Snakes In An Atheist's Grave - The Amazing Story of Chester Bedell
(Interesting Story I heard serveral years ago that I thought you would like to hear this again after many years) Sometimes we read of some blatant atheist who challenges God to strike him dead, or to prove His existence, but it is rarely indeed that God takes up such a challenge in the form in which it is made. However, in the case we are considering, God did accept an atheist's challenge, and accepted it in such a remarkable way that the infidel's grave is preaching effective sermons to many people week after week and year after year. The cause related is not one that occurred in the distant past, and which no one can investigate today. Any one with an automobile and a little spare time can see for himself. Large numbers of people are doing that very thing. It was my privilege to make the trip to North Benton, Ohio, to see the cemetery of which I speak.
The atheist in question was Mr. Chester Bedell, who died in 1908 at the age of eightytwo. He is said to have been a very bold and blatant skeptic, and was out-spoken in opposition to God and the Bible. I was told that he was a very mean man and that neighbors and others were afraid that if they crossed him they might get up the next morning to find their barn burned to the ground or other damage done. It is declared that he left one dollar each to his two Christian daughters and his 2,500 acres of land to his unbelieving sons. He was in many law suits during his life. It is said that he occasionally attended the Presbyterian Church in the town of North Benton, and that his presence threw such coldness over the service as soon as he entered that it almost broke up the meeting.
The direct challenge which Mr. Bedell hurled at the Almighty was this: "If there is a God or any truth in the Bible, let Him infest my grave with snakes." He wrote a book against the Bible entitled, "Universal Mental Liberty." Sometime before his death he had an imposing statue of himself made of bronze and placed upon a large pedestal. In his uplifted hand is a book with the inscription, "Universal Mental Liberty." Under his foot is a scroll representing the Bible, with the word "Superstition" in large letters. A minister visited one of Mr. Bedell's daughter's for information, and she said her father belonged to "The Soclety of Damned Souls" and had said that if there was a God he wanted Him to infest his grave with snakes. His daughter says that when he was dying he said, "Oh, that I had never had that monument built," and wished he were able to go over to that cemetery and tear it down, but it was too late. And what was the sequel? SNAKES!
When the grave was dug the sexton killed two snakes and when the casket was brought to the grave another large snake had to be removed before it could be lowered. That was twenty-four years ago, and since that time the family lot has been full of snake holes around the curbing. The snakes can be seen any day you visit the cemetery, except, perhaps the day after a rain. The sexton told me that under the monument and around the grave is a den of snakes And an equally remarkable fact is that this burial lot is the only place in the cemetery where snakes are ever found so the sexton declared to me in a talk that I had wlth him. The North Benton cemetery has a regularly employed sexton who takes excellent care of the grounds. The trip which I made to North Benton was by auto from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. North Benton is just eighty miles from Pittsburgh. Mr. and Mrs. Miller, who took me in their car, had made two previous trips. On one they counted eight live snakes. On the other they saw sixteen that had been killed and piled up by other parties.
As we neared the cemetery I felt nervous and somewhat excited. Yes, there was the monument just as it had been described to me! I counted ten angry looking snake holes around the grave. I have pictures of five snakes, including two large ones crawling from between crevices in the cement curbing. The sexton had killed a black snake six feet six inches long just before we came, and he saw the head of another, the largest he had ever seen, which crawled back before he could kill it. I inquired why there were bloodstains on the statue, and the sexton said boys would come and kill the snakes and throw them up around the neck of Mr. Bedell's statue, then he would have the task of taking them down. That is almost enough to make the old atheist turn over in the grave! As many as twenty snakes have been killed in a day, and the sexton says that the more you kill the more there seem to be. One expression heard in and around North Benton is, "Well, if Bedell did ask for snakes he sure got 'em!"
The sexton informed me that people come from all over the United States to see the statue and grave, and that previous Sunday, 200 or more people were in that cemetery. Mr. Bedell's sons and some people near the cemetery are pretty much stirred up over the publicity that snakes have brought to the place and have been talking of taking the statue down, feeling that the statue and snakes together are a reflection on their cemetery. Some have told the caretaker that they vanished that he would tear the monument down, but he replied that he did not think that it should be torn down, as it preached too many sermons. ‹B. E. Perigo.
Later I have learned that a wind storm had blown the statue down and it had been taken away; but the large tombstone is still there and they say that snakes are there also. You cannot challenge God and not think He won't answer that challenge. One day very soon I'm going to visit this place! Shalom!