- MOSCOW, Idaho -- While not
working as projectionists at the Micro Moviehouse, Michael Williams and
Darwin Vest collected spiders and milked them for their venom.
- The process involved Scotch-taping an anesthetized arachnid
to a wooden board, delivering a shock and waiting with a pipette to pick
up a bead of venom.
- Sometimes, the spider woke up unhappy with the procedure.
- "We had some fun times," Williams said of helping
toxinologist Vest conduct his research.
- Vest, who lived in Moscow for a decade starting in the
late 1970s, disappeared June 3 from Idaho Falls, where he had lived since
moving from Moscow.
- The self-taught scientist and owner of Eagle Rock Research
in Idaho Falls is known worldwide for his expertise about snake and spider
venom. He has published articles in scientific journals, and testified
about poisonous bites in court cases across the country.
- He and his sister Rebecca Vest also identified and named
the hobo spider.
- During his time in Moscow, Vest collected and researched
specimens during the day while splicing film as a projectionist at the
Micro at night.
- Williams, a computer network specialist from Moscow,
met Vest in the late 1970s. The scientist lived with Williams for a few
months before moving to Idaho Falls. The two saw each other in August 1997,
when Vest visited Moscow, but Williams said he has not talked to Vest for
at least a year.
- "He's a quiet, thoughtful person who likes to get
along," Williams said of his former co-worker. "And he's very
- Although Vest had no formal degree, he worked with research
scientists at Washington State University during his time on the Palouse.
He read textbooks on venomous creatures and did his own studies.
- "He was quite the expert. People used to come to
him when they got bitten," said Gabriella Ball, bookkeeper for the
theater. She recalls people bringing spiders to the movie house for Vest
- "People used to bring them into the theater and
he kept them in plastic bags in the refrigerator."
- Before leaving Moscow, Vest started doing a show called
the "Venomous Reptile Review" with his sister, Ball said. She
and her husband, George, traveled to Spokane to see the Vests teach children
about the poisonous creatures.
- The Vests educational efforts continued in Idaho Falls,
and Darwin Vest was featured on the Discovery Channel.
- But all that stopped over a month ago, when Vest vanished.
- He was last seen in the early morning hours of June 3
at a bar in downtown Idaho Falls. Earlier that evening, Vest had walked
from his home to another bar for a weekly trivia game with friends. Walking
at night has long been a Darwin Vest trademark, Ball said.
- "I know he used to walk a lot and walk at night.
Someone could have grabbed him," she said.
- Although Vest would sometimes take trips to search for
snakes or spiders, he would never leave without letting his family know
his whereabouts, Williams said.
- "I think something bad happened -- exactly what,
I don't know."
- Idaho Falls police said Wednesday there is no new information
on Vest's disappearance and there is little evidence in the case.