Summary: Thomas Burton, Jack Schrader, and Ambrose Manning of East Tennessee State University began documenting the Appalachian region in the 1960s. Together they came to know many mountain people now recognized as Appalachian Masters. In this DVD we are introduced to Ray Hicks along with his family and friends from Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Thomas Burton serves as our guide.Included are two Burton/Schrader films in their entirety: A film about Ray Hicks and another about Buna Presnell Hicks and Bertha Hubbard Baird, along with video excerpts of Stanley Hicks and Hattie Presnell recorded by Burton and Manning. Please be aware that the film quality of the remastered excerpts reminds us of a time before the digital age.
Summary: The film documents the practice of serpent handling in religious services at Carson Springs Holiness Church of God in Jesus Name, Newport, Tennessee. Jimmy Williams, who died of strychnine poisoning in the context of a subsequent religious service, is spokesman for the congregation’s beliefs and explains the circumstance of one of the church members’ being bitten during the service filmed.
Award: First Place, Best Documentary, Sinking Creek Film Festival, Nashville, 1973.
Summary: The documentary investigates in general the religious beliefs and practices of the people associated with the Carson Springs Holiness Church of God in Jesus Name, Newport, Tennessee, particularly "following the signs" of taking up serpents and drinking deadly poison as set forth in Mark 16:17-18. In particular the film explores the question of what changes occurred over the decade following the deaths of two of the members from drinking strychnine, the subsequent legal restrictions enforced, and the media publicity that ensued.
Summary: The documentary explores the basic conflict that exists between the constitutional right of "sign followers" to practice their religious beliefs (of handling serpents and drinking deadly poisons, based on Mark 16:17-18) and the legal restrictions placed on them. Also focused upon are the serpent handling services at Carson Springs, Tennessee, and Jolo, West Virginia—and serpent handler Charles Prince, who is filmed "following the signs," being arrested, and later buried as the result of serpent bite and strychnine poisoning.
Award: Honorable Mention, Video Documentary, Sinking Creek Film Festival, Nashville, 1988.
Loan copies of the documentaries may be obtained by contacting ETSU Archives.
Personal copies of the trilogy and the broadcast-quality footage may be obtained by contacting the author.