Monica Daugherty holds her 10-year-old female corn snake named Velvet on Thursday. The snake, which she has owned since August, escaped her painting studio on the second floor of the Emporium Mall recently and was found in the office of the Gold Town Nickelodeon.

Monica Daugherty holds her 10-year-old female corn snake named Velvet on Thursday. The snake, which she has owned since August, escaped her painting studio on the second floor of the Emporium Mall recently and was found in the office of the Gold Town Nickelodeon.

A snake’s tale of escape

Her name is Velvet, she’s 10 years old and she’s a bit of a cinema buff — at least that’s what some people might think of the 4-foot-long snake found near the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater.

“The pound warned me she was an escape artist,” Monica Daugherty, the snake’s owner, said. Daugherty, a teacher at Juneau Montessori School, rescued the now-famous movie snake from the Gastineau Humane Society in August. Originally, she thought Velvet would make for an interesting classroom pet. However, this corn snake, lacking venom and only harmful to unwanted house mice, didn’t get a green light from school administrators.

Instead, Velvet the class pet became Velvet the studio pet, taking up residence in an art studio above the Gold Town theater where Daugherty works on her oil paintings. Then, two weeks ago, Velvet did exactly what the pound warned Daugherty she might do — escape.

“She came in one day, saw a hole in the wall and that was that,” Patrick Race, another tenant inside the Emporium Mall, said. Race was among the first people to find out Velvet didn’t venture too far from her home and instead was living in the walls of the Emporium Mall.

“It was 3:30 a.m. and my phone starts filling up with text messages from Collette Costa down at the Gold Town Nickelodeon,” Race said. Costa, manager of the Gold Town theater, reached out to several other Emporium space renters early Sunday morning to find out how a snake landed in her office down the hall from her theater.

“What the everloving (sic) (explative),” the messages from Costa to Race read, “There is literally a 6-foot snake in the office!!!!”

It happened at a less than ideal time ­— the theater was hosting a special “Rocky Horror Picture Show” weekend. However, Costa said it may have been the circumstances surrounding the theater’s event that led to finding Velvet. Participants in the show’s live-action portion were using Costa’s office to change in and out of costumes.

“I thought it was a joke, you know, with the Rocky Horror stuff and Halloween,” Costa said. Someone in the office pointed out, nonchalantly Costa added, that it looked like a real snake was in the office. When Costa bent down to pick up what she thought was just a gag, it began to move.

“But there aren’t snakes in Alaska,” was Costa’s first thought.

Another person in the office “MacGyvered” a lasso with a stick, some pins and string, Costa said. Then 20 seconds later, the snake was contained in a clear, plastic box.

Daugherty said she was surprised when Race contacted her to tell her Velvet was still alive. She picked up her escaped pet later that day and said she couldn’t believe Velvet was captured without harm.

“I just felt so bad it scared the living daylights out of that woman,” Daugherty said.

Costa said the real surprise was that a snake was on the loose for a week where she worked and she was unaware. The fact that Velvet still calls a room in the Emporium home doesn’t sit too well with Costa, but her real concern is that it doesn’t end up in her office space again.

Daugherty said two heavy history text books are on guard above Velvet’s glass house. The snake isn’t invited back to the theater, but at least she’ll have something to read instead.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at

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