It's no secret why Florida creates the most insane news stories

It's no secret why Florida creates the most insane news stories

CultureJune 27, 2017 By Lindsey Kline

If you’ve ever read a headline that’s almost too bizarre to be believed, like ...

"Man Has Love Affair with a Dolphin"

"Woman Crashes Car While Shaving Her Bikini Area"

"Puppy Shoots Man in Self-Defense"

... odds are, that story came out of Florida. The Sunshine State is an endless source of absurd anecdotes involving crazy people doing crazier things.

Craig Pittman, an award-winning Tampa Bay Times reporter, has made a career out of telling the state’s screwball stories. As a bona fide expert in Florida’s nutty narrative, he wrote a New York Times best-selling book entitled "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country" — compiling the most priceless news pieces to come out of the peninsula.

Pittman spoke with us about what makes a wonderfully weird Florida news story, why the Sunshine State is seemingly teeming with nut jobs, and what makes the most hilarious mugshots. With his guidance, we were able to put together the perfect recipe, so to speak, for the standard fucked-up Florida news story.

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1. An outlandish weapon

Florida may have more concealed weapons permits and accidental shootings than any other state, but guns aren’t its citizens only means of attack. The craziest strive to be more creative in their weaponry, reaching for machetes, hammers, ninja throwing stars, or garden gnomes. Most recently, a woman in a bikini contest attacked her competitor with her high-heeled shoe.

But even better than using inanimate objects to assault someone, Pittman tells us, is wielding wild animals. “There was one case in Destin, where two guys were fighting, and one of them threw a catfish at the other one. Unfortunately, the sharp fins got stuck in the man’s back, he had to go to ER to have it removed, and the fish-flinger had to go to jail,” Pittman says.

In an even more ridiculous example, “A guy was having an argument with his girlfriend when he reached for a weapon. The closest one he could find happened to be a 3-foot alligator he’d been keeping in his bathtub, so he just starts swinging it around,” Pittman laughs. An unusual weapon is an essential element in a typical Florida news story, but as anyone would agree, it’s no fun to wreak havoc when you’re fully clothed.

2. Ill-timed nudity

When reflecting on Florida’s naked debauchery, many might recall the calamitous case in which a man attempted to propose to his girlfriend in the nude, but showed up at the wrong house. Police arrived and asked the exposed suitor to get dressed, but Don Juan declined, instead spitting in the officer’s face and subsequently getting tasered.

Yet Pittman prefers to tell tales of naked heroism. “There was an instance where a woman at a nudist resort decided to go swimming in a lake. Now, if you ever lived in Florida, you’d know that any freshwater source bigger than a puddle will probably have an alligator living in it. This one is no exception, so a 10-foot gator comes after her, and her husband, who is also nude, has to save her. He kicked the alligator in the head until it released his wife, and he rescued her,” Pittman explains. He finds this feat of fearlessness especially brave given that the hero’s defenseless privates left him particularly vulnerable.

3. Hardcore drugs

Although Florida may be most famous for bath salts zombies and flakka freaks, plenty of other drugs have provoked depravity. Pittman fervently cites the 1980s era of the Cocaine Cowboys as a fascinating era of Florida crime. In one of his favorite famous news stories, “Some drug smugglers are in a plane, trying to escape from the Coast Guard. They toss a huge load of cocaine out of the plane, and one bale of it ends up landing in the middle of a crime watch meeting, narrowly missing the police chief’s head,” he says.

Pittman is also quick to recount the case in which a gang of Miami drug dealers masquerading as cops were busted by a group of cops who were masquerading as drug dealers. It sums up Florida so perfectly, he concedes.

4. Surgically enhanced boobs/butt

As the national capital for black market butt injections, it’s no surprise that numerous news stories about back alley ass enhancements gone awry have emerged from Florida. Pittman reflects on the case of a fake doctor who plumped up patients’ rumps by injecting their posteriors with toxic substances like mineral oil, tire fluid, and bathroom caulking. After a patient died from these injections’ complications, the “doctor” was charged with manslaughter and practicing without a medical license. “During the trial, the defendant is standing in the courtroom with an enormous butt, and she tells the judge, ‘I just want to put this all behind me,’” he chuckles.

Of course, superficial Florida culture values more than just big booties. Gigantic, surgically-enhanced boobs are popular in the Sunshine State, as well. In one account of a complicated love triangle, rather than killing a woman, fake humps actually saved her life. After being stabbed in the chest by her ex’s new girlfriend, her saline breast implant prevented the knife from reaching her heart.

5. Idiotic 911 call

“Emergency” is a loose term in Florida. Pittman admits that citizens in need will often reach out to 911 for all types of personally pressing issues, like when one man called asking for Kool-Aid and drugs, when one woman phoned begging for a “cutie pie” cop to come visit her, or when yet another man called because he desperately needed a ride to Hooters.

It’s not uncommon for drug-dealers’ customers to depend on the law either, like when one woman called 911 to get $50 back from a dealer who stiffed her.

And on the rare occasions that criminals reach out to authorities unintentionally, the results are equally as hilarious. This was the case when one man butt-dialed 911 and accidentally recorded his murder plans just before committing the crime.

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The recipe for a preposterous Florida news story involves equal parts outlandish weaponry, ill-timed nudity, hardcore drugs, surgically enhanced naughty bits, and idiotic 911 calls. For extra flavor, a bit of Disney World debauchery — like Donald Duck groping female visitors or patrons renting disabled people to skip lines — along with a priceless mug shot — particularly ladies’ looks of self-satisfaction after reaping revenge on an ex — can add ample pizzazz.

These outrageous anecdotes are to be expected, Pittman tells us, in a state with 20 million residents, 100 million tourists, and an endless summer that allows Floridians to ram into each other’s cars and chase each other with machetes year-round. Legislation also allows for consistently crazy news stories, as the state’s open-records laws mean that the public can easily get their hands on any and every absurd arrest report.

“We should embrace Florida’s freakiness,” Pittman says, “because all these eccentric factors are also the genesis for creativity that influences the rest of the country. If you want to live someplace boring, try Kansas or Idaho. But if you want to open the paper every morning and see something weird, come to Florida. Far and away, we are the most interesting state.”