Snakes charm crowd - sort of

September 19, 1999

Cold Blooded and Co.By BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Looking at a python is one thing.

Having it stare back at you? That's something else.

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Afternoon shoppers at the Martinsburg Mall came face-to-face Sunday with about 60 snakes, lizards and other assorted creatures at the mall's weekend reptile show.

Glass-front cages in the center of the mall displayed everything from water turtles and green iguanas to pythons and a crocodile.


"If you like reptiles it's wonderful," said Alice Stephen, who kept a good eight feet between her and the cage that held a 12-foot Albino Burmese python named Big Momma.

"I'm just glad I'm on this side of them," said Stephen, casting a wary glance at the long yellow snake. "(She's) bigger than I am."

Lori Voorhies and her husband, Dirk, have spent the past five years taking their reptiles to malls around West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The Hagerstown couple own Cold Blooded and Co., which contracts with area malls to give people a close-up view of a few things they probably wouldn't find in their backyard.

"There aren't a whole lot of places people are going to see a Cayman crocodile," Lori Voorhies said.

Dennis Crawford and his 4-year-old son, Michael, ventured over from Charles Town, W.Va., to check out the American alligator and a green anaconda.

"This is a good exhibit. It let's everybody see (reptiles) aren't bad animals that are going to try and hurt or kill everybody," Crawford said.

All of the reptiles in the show are nonpoisonous, which gave Crawford's son and anyone else at the show a chance to touch a turtle's shell or stroke a snake's skin.

"The most common comments we hear come after people find out snakes aren't slimy but that they're really soft," Lori Voorhies said.

There is also the fact that reptiles are not always the most exciting things to watch in the world.

While the Nile Monitor from East Africa flicked its toungue and darted around its cage vainly trying to escape, the lizard's next-door neighbor took a more low-key approach.

The Savanna Monitor, a native of Central Africa, was content to sit in the sand and stare out the window.

A gecko clinging motionless to a tree and snakes burrowing under wood chips drew the occasional expression of dissatisfaction from people expecting to see more action.

"People are sometimes disappointed by the relative lack of activity, but that's what reptiles do for the most part. They sit around," Lori Voorhies said.

Big Momma's contentment to lie around didn't bother Robert Rouse of Martinsburg.

A fan of National Geographic television shows, Rouse was excited to finally see the show's subject matter firsthand.

"Looking at them in person is something entirely different," Rouse said. "I'm amazed at how colorful it is."

Still, Rouse was quick to add that he had no desire to get more familiar with the python.

"I wouldn't want to touch them," Rouse said with a shiver.

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