Press "Enter" to skip to content

Fer De Lance V. Fels: The Hunt for the Missing Snake

The aftermath of a Jodel post claiming students in Fels House left a venomous snake inside over Field Work Term.

On January 24th, 2023, parents of Fels residents fielded the calls of the Vermont State Game Warden: probably a first for most parents. What was certainly a first was the posed question: Are you aware of whether your child possesses or is acquainted with an exotic, illegal, and fatally venomous snake? Students generally assumed this was a joke of some kind, perhaps a prank call, until the next day, when administration sent a campus-wide email announcing that Fels was closed effective immediately until further notice while “efforts are underway” to discover if there was a deadly snake inside. 

Is it true? Since the news broke, the Bennington College community has stood divided. Some students feared for their lives; others, holding an immeasurable majority, laughed in their faces, concerned only for their housing situations, if even at all. In an innovation of reverse-engineered sleuthing, the detectives at the Lens were able to add some circumstantial evidence to the majority’s case file.

A quick Google search of “Top Ten Most Dangerous Snakes” yields thousands of lists. Most of these lists are in descending order and rank the fer-de-lance at number 10 or 9, consequently placing our very own Schroedinger’s Snake at the top of the page. This could be either comforting or frightening. One on hand, this species name is one of the first ones you see if you’re searching. Glass half full. On the other hand, if the snake exists, it is a fatal threat. Glass half empty.

The fer-de-lance, found in Central and South America, is responsible for more human fatalities than any other venomous snake in the Americas. The snake is also known for its aggressive behavior, and will often attack if it feels threatened or cornered. However, the tropical snake couldn’t survive long in a Vermont winter, likely freezing to death within a span of two months maximum. 

All this alarm came to fruition as a result of a Jodel post. Jodel, an anonymous chat app, is used campus-wide by students to converse namelessly in a typically humorous effort, similar to the better-known Yik Yak. Users have the freedom to post whatever they want and remain unidentifiable, which has led to all sorts of far-fetched rumors being spread, and even getting a campus party shut down (sorry Canfield!). 

Over Field Work Term, the following Jodel was posted:

“Ok, so this is serious, but I can’t report it to campo. My boyfriend did show back up on campus and the snake we’d been keeping in the storage room at Fels is missing, ok? It’s a fer-de-lance. Please be on the lookout in dark spaces (½)” following, “Do not try and touch it, it’s extremely venomous. I love the snake but hopefully it’s outside and has frozen to death. On the loose in the dorms could be bad. If you’re bitten call 911 immediately. (2/2).”

Those well versed in the app felt confident this was a prank, many advising the state’s Game Wardens not to be too concerned. “It’s clear it was a bad joke, knowing the type of content Jodel is meant for, and that’s basically what I said to the Game Wardens,” a Fels resident said. However, while the calls from the Game Wardens to students were happening remotely over winter, the scene on campus was more dire. A program for elderly artists was taking place over Field Work Term, with Fels being one of the housing spaces.

When Campus Safety became aware of the snake threat, staff members scrambled to shut down the house. Before the artists had the chance to get back, the staff had placed their belongings in plastic bags outside of the house. They sifted through the identical bags to sort out what belonged to whom, and were moved to emergency housing. This all took place on the first day for the new Campus Safety Assistant Director, Paul Baker-Porazinski. 

Meanwhile in the Housing department, a limited team rushed to devise a Plan B for the students soon to return to Fels, in the case that the house would have to remain closed after Field Work Term. House Chairs were informed that students would be spread out amongst other houses, including Shingle Cottage, with the college even considering a deal with the Hampton Inn to temporarily house residents. Then, on February 13th all Fels residents received an email from Housing suggesting they ask around campus for students with room to accommodate them. With everyone’s belongings stuck in the Fels storage unit, the email also informed students to “bring with you what you would need to live in a temporary space i.e. linens, toiletries etc.” Picture summer camp, but instead of your own cabin, you sleep in a nearby cave with hibernating bears.

With no further information and students scrambling to figure out their housing plans, on February 16th another campus wide email was delivered. The entirety of its contents were: “After consultation with the Game Wardens yesterday, we are re-opening Fels for normal use. Thank you for your patience during this process.” The House Chairs also received an email, saying, “fels has been released!!! yay!” There was no clearer information on the credibility of the snake claim nor the results of the investigation. All that students knew is that they would be able to move back in as normal come spring term. 

At the official start of the term, rumors were still running around campus, some claiming it was never a prank and that there really was a snake. Most, however, aren’t concerned, assuming that this Jodel confession held as much validity as the one claiming to have been written by a centaur. Either way, like the many Bennington dramatists before her, it seems the Fels snake has already given up on haunting the community. We at the Lens have our fingers crossed that she keeps away, and that the next creature set loose on our campus is warm-blooded.

Note: Head of Campus Safety Cathy Anthony-Fialon declined a comment or interview with the Lens for this piece, citing that the investigation is ongoing.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *