A mother-of-two recoiled in terrror after she opened her washing machine and found – a FIVE FOOT LONG SNAKE.
Horrified Wendy Foley, 51, was about to remove a load of wet laundry from her appliance when she spotted the brownish-orange reptile curled up on top.
She called police and the RSPCA but was told the snake would have to remain in the machine overnight until a reptile expert could attend.
Wendy, who is recovering from knee surgery, managed to slam the door shut with one of her crutches.
But Wendy and her two sons then suffered a sleepless night as they worried about the snake escaping as they slept.
Wendy, of Exeter, Devon, said: ”The washing had been through a full cycle and was ended, so I was going to take it out and put more washing in.
”I opened the glass door at the front and I saw something. I took it be part of a pair of jeans and then I wondered if it was a toy snake that children use.
”But then it poked its tongue out at me. It was horrible and quite big.
It was just lying there on the washing.
”I don’t know if it had been through the complete cycle or not. I screamed and screamed – I was terrified.”
RSPCA officers arrived in the morning and identified the reptile as a harmless corn snake before they removed the beast from the washing machine.
Wendy believes the snake must have crawled in while the door was open and, because she had set the machine on low temperature, survived the wash.
She added: ”I called the police but as soon as I said what had happened they hung up, they thought it was a hoax.
”I called back and begged them to listen, that it wasn’t a hoax, and they said they would get the RSPCA round.
”I called the RSPCA and they said they would someone around but it wouldn’t be until the next day.
”The boys and I waited outside the house for a while because we were so scared. Then they went to bed and I just sat on my bed all night absolutely petrified.
”I kept thinking that it would get out and also that there could be more than one in the house. I hate snakes. They scare me and I have absolutely no idea where this one came from.”
An RSPCA spokeswoman said the reptile, a corn snake which is not poisonous, was safely removed.
She said: ”The caller said the snake was in good health, not injured and was confined, so it was not sick or in danger and an officer was sent out first thing in the morning.”
Cherry Keehner, of the Tiny Boas reptile shop in Exeter, said corn snakes are popular pets and typically retail for around #30.
He added: ”Corn snakes can grow to a metre and half in length, they are not poisonous but they can give you a nip if they are scared.”
The corn snake – native to North America – is a species of rat snake which subdues its small prey with constriction.
The species takes its name as it became well known for hunting mice and rats in fields of corn on American farms.
Their docile nature, reluctance to bite and attractive pattern make them popular pet snakes.