By Walt Hudson


Ask any old-time outdoor showman if he ever saw a "hoop snake." and he is bound to grin from ear to ear. That's because "there ain't no such creature." even though you might have run across a banner depicting one. Like most grind shows, it was the sensational bannerline that brought the marks in.

I once worked in a carnival that had a snake show featuring a hoop snake, among other reptiles. There were just four snakes in the show, and each of these "rare" attractions was described by an exaggerated banner.

The banner showing the hoop snake pictured a huge, fierce viper with its head holding its tail to form a wheel. It was rolling down a hill, chasing a pretty, scantily clad gal. She had a look of horror on her face and appeared to be screaming and run­ning for her life.

The second banner showed a dense jungle scene with a large, vicious, two-headed snake hanging down from a vine, about to attack a couple of unsuspecting natives.

The third banner had a monstrous snake with its mouth wide open, flashing a golden fang. It was about to strike a hunter who was tied to a tree.

The final banner showed an almost nude gal with a large white python draped over her shoulders. Other, naturally colored pythons lay coiled at her feet.

When the marks entered the exhibit, what they actually saw were four small cages sitting on a table. The "hoop snake" was just a harmless variety of snake lying in one of the cages. When you think about it,  it would be impossible for a snake to roll around upright, like a tire.

The two-headed "monster" was a small garden snake about ten inches long. It was alive, and it did have two heads.

The snake with the golden fang was another small snake in a cage. A card attached to the cage described its unusual dentition. Of course, the snake never opened its mouth and had no golden tooth.

Finally, in the last cage, a two-foot albino python was sleeping peacefully. Alas, there was no sign of the half-naked gal.

The exhibit was the creation of an imaginative showman and an even more creative banner artist. And that's what the marks got for their quarter.


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