Pastor Mack Wolford was a legendary figure in the Pentecostal snake-handling community, but that didn’t stop his rattlesnake — called Old Yeller – from killing him during a church service and photoshoot.
Photographer Lauren Pond, who also happened to be a friend of Wolford, was taking photos of his sermon when he was bitten. He denied treatment until it was too late, because his religion opposes legitimate medical intervention.
All of this occurred several years ago, but the story recently gained traction in the media again because the photographer released a book called Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation.
Lauren Pond began photographing Wolford and his congregation in 2011, overcoming her own fear as she shot rattlesnakes and copperheads being coiled around the arms and necks of worshippers as they reaffirmed their faith in the divine. On 23 May the following year, just before his 44th birthday, Wolford posted this message to his followers on Facebook: “Praise the lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother.”