We were sitting around the Fear Factor offices one day kicking around some
crazy ideas when somebody asked, "Would it be possible to have a person bob
for apples in a tank filled with water snakes?"
Most of our stunts usually start out with a simple question like that.
Somebody might ask, "Would it be safe to have somebody feed meat to a
trained tiger?" And the reason we know the answers to such questions is
because we do a helluva lot of research around here.
The more I learned about water snakes, the less I wanted to do this stunt. I
found out that (a) they are not very friendly and (b) they have fairly large
mouths. That's what's known in our twisted area of show biz as a bad
But one animal wrangler said we could probably pull this stunt off by substituting water snakes with ribbon snakes. Ribbon snakes have very small mouths that wouldn't do much damage if they tried to bite our contestants. Even better, we found out that we could add a big ball python to the mix. If threatened, he said, the python would be more prone to curl than to bite.
Of course, the only way to know for sure if a stunt is going to work is to test it in our office. As you can imagine, it wasn't easy finding members of our staff willing to dunk their heads into our test tank. But one of the guys in our stunt department, Matt, eventually agreed to give it a whirl.
We filled the tank with five inches of water and then dropped in 50 ribbon snakes and a dozen plums (plums worked better than apples because they sunk to the bottom). Matt started dunking his head in the water and did a pretty good job, retrieving one plum about every 10 seconds. Then we upped the ante by introducing the big constrictor into the water. Matt definitely seemed a bit spooked by the big guy but he managed to keep on dunking. As he dunked, the ribbon snakes kept swirling around his head. It looked like this stunt was going to be a winner.
Despite all our prep work, one thing we did not learn until the day of the shoot was that snakes do not like hair gel. One of our contestants, Garret, had enough goo in his hair to slick down a grizzly bear. And the instant his spiky do hit the water, those snakes wanted out of the tank.
The snakes weren't the only ones that wanted out of that tank. Just wait
til you see the contestant reactions on the show.
by RICH BROWN