I asked Maggie D., Basil’s first owner, what she remembered about the snake. Here’s what she wrote:
I got Basil my freshman year in college when I was living in Northgate and going to Cornish – would have been early in 1998. I really missed having animals around having grown up with pets and was also feeling kind of isolated living out there so far from my classmates. I had always loved snakes, but never had one and kind of on impulse one day I went to a pet store that was on Northgate Way at the time. I didn’t really know anything about different kinds of snakes, definitely not cornsnakes. But I went for it. I didn’t have a car, so I took the bus back to my apartment with Basil, heat lamp, tank that I could barely carry by myself, etc.
Basil came home with me for the summer, then the next school year, I moved into a Capitol Hill apartment with a classmate. He was also terrified of snakes, but Basil stayed in my room and Rob could mostly ignore that she was there. Until one day I left the top ajar after cleaning the tank. I was gone at school all day and didn’t notice until late that night that she was gone. My boyfriend and I searched every tiny nook and cranny in my bedroom and the shared space in the apartment, but then had to go tell Rob that the snake was loose. He only panicked mildly… but even after searching his room, Basil was not to be found.
There was a significant gap between the bottom of the front door and the floor, so I put up a photo and sign with my phone number and an emphasis that she was a totally harmless snake by our mailboxes to have other residents of the building keep a look out. (Basil was still pretty small then – maybe a foot and a half or so long and half an inch thick.) I never received any calls about it, but my building manager did – people were freaked out. Fortunately, the manager was cool and it wasn’t too big a deal to him. About a week passed and a good friend who lived the next floor up happened to be opening his front door at the same time as a woman down the hall from him. As she opened her door, he heard her make some kind of exclamation and there was Basil, coiled up at her threshold. Freddy ran over and said something like “Oh my god, that’s my friends snake!” and he picked her up. The lady replied with something like, “I’m so glad you were here, I probably would have chopped its head off. It might have killed my cat!”
So thankfully, Basil’s head was not chopped off and we were reunited, but not long after that I decided I just didn’t have the time I wanted for her and I hadn’t had time to get a stash of frozen baby mice and had had to feed her a live one. I was a bit haunted by the screams of that mouse as it was being eaten. So Polly took her!
I’m excited to read about the further life of Basil!