About a week or so ago, a mother took her eager 3 year old son to Burger King for lunch. After they ate their lunch the mother said that the son could go and play on the playground for awhile since he ate all his lunch.
She watched as the boy played in the tunnels, slide and in the ball-pit. The boy played for about 10 minutes when he started to whimper slightly.
The mother asked the boy what had happened and he mearly replied, "Hurt mommy." The mother assumed that the little boy had banged his elbow or something while playing.
They left to return home. A half and hour after they were home, the mother noticed some big red welts on the little boys arms and legs. Not being able to figure out what they were, the mother started to look at them closer. Could be red ant bites . . . she did not know.
An hour later, the little boy died. Come to find out, when returning to Burger King to see if there were red ants in the play area, in case the little boy had an allergic reaction. Burger King employees and herself discovered that there was a family of baby rattlesnakes living underneath the balls in the ball-pit area. She has since found out that this happens more frequently than not. The snakes will crawl into the ball pit because it is dark and warm in there. She knows for a fact that another death has occurred because of this in South Carolina. Please use caution when letting any children play in an outside play area of a fast food resturant, this could happen anywhere. Burger Kings are now building their play area's inside the buildings for more safe environment.
McDonald's and Burger King are both named. Burger King seems to be the popular target though.
The fatal bite is said to happen in Arlington and Dallas, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Arizona; and Alabama. This makes the story hard to believe unless rattlesnakes are standard issue for Ball Pits.
Although the rattlesnake is the most common culprit the water moccasins has been fingered also. Origins: Those who clean these play areas report finding everything from used syringes to dirty diapers in them. Diapers come off in ball pits, and half-eaten candy is routinely found. More disturbingly, syringes and knives have turned up in there but, as of date none have been reported as injurying a child playing in the ball pits.
Yes, ball pits have their dangers. But snakes aren't one of them. That part is pure lore.
People have been reporting hearing the 'snakes in the ball pit' tale since at least the mid-1990s. The whole horror of stories such as this one are the fact that the child play area is not as safe as we like to believe. Remember what has been found in these pits and the dangers they do impose. Just don't jump on the Urban legend bandwagon and go spreading the word of such made up stories.
Though this legend has gotten around, there are no real life incidents that correspond to it. Though injuries and one death have occurred in ball pits, none of them were snake-related.
A ball pit is one of the last places an animal such as a rattlesnake would choose for a residence. Snakes are cold-blooded and must depend upon their environment to regulate their body temperature. They seek out places that will keep them warm in cool weather and cool in hot weather. Snakes tend to burrow under rocks and sheets of metal that provide shade when the weather is hot and offer surfaces for basking on to absorb or reflected heat when the weather is cooler. The bottom of ball pits do not fill these needs, they are too cold and damp an environment for a rattlesnake.
Snakes do not live in "families." The female rattlesnake gives birth in a nest and continues on her way, she does not wait around to care for the hatchlings. If she did wait to see if the young snakes are doing okay she would leave herself open to predators who in turn are drawn by the scent of blood and fluids lost during the birth. Another fact of her leaving is that by nature snakes are cannibals. If she were to stay should start nibbling on her own hatchlings. With no parents to take care of them, the newborn snakes have no reason to remain together as a family unit. Their instinct is to scatter in search of food, not huddle with one another.
(This legend of a child's fatally encountering a venomous snake in an amusement area is closely related to a similar tale about a wooden carousel horse. A little girl rides the merry-go-round to her death as her mother discovers all too late the painted hollow steed was home to a nest of vipers that bit her daughter all through the ride. Similar tales abound of snakes' nesting in roller coaster cars just unhoused from winter storage and bad-tempered venomous vipers' fanging any hand carelessly trailed in the water of an amusement park's Tunnel of Love.
Till the next legend!-JLB