Social media is infamous for perpetuating outrageous stories, both true and untrue. One of the most bizarre stories to surface this month involves a fictional infestation of free-roaming snakes in a Pennsylvania casino. According to some social media sources, the Bethlehem Sands casino in Pennsylvania is a place where snakes slither freely.
An Urban Myth
The urban myth goes something like this: Gamblers bring snakes with them to the Bethlehem Sands casino for luck. The snakes somehow escape their owners and take up residence at the casino. As patrons sit at slot machines and gaming tables, the snakes slither the floor and attack unsuspecting victims with their venomous fangs.
How the Rumor Started
Last November, a first grade teacher named Jennifer Horn was at the Bethlehem Sands when she discovered what she thought was an insect bite. The wound was bad enough for Horn to seek a doctor's treatment the next day. The physician removed a section of tissue from Horn about the size of a dime and treated her with antibiotics. In the midst of his work, he remarked that the wound looked a lot like a snake bite.
Several weeks passed before the Bethlehem Health Bureau heard about Horn's incident. They contacted her to find out more about the situation. A full-fledged investigation never materialized, however, because the Bethlehem Sands could not supply surveillance video footage from the time of Horn's casino visit.
Horn's Story: Perpetuated and Exaggerated on Facebook
The story of Horn's wound and doctor visit was posted to Facebook. Quickly it spread and expanded to the rumor it is today. In the “rumor” version of the story, Horn's doctor asked her if she'd been to the Sands casino immediately after seeing the "bite." This implies that the doctor already suspected the existence of snakes at the Bethlehem Sands.
From there, the rumor changed from one patron getting bitten to numerous patrons receiving snake bites while visiting the Sands. The story became so popular on the Internet that a spokeswoman for the Sands was prompted to make a statement to the public. According to Sands representative Julia Corwin, the casino experienced “no reported incidents of snakes on our property.” Corwin went on to say that service animals are the only type of non-human creature permitted on casino property.
The “Eye in the Sky” Would Spot a Snake
Corwin also explained in her statement that casino security is tight. If a snake were in the casino, the many security cameras would quickly zero in on its image. Casino surveillance is often referred to as the “Eye in the Sky.” Years ago, the Eye in the Sky was comprised of security employees who stood in the rafters overhead with binoculars watching people. Today, surveillance machinery does that work. Hundreds of overhead cameras channel images from the casino floor back to a surveillance room. A surveillance manager typically oversees this operation.
“Absolutely Zero Snakes”
Corwin isn't the only one who has dismissed the possibility of snakes in the casino. Policeman William Ortiz, who works for a state police station within the casino, reported that there are “absolutely zero snakes” within the walls of the Bethlehem Sands. Many members of the public are quick to agree that the existence of snakes at the Bethlehem Sands is a long shot. Others suspect a cover up. A commenter on LehighValleyLive.com named "BillyBob" said that he is “not at liberty to name names,” but that the Bethlehem Sands snake incident is not a rumor. A commenter named Robert Pursel wrote, “Reality check . . . if you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell.”
Snakes at Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart customers have fallen prey to a surprising number of snake bites over the past decade. Most attacks occurred in the stores' outside home and gardening sections.
- In 2012, a Wal-Mart customer was bit by a rattlesnake when he reached out to touch what he thought was a stick. After the bite, the customer was able to stomp the snake to death before seeking medical treatment. The treatment involved six bags of “anti-venom” at a local hospital.
- In 2009, a customer was bit on the finger by a baby pygmy rattlesnake in the home and garden section of a Florida Wal-Mart. Pygmy rattlers are indigenous to this particular region of the country.
- In 2009, a Wal-Mart customer was bit by a copperhead rattlesnake in South Carolina. This type of snake is common in the Carolina area.
- In 2006, a customer at a Wal-Mart in Florida was bit on the arm as she strolled the inside of the store. The snake was not poisonous, but the woman visited a doctor to ensure it didn't get infected.
Real Animals at Other Casinos
The Bethlehem Sands may be pest-free, but other U.S. casinos have their share of caged animals. As of last July, the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Florida was purported to be housing two panthers, a black bear, an alligator, raccoons, and other animals in its parking garage. A humanitarian petition demanding the release of the captives complains that the creatures need more space to live and that the exhaust fumes from the cars is hazardous and unhealthy for them. The petition is titled “Stop Caging Animals at Casinos and Other Facilities.”
Mountain Lion Tries to Enter Casino
In the summer of 2012, a young mountain lion was caught trying to enter the revolving doors of Harrah's in Reno, Nevada. Unable to manipulate the doors, the cat cowered beneath a nearby stage. The large cat was tranquilized and released back into nature. A spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife called the cat's actions similar to that of a “stupid teenager.” He said that adolescent wildcats often wander to places where they really shouldn't be.
The Bethlehem Sands snake rumor is one of the more unusual stories to come out of the U.S. gambling industry. At this point, the casino seems to be shedding the rumor the same way a molting snake sheds its skin.