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Don Boyd | all galleries >> Memories of Old Hialeah, Old Miami and Old South Florida Photo Galleries - largest non-Facebook collection on the internet >> Miami Area Tourist and Local ATTRACTIONS Historical Photos Gallery - All Years - click on image to view > Bill Haast and a cobra at the Miami Serpentarium
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Courtesy of Alvin Lederer

Bill Haast and a cobra at the Miami Serpentarium

SW 128th Street and South Dixie Highway, Dade County, Florida

Thank you to Alvin Lederer for contributing this old image.

other sizes: small original auto
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Tom 28-Dec-2018 08:25
My Dad took me a lot on weekends during the late 70's. I was never that scared of the snakes for some reason, but I do remember there was either a short film or something explaining the history of Haast and the Serpentarium, and it included stories about Haast getting bitten by different snakes over the years. The effects of the snake bites did scare me. Or course I remember the show too, when he would let the Cobra out onto a small grassy area that was encircled by the people watching the action. He would manage to grab the snake and then milk it for the venom. I had a Serpentarium T-shirt I wore all the time. Good stuff.
George Burg 08-Mar-2016 00:19
I also caught snakes and sold them to Mr Haast at $1/ft- kept me out of trouble as a kid (Coconut Grove). I remember one of his huge Alligators getting loose, wandering out onto Dixie Hwy. They were chasing after it with a shock rod and finally caught it. But the best was the King Cobra show - that snake was huge, deadly, smart, and a serious contender! Mr Haast would start with a huge pine box like a coffin. They would slide the lid back and the cobra would rear up out of it, its head at eye level with us kids. Just scare the *^&%! out of us! No guard rails required - the crowd would part like the Red Sea. Then he would catch it, with his hands, basically distracting and outsmarting it. The snake was likely 12-14 feet long, with a head about twice the size of your fist. Realy smart, quick and hard to fool. What a show!
Pablo Uribasterra 07-Aug-2013 03:41
My parents used to take me to the Serpentarium regularly in the mid 70's. Loved to watch Mr. Haast do his things with the cobras. I was fascinated, and he could see how interested I was. He would give me the shed cobra skins and I thought they were the coolest things in the world! I probably still have one in a box somewhere...
Karen K. Knight 19-Jul-2013 16:06
I used to catch indigo snakes in the canals around our house in Mangowood, Florida and sell them to Mr. Haast in the 60's. My first real job to collect money at $1 per foot of Indigo snake.
Karen K. Knight,
stephen jackson 17-Jan-2013 19:01
I can only say that, " it was off the hook the day I went ! "
Randy 17-Mar-2012 06:11
Mr. Haast saved many a snake-bite victim over the years, he will be missed.
harold martin 30-Nov-2011 23:43
we went to the serpentarium on a field trip when i was in 3rd grade on us1 i loved that place those big crocs. he had in that pit were real scary! watching him perform with that they said that cobra was 12 ft. long it was like that snake and him new each other he always reminded me of one of those si fi movies where the scientist goes to far becomes obsessed and turns into some creature , i always thaught he might turn into a snake, but this man dedicted his life to making antivenine for snake bite victims all over the world and tryind to educate people that snakes are good not bad and when you see one poisonous or not let it live he said they were natural pest exstermanators. God Rest Bill Hasst !
glenn_jr18-May-2011 03:26
What a great man and a great place!
I used to keep pet snakes myself. Back in the 60's I had a beautiful Indigo snake (before they became "endangered" and protected. My friend's father found it on a construction site and brought it home to his son. It was as tame as could be, "right out of the bag!" Somehow, they let ME have it...
Years later, when it quit eating, I sold it to the Serpentarium for $.70/foot (it was 6 feet long). They said they would get him healthy again (said he probably was not eating do to a mouth infection or something), then use him as one of the "display" snakes that they let people handle at the end of the shows. I never saw it again. (The Serpentarium was far south of where I lived in Hialeah, so I only went there a couple of times.)
Page Whatley 01-Feb-2011 23:57
Hi, I also went there as much as possible starting in 61 I was in first grade to this day I still keep and breed snakes and other reptiles. Thank you to Mr. Bill Haast for a lifetime with reptiles
Frank Monnette 26-May-2010 00:51
I remember going to the serpentarium as a kid in the 70s. I remember the alligator pits. You looked down into the pits they were circular and around the perimeter was a short wall I am surprised more people did not accidentially fall over the wall and into the pit.
It was a real big news head line when the child fell into the pit. I did a "current events" `on the accident at Silver Bluff Elementary School.
PS The last Florida Cracker still living in Miami.
Guest 13-Apr-2010 14:10
My first husband, Jules, worked at the serpentarium with Bill Haast in the early 70s. Part of his job was milking the snakes. He also brought home the sick ones, we kept them in the guest bathroom - sometimes as many as five boas at once. Jules really admired Bill and loved working at the serpentarium.
Brian Henry 16-Feb-2010 00:33
I lived in Miami Beach from 66-70. I used to take a bus to the serpentarium almost every
weekend in 69-70. I was 10-11 years old and I was very interested in reptiles especially
snakes of which I had many. I remember I called Bill on the phone and gave him my
"Snake Cold Remedy" that I invented. While visiting with my mother afterwords, my
mother mentioned it to Clarita and Clarita introduced me to Bill and he autographed my
(his) book "Cobras in his garden" which I still have. Clarita told us BIll got a kick out of
my call and that he'd never forget the kid that called with the "snake cold remedy". I became friends with their daughter Shanti (hope I spelled it right) & she used to take me
on the "inside tour". I remember playing with her pet lion cubs in the house. I loved
going to the serpentarium every chance I got but I had to come back to New Jersey
where I was originally from-Lyndhurst- close to Paterson, where Bill was originally from. Those days will always be treasured in my memories.
Suzi de la Sierra 09-Jun-2009 18:55
I am and always have been deathly afraid of snakes so I took my family to the Serpentarium back in the 60's when we lived in Ft. Lauderdale hoping it would help cure my fears. Well, it didn't, but it was an experience none of us have ever forgotten. My son who is now 46 remembers our trip. We live in Deland, Florida now and wanted to visit the Serpentarium again with my grandchildren. I am so sorry that it is closed. We never knew Dr. Haast personally but all of us think he should win the Nobel Prize for his contributions to mankind. We will always remember him and miss him. What a great legacy he left to all of us.
Kathy Mawer 23-Apr-2009 01:43
Today is April 22, 2009. I remade a photo of Mr. Haast in 1962, I was 13; where he took a 14 foot cobra and placed it with his assistant on the ground in front of the crowd and it took off for the crowd and he caught it by the tail. People trampled their children and people climbed the snake pits in fear but he was in control the whole time and stated he would never do that again. He is my hero. I have worked ER's in Central Fla from 1988 to 2002 and we called him often. My relatives never would come back to Fla after that adventure. It was a real highlight in my life that I will never forget nor his contributions. Thank you. Kathy Mawer
Dale Reed 02-Feb-2009 16:50
My Sister Nancy Reed Worked with Bill back in the mid 1960 as a Lab Tec. I remember the origional Cobra out in front and have a rear picture of it. I also remember the wreckage of the the wind storm and the replacement of it with the white plaster version that was distroyed in transit to SMH. I also remember Cookie the Crock that killed the young boy when he fell into the empoundment. That same crock previously bit off a foot or so of his own tail when distracted during feeding. It never seemed to think just snapped at anything that moved. Bill distroyed the beast himself after the incident. Of corse I regret he loss of a child to it's parents but after all it was just being a Preditor and a Crock.
Guest 19-Aug-2008 21:58
I lived nearby back in the 70's. We used to ride our bikes through the Serpentarium parking lot at night on our way to McDonalds (where Amazon's Jeff Bezos used to work in high school??). More than once while crossing through the lot we were sure we saw a big snake cruising by. Perhaps just our imaginations?

Also, I remember the tragedy when "Cookie" the crocodile killed a young boy who fell in the pit. Hasst dove into the pit to try to save him but was too late. I believe the boy and his father were throwing sea grapes at Cookie and the son fell over the rather short wall.

Those cobra milkings were something else.
Patricia (Boymer) Allee 31-Jul-2008 21:32
We lived in Kendall in the late 50's not very far from the serpentarium. As young kids, we would call Mr. Haast when we found his peacocks, escaped boa constrictors, and other exotic reptiles or snakes that had escaped from his facility. He gave us an open invitation to come visit him at the serpentarium and we visited there many times while growing up. He was fascinating to watch as he worked with the cobras. As people stood around an open arena, (and I mean up close and without walls) he would place the cobras down and then recapture them just before milking them. The crowd would really get a good scare as he allowed the snakes to come towards the people. He was always in control and handled them with great expertise! I will always remember him and the contribution of his research he gave our country regarding anti-venom.
Ricki Lawrence 24-Jul-2008 18:38
Had to race a friend from Tamiami Trail to Haast after he was bitten by Moccasin while snake hunting. Forgot his name. We were speeding; where is a cop when you need him!!!
Guest 31-May-2008 05:27
a real SFL icon. i got to shake his hand once when i was younger. it was hard and scarred from many snake bite wounds...