Fear of snakes, or ophidiophobia, rates first among phobias followed closely by fear of heights or flying. Just think of Indiana Jones. There is even a Catholic Saint who is the patron saint for Fear of Snakes, St. Patrick of Ireland. So it makes sense that we'd have to address it at some point during FEAR FACTOR.
For the FEAR FACTOR snake pit, we used boa constrictors and pythons. Although you can never entirely guarantee that a snake is not going to bite, we had four handlers on hand in case they decided to misbehave or constrict. We even made a rule that said if you were bitten by a snake you would automatically advance to the next round. I am not sure that it would have been worth it.
We didn't want the snakes to get hurt during the stunt, so we had to make sure that our squeamish contestants wouldn't be able to move around too much. To keep the contestants still we strapped their arms and legs down. We used a total of twenty-four snakes, which doesn't sound like a lot, but they were big ones. Twelve of them were in the twelve to sixteen foot range, and the second dozen were all four to eight feet long. One thing that kind of surprised us was how heavy twenty-four snakes would actually be. One snake alone weighed over 200 lbs. It's creepy enough to have a mass of snakes dumped on you; it's even creepier when you realize how heavy they are. And it certainly adds to the feeling of claustrophobia.
Snakes are reptiles, which means that the environment they are in determines their body temperature. In cold weather, their blood moves slowly, and they are sluggish and inactive. To make the stunt visually fun as well as challenging, we needed to keep our snakes warm. Prior to the stunt, we kept all of the snakes in a heated van. We also lined the bottom of the pit with an electric blanket. The heat of the blanket, combined with the body heat of the contestant was enough to keep our snakes from catching a chill or staying clumped together in a big mass. In fact, the snakes were very active, some snakes began to get ambitious and consider climbing out of the pit. It's not like you can give snakes direction.
Although we were pretty sure that the snakes wouldn't bite, we still had a medic within a bloodcurdling shriek's distance away. We equipped all the contestants with goggles to avoid a snake bite to the eye.