’re trying to help the facility’s owner get things back up to par for a reopening. Of course, Crystal Lake is forever hauntingly intertwined with Friday the 13th’s infamous victim of counselor negligence: Jason Voorhees. The former camper drowned there the year before, an accident which Pamela certainly hasn’t forgiven over time.

Related: Every Friday The 13th Victim Jason Voorhees Has Killed With A Machete


The world now knows that the film’s body count progressively rises with a string of brutal killings, including Kevin Bacon’s famous Friday the 13th death scene. However, interestingly enough, the most controversial killing in the movie is that of a snake. Among other shenanigans depicted at Camp Crystal Lake, its counselors engaged in violent action in an off-the-cuff scene that ended up sparking quite the discussion because of its real-life implications.

Friday The 13th Snake Scene Explained

Friday the 13th Snake Scene

The Friday the 13th scene in question involves Alice (Adrienne King) discovering a snake in her cabin and calling her friends to assist with the creature. Bill (Harry Crosby) runs in first, carrying a machete. The other campers are soon to follow, and all attempt to flush out the snake that has crawled under one of the beds. After it emerges, Bill kills it with the machete, and it is shown writhing and dying. The accident created a brief, yet disturbing, sequence — especially by today’s standards for animal treatment.


Did A Real Snake Get Killed In Friday The 13th?

Jason Voorhees Friday the 13th Camp Crystal Lake

Because there wasn’t supervision from the likes of organizations like PETA or the same strict adherence to animal protection laws in Hollywood while making Friday the 13th in the way there is today, another animal death not only happened but was somewhat swept under the rug. While many have thought for years that this could have just been some of the legendary Tom Savini’s (who did some makeup/special effects work for the film) artistic talent at play, the snake was actually real and killed on screen. According to Teamhadventures.com, Savini came up with the idea when he found a snake in his own cabin while working on Friday the 13th; it wasn’t originally in the script. Because of this spontaneous idea, the scene was largely improvised. Also, the snake — which was a harmless bull snake — was accompanied by a handler who didn’t know about its intended fate.


There are some unclear details about the handler’s involvement in the snake’s Friday the 13th death, but by many accounts, he was incredibly upset about it. In the aforementioned Teamhadventures article, it’s reported that he had to be held back by crew members after it happened, and some even say he can be heard crying off-camera following the snake’s death, as he was “inconsolable.” In the 2012 franchise documentary Crystal Lake Memories, the Friday the 13th death is also confirmed by Jeannine Taylor (Marcie), who expressed regret over the on-set killing of a live animal, even though she didn’t deliver the fatal blow.


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