See The World’s Longest Snake And A Live Gator At America’s Scariest Haunted House

world's longest snakeThere are thousands of haunted house attractions that open up in cities around the country each year around this time but there’s only one place where you can see the world’s longest snake in captivity, nearly get your leg chomped off by a live alligator and slide five stories from heaven to purgatory to hell. Kansas City’s “The Edge of Hell” claims to be the country’s oldest commercial haunted attraction and some think that it, and its sister attraction, “The Beast,” are the scariest haunted houses in the nation.

When I saw a photo of Medusa, who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest snake in captivity, I had to find out more about her and the other attractions at this place. I spoke to Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, whose family owns “The Edge of Hell,” about Medua, Clamp the Alligator and why people still love haunted houses.

How old is Medusa?

She’s 8. We got her as a baby; she was tiny. She weighs over 350 pounds. It takes 15-18 people to get her out and hold her.

Why would you want to do that?

She likes to go for walks in the park sometimes. Only in the summer when it’s very warm. And we get her out for media events. She has a lifestyle cage where she lives in the offseason and she’s in “The Edge of Hell” show during the season.

world's longest snake medusaA lifestyle cage?

(Laughs) She has her own slide. “The Edge of Hell” has a five-story slide where you go from heaven to hell. She has her own slide where she goes down to swim. She loves swimming and she likes to climb trees at the park.

You bring a 25-foot-long snake and let her slither around in public parks? Is that legal?

It’s not a public park; it’s a private area.

What kind of snake is she?

She’s a reticulated python.

Did you have any idea how big she’d get?

No. In captivity, snakes don’t usually eat regularly. But she wants to eat all the time. She’s very hungry. She loves to eat.

How big is she?

Twenty-five feet, two inches.

What does she eat?

She still eats rabbits, but they’re really small for her so she might have to eat 7 or 8 of them at a time. She’s graduated up to eating hogs, goats, deer. She really likes raccoons too.

Hogs, goats and deer? You drag an entire dead deer or hog into her cage for to eat?

No. Constrictors have to kill it themselves, otherwise they won’t eat it. We buy her organic hogs and organic food.

So you put the live animal inside the cage and just let her go at it? That sounds grisly, do you watch this unfold?

The trainer stays in there to make sure she doesn’t choke.

What’s he going to do, give her the Heimlich maneuver?

That’s what we always joke. I don’t know what he would do. Our trainer was made unconscious by a snake before. He passed out before he even knew he was in trouble. His wife saved him.

So does Medusa eat an entire hog or deer in one sitting?

Constrictors swallow hole, so she can’t eat half and save the rest for later. They don’t bite that way. She has to eat it all in one sitting and the lump moves down through her body.

How large an animal can she swallow?

She usually eats 50-75 pounds at a sitting. She needs at least a 50-pound meal about once a month, sometimes more.

And does she snack in between?

No. She just has the one big meal.

Where does she come from?

She comes from the Sulawesi Islands in Indonesia. The trainer bought her on the Internet, but you can’t do that any more.

She doesn’t just slither around the haunted house free does she?

I don’t know, you’ll have to come to the show (laughs). No, she has her own cage at “The Edge of Hell” and we’re open two months out of the year. Her cage is probably 20-by-20, but we’ll have to expand it next year because she’s getting too big for it.

How did she get big enough to make it into Guinness?

A combination of her eating habits and genes. Also, she’s very happy and just loves to eat.

Tell me about “The Edge of Hell.”

“The Edge of Hell” is the oldest commercial haunted attraction in the U.S. It opened in 1975 and this is our 38th season. It’s a family business. Before we did “The Edge of Hell,” we did one called “The Chambers of Edgar Allan Poe.” It got rave reviews and the next year we purchased the building and opened “The Edge of Hell.”

Is Medusa one of the things people like to see the most?

She’s something people look for. We study the psychology of fear. Every person scares differently and has their own adrenaline reaction to things. “The Edge of Hell” is a five-story warehouse building. The premise is that if you live on the edge, you’ll encounter these sorts of demons – rats, snakes, the hounds of hell, vampires. You get a glimpse of heaven, but unfortunately you made too many bad choices and you go to purgatory down the five-story slide and end up in hell. People gaze at her; she’s a beautiful beast. Mesmerizing.

Does she scare the crap out of people?

She does just by capturing their gaze.

Has she bitten anyone?

Oh no. I was bitten by a black snake when I was young but I still don’t have the snake phobia that others do. Sometimes she isn’t in a good mood when we get her out though. She gets nervous and has to go to the bathroom when people are taking pictures of her. But she’s very loving toward her trainer, Larry Elgar.

Is this something everyone likes to do at Halloween time, visit a haunted house?

It is. Especially here in Kansas City, with us being the oldest, and “The Beast” is really the best haunted attraction in the U.S. And we have “The Chambers of Edgar Allen Poe” and “The Macabre Cinema” and those are 501 3c’s for a local charity called the Dream Factory.

What’s The Beast”?


“The Beast” is patterned around time travel. You go into a Southern Louisiana mansion; you enter into a swamp where we have a live alligator. His name is Clamp. You look at this live alligator and proceed into the swamp and an animatronic alligator snaps at your leg. And then you go down a shoot slide to Jack Ripper’s London, and you’re in a pub.
And the werewolf forest is a quarter acre in size and over 10,000 square feet. In the old days, people looked over rails into attractions; we pioneered the open theme where you are inside the attractions. In “The Beast,” it’s all about the phobia of being lost. There are people who are in the werewolf forest for 45 minutes and can’t find their way out.

Tell me about Clamp.

He’s growing like a weed. We’ve had him since he was tiny. Now he’s 8 feet long. He’s very fond of chicken.

You throw him live chickens or give him breasts?

He likes all chicken parts. We don’t feed him anything live.

And how often does he eat?

He prefers to be fed regularly – every week. But Larry doesn’t worry about him choking on anything like he does Medusa. That’s his love.

And what does he do in the offseason?

He has a lifestyle cage as well but he’s a real bear about being transported. We have to wrap his mouth but he likes to swat around a lot. He’s funny like that.

[Photos courtesy of “The Edge of Hell” and Kevin Scott Ramos, Guinness Book of World Records]

The Steamboat Arabia Museum In Kansas City, Missouri


Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Missouri’s rivers were full of steamboats. The state’s eastern boundary is delineated by the Mississippi River, and the Missouri River cuts right through the center of the state. Steamboats brought people, crops, and consumer goods across long distances much quicker than they could have made it on the crude early roads.

Steamboat pilots, including a young Mark Twain, had to have precise knowledge of the rivers because there were eddies, sandbars, and sawyers (sunken logs) ready to wreck their ship. If he managed to avoid all those dangers, the boiler could still blow up.

In 1856, the side-wheel steamboat Arabia was heading west up the Missouri River. The Arabia was a beauty. It was 171 feet long, could carry 222 tons, and had a reputation for speed, comfort and safety. That didn’t save her, though, and she hit the trunk of a submerged walnut tree. The log tore through the Arabia’s hull and she sank within minutes. Despite the speed of the sinking and the fact that there was only one lifeboat, the crew managed to get all the passengers safely to shore. Within a few days the boat was entirely covered in silt and disappeared, another of the hundreds of casualties on the river.

In 1987, the Hawley family led a salvage crew in search of the Arabia and found her. The river had shifted since then and the boat now lay half a mile from the water’s edge and 45 feet under a farmer’s field. A massive operation began to lower the water level, remove countless tons of earth, and carefully clean off and examine the ship and its contents.

%Gallery-162722%The wet silt had preserved the ship remarkably. The storage rooms were nearly intact, with boxes full of merchandise intended for frontier shops. There were cleaned, cataloged, and preserved and the Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, opened to show off the amazing find.

This museum is an amazing snapshot of history. Every possible item imaginable is there: from guns and boots to toys and a complete printing press. There are even jars of preserves. Most of the passengers’ personal belongings sank with the ship and so we have complete outfits and luggage for the hardy travelers seeking a new life in the Old West. Large sections of the boat are also on display, including the paddle wheel and anchor.

Check out the gallery for a small sample of what this incredible museum has to offer.

Another steamboat has surfaced recently. Station WLFI reports that a long drought has lowered the level of the Missouri River enough that the steamboat Montana, sunk in 1884, is now visible at Bridgeton, MO. National Geographic has an interesting article on this steamboat, the largest ever to ply the Missouri, and its ironic end. It sank after running into a railroad bridge. Railroads were what eventually killed the steamboat trade.

Frommer’s reveals top destinations for 2012

What destination are you dreaming of for 2012? The staff at Frommer’s have just unveiled their list of top travel destinations for the coming year. Included in the list is a little something for everyone: large metropolises, secluded beach towns, colorful riverside villas, and more.

But Frommer’s didn’t just rely on their expert editors and author’s for this years list–they also polled readers to find out where they wanted to visit in 2012. Click through the gallery below to see Frommer’s (and their reader’s) picks–including one surprising midwestern city that is the only spot in the United States to make the cut.
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Other Winners:
Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera
Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Nelson-Atkins Museum unveils interactive website

Nelson-Atkins MuseumThe Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City has unveiled an amazing interactive website.

Called Studio 33, it’s part of an outreach effort by one of America’s leading art museums to bring in a new generation of web-savvy visitors.

Many museums are ramping up their websites. A common feature is to have images of some of the pieces in the collection with information and related links. Studio 33 does this, and also has lots of audio files and videos, including artist interviews, time-lapse films of setting up installation pieces, and behind-the-scenes talks with curators. Experts cover each section of the museum. For example, the museum’s archaeologist takes you through the ancient art collection.

One thing that makes Studio 33 stand out among museum websites, beyond the sheer scale of it all, is that you can explore the museum following three different avatars: a high school student, a docent, and a social media junkie. Each gives a different perspective tailored to a different type of visitor.

[Photo of Caravaggio’s painting of John the Baptist, which is in the Nelson-Atkins collection, courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Missouri celebrates painter George Caleb Bingham’s 200th birthday

Missouri, missouri
He was one of America’s greatest regional painters, and next month he turns 200. George Caleb Bingham captured the life of fur trappers and steamboats along the Missouri River, and the horrible civilian cost of the Civil War.

A self-taught painter who grew up in Missouri, Bingham witnessed the state transform from an underpopulated frontier into a thriving center of commerce and agriculture. The above painting, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, was painted in 1845 and captured a scene that was already becoming a thing of the past. Individual fur trappers, generally French, were being replaced by larger companies. His Luminist style and the little details like the cat earned him a lasting reputation. Actually, many researchers think it’s a bear cub, but it looks like a cat to me!

Bingham was a realist. The boy in the picture is half French and half Indian, a common enough sight in those days but not something that “respectable” society wanted to talk about. The original title for the painting was French Trader, Half-Breed Son, but the American Art Union changed the name when they put it on display. Yet another example of a powerful institution whitewashing America’s past.

Bingham was born 20 March 1811 and Missouri is planning several exhibitions and events. Kansas City’s famous Nelson-Atkins Museum will have an exhibition of his work from March 9 to December 2. At The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, there’s another Bingham retrospective from March 10 to September 9. There are several other events taking place to mark the bicentennial. You can find an entire list here.Perhaps his most famous painting is Order No. 11, Martial Law shown below. This order by Union General Thomas Ewing in 1863 forced civilians out of their homes in several Missouri counties bordering Kansas. It was in retaliation for a Confederate guerrilla raid that destroyed Lawrence, Kansas, killing 200 mostly unarmed men and boys. General Ewing knew that secessionist civilians helped the guerrillas, so he decided to move them out of the region. Bingham was a Union man and was as shocked as anyone else by the Lawrence Massacre, but he thought punishing civilians was unjust. His painting was an instant success and has become a permanent symbol of Missouri’s bitter Civil War. It will be on display at the Truman Museum exhibition.

[Fur Traders Descending the Missouri courtesy The Yorck Project. Order No. 11, Martial Law courtesy Americasroof]

Missouri, missouri