Bugging out: Exterminator faces 1,000 roaches for ‘Ripley’s’ stunt job

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 41A

The worst part was when the roaches got into his pants.

“No mas! No mas!” yelled Plano exterminator Michael Bohdan, dancing an impromptu jig as a few of the little buggers scampered below his belt. “They squeeze in anywhere they can!”

Mr. Bohdan wasn’t complaining about a job site gone wrong. A few minutes earlier, he had spent about five minutes in a Plexiglas “coffin” with about 1,000 cockroaches. He had not lost a bet or been convicted of a crime. He did this of his own free will.

The stunt was videotaped at the West End MarketPlace for a future episode of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

“I don’t know why I agreed to this,” he admitted. “That was the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had.”

Mr. Bohdan, 53, is already North Texas’ reigning cockroach king, having achieved no small degree of fame through talk show appearances and his pest-control book, What’s Buggin’ You? When Ripley’s representatives contacted him several months ago about doing something for their TV show, they quickly settled on the coffin idea as sufficiently freaky.

Shortly after noon Friday, a crowd gathered at the West End. Mr. Bohdan reclined in the coffin, with its sides coated with Vaseline to discourage any roaches from escaping. Then, one by one, four containers of American roaches (Periplaneta americana) were emptied onto his stomach to a chorus of disgusted noises from the audience.

The bugs crept all over his body, occasionally becoming airborne, but they seemed to focus their 6,000 legs most intently on his face. “They were getting to my nose, my eyes – it wasn’t great,” he said.

By the time he crawled out of the coffin – coated in enough roach detritus to discourage anyone from shaking his hand – a relieved Mr. Bohdan was questioning his decision to perform the stunt.

“I don’t think I’ll ever do this again,” he said. “This was the first and last time.” The “musty, rotten smell” of the roaches had been more overpowering than he had expected.

But he said he had accomplished his twin goals: teaching people that insects aren’t really all that scary and allowing people to escape life’s stresses, if only for a few minutes.

“Nobody out there was thinking about the election mess in Florida or anything else,” he said. “They were just watching me and the roaches.”

Reaction from the crowd of about 250 people was swift and unanimous: Mr. Bohdan is crazy.

“That’s pretty gross, man,” said Mike Song, 21, who had been planning to grab lunch at a West End restaurant. After seeing the roachfest, “I’m not all that hungry anymore. I’ve got to work this out of my system before I eat again.”

“That man’s absolutely crazy,” said Daniel Runser, a 23-year-old Swiss tourist making his first visit to Dallas. Did witnessing the roach burial affect his opinion of Americans?

“No, I knew already that there are a lot of crazy people here.”