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A teacher in California was arrested on Wednesday on charges of animal cruelty after investigators found more than 400 snakes in his house, over half of which were dead. The ball pythons, which the teacher bred as a hobby, were found scattered throughout the five-bedroom home.

Animal control personnel performed a sweep of the house with gas masks and tasers, finding about 240 dead snakes and another 160ish living snakes in stackable, labeled containers. About 50 rats and other rodents were also reported to roam free throughout the house. The operation was valued at close to half a million dollars, and the surviving snakes are apparently worth up to $100,000.

The homeowner charged was identified as William Buchman, a sixth-grade teacher whose mother died in 2011, an event which may have catalyzed the escalation from hobbyist to hoarder.

From the Orange County Register:

For years, Buchman was active on Internet message boards devoted to ball python morphs. He shared photos of his snakes, varieties with names such as the Cajun Butter and the Hypo Ghost. He offered tips on incubating eggs. After hundreds of posts on one site since 2008, his account quieted last year.

That’s about the time a strange odor started wafting from Buchman’s home.

(Side note: Huge shoutout to the OC Register editor who came up with the headline "House of slitherin: More than 400 snakes found at teacher's Santa Ana home." A+++++++++++.)

Neighbors had complained about the stench coming from the house—which, again, ended up being filled with hundreds of snakes—for months. One neighbor told the Los Angeles Times, "We couldn't open up the bedroom windows. My wife started to gag and throw up."

"The smell alone — I feel like I need to take a shower for a week … They're pretty much in all the bedrooms — everywhere," is what one police officer told the Associated Press before likely heading off to a long shower and sleepless night.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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