Like something out of Alien, the Pharaoh’s Snake is one of many strange chemical phenomena.

Any high school kid who showed an interest in chemistry, knows that if you burn ammonium dichromate, you get a mini-volcano to melt your plastic dinosaurs:

But what happens if you burn Mercury(II) thiocyanate?

It looks like something straight out of Alien… with soundtrack.

It is a stable solid at room temperature that has the appearance of white powder with chunks.

Mercury thiocyanate was formerly used in pyrotechnics causing an effect known as the Pharaoh’s serpent or Pharaoh’s snake. When the compound is in the presence of a strong enough heat source, a rapid exothermic reaction is started which produces a large mass of coiling serpent-like solid. An inconspicuous flame which is often blue but can also occur in yellow/orange accompanies the combustion. The resulting solid can range from dark graphite grey to light tan in color with the inside generally much darker than the outside.Wikipedia

Warning: The gases released are highly toxic!